Washington High School, Cedar Rapids
Dear Mr. Silverstein,
Love. What a small word for something so complex. In today's society, love is glorified in
movies to be this wonderful, magical thing. So many movies are about men and women who fall hopelessly in love and will do anything to stay that way. Listening to today's music, you hear an entirely different story. Pop songs are about breakups, the most famous celebrities pouring their hearts out in sincere songs that tell their truest feelings. Rap music glorifies the pleasure of love, but not the relationship part of it. In the real world, divorce rates are rising, and love no longer means forever.
Growing up is a time of making mistakes and learning. It's also a time to learn from mistakes. Personally, I prefer to listen and learn from other's mistakes, which requires a lot of intense listening. Listening to what the kids around me say, I grow more and more confused as to what love is. Couples fight and bicker, and then say that's just the way love is. Teens complain constantly about how hard it is to have to move between their divorced parents houses, and there are constant stories of cheating. I have yet to hear of a fairy tale from the halls of my high school. I've heard of fights, I've heard of breakups, and I've heard of separation, dependence, and abuse. And I've started to think that maybe love isn't so great after all.
Since elementary school I've been addicted to reading on my own. I've read hundreds of books, and enjoyed every one of them. As a matter of fact, if I wasn't on a journey to discover what love is, I might even say I love them. I've never really chosen a favorite, and while many books have affected me none have changed my life. While pondering this one day in class and listening to the girl in front of me argue with her boyfriend across the room, I suddenly realized what book has changed me.
The Giving Tree. It's always been in the back of my mind. Since I first read it when I was five or six, I've had this vague understanding of what love is, and that's because of your book. As a child, the terrors and misfortunes of the real world never really reached me. My parents fell in love right out of high school and wrote each other love letters while my dad was away in the Navy. Upon his return home they married and started a family. They're each other's one and only, and they are a rare fairytale in a sea of dead hopes and dreams. As a child, I was sheltered from the harsh reality that lust does exist and is pertinent in our world. I do, however, remember your book because of the illustrations, which were in my mind memorable. I also remember how my mom read it. Even if I hadn't quite grasped the true meaning of the book, the tone of her voice let me know it was something to be remembered.
In my 'tween' years, I began to see the problems our society presented. I began to learn about the horrors of divorce, the pain it caused, and how hard it was on families. And although I didn't know nearly as much as I thought I did, I began to understand what the tree felt. As my 'friends' were mean to me, as 'friends' often are, I realized how the tree felt. When my favorite teacher left, I knew how the tree felt. When my 'friends' betrayed my trust, I knew how the tree felt. All of a sudden, with these brand new experiences, I began to understand.
Today, having broken out of the protective walls of a private middle school and entering the permissive corridors of a public high school, my experiences and observations have finally led me to understand. I know what love is, and I couldn't have done it without you.
Love is the tree. Love is giving everything one has, every last ounce of one's soul, and pouring it into a relationship. Love is never getting tired of waiting, of having absolute trust in that one's love will return. It is giving up all of the accessories associated with life; it is giving up all of the things that adorn and define people. It is giving one's whole being until one is left hanging onto life itself by the roots of their body. Love is not being able to imagine life without a partner, whoever that may be. Love takes a piece away every time one is separated from the one they care so dearly for. Love is selfless, love is kind, and love never stops waiting.
The young boy in the story has a more complex, selfish role. He is the taker. He takes every piece of the Tree until she has nothing left. He cheats in front of her; he carves out a piece of her soul. Every time he leaves, he takes a part of her love with him. But every time, no matter what he finds in the world, he returns. He comes back, and knows that the ever forgiving tree will always provide for him: he trusts she will always be there for him. And when his time was over, when he had seen everything he'd wanted to, when he was too tired to do anything else, he returned home to the one who had always been there for him, his love, his protector, his provider, his tree.
Your book changed my life. Ever since I can remember, your book has been a part of me. It was with me as I experienced new trials, new hardships, and it will continue to stay in my heart. The Giving Tree brought me new hope, helped me understand something so seemingly complex. Your book taught me how to love. You gave that to me.