A super rainy day in Juneau with Paige at a friend's house presented a good opportunity for me to take Isaac to the public library. "Can I read you kind of a sad book?," I asked him, and picked up Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree.
The Giving Tree was published exactly thirteen years to the day before I was born, on October 7, 1964. It's a fable that tells the story of a little boy and a tree who loves him. The story tracks their relationship from boyhood to old man, and honestly, the boy is kind of a dick. Over the years, he keeps asking for more and more of the tree. She gives him her leaves to make a place to rest; her branches for a house; her apples to sell for money; her trunk for a boat; and so on until she's finally just a stump for him to sit his withered old ass down to rest.
A better title for this book is The Using Boy, because that's really what it's about. Their relationship isn't reciprocal. The tree gets nothing real and nothing of value from the boy, but he uses and uses and uses her until there's nothing left.
This book always resonated with me because as far back as I can remember, I have always had dysfunctional friendships like this in my life. And I continue to have several of them to this day. There's a user and a used, and many times I've let myself be the latter. It's sort of like emotional S&M. It takes a real masochist to allow themselves to be used, and a sadist--or at least a narcissist--to do the using.
"That was a very sad book," Isaac said solemnly when we'd finished. "I know," I told him. "Don't be the stump, OK?" He nodded. "But just as important," I continued, "Don't be that boy."
He didn't really know what I meant, but I hope one day he will.