By Bella DiOdoardo
When I was younger, my mom filled my life with bits like this one. It was filled with Ickle me, Pickle me and Tickle me too. It was filled with giving trees, and Sara Cynthia Sylvia Stouts’s garbage. It was filled with halves of giraffes, skin stealers and the Googies. It was filled with hundreds of black and white pages that held more importance to me than any number of full colored pages could. If your childhood at all resembled mine, you would begin to understand what these nonsensical words mean to me, you would begin to understand what Shel Silverstein and my mom gave me.
Childhood is a time when imagination can seep into our minds like water into soil. This is precious because within this existence known as childhood, there is room for these kinds of thoughts to grow, room for these kinds of thoughts to really take root inside ourselves and become an equal part of ourselves, unlike any other time in our lives.
My mother was an incredibly compassionate, creative and intelligent woman, so naturally she would read what reflected these types of ideals. She would read Shel Silverstien’s The Giving Tree, Where the Sidewalk Ends, and A Light in the Attic. Within these pages I found all kinds of things, like silliness when a son swapped a dollar bill for a quarter, “cause two is more than one.” I found the value of individuality as she read to me about the two blue-skinned people who spend their whole lives unaware they aren’t alone simply because they hide behind masks. I found value in everyone when I was taught that dreamers, liars, pray-ers, and magic bean buyers are all welcomed in. But most dear to me is the story, which tells about a sweet tree who gives and gives until she has nothing left to give; then, she is happy to give the very last bit she possibly can.
What Shel does is capture certain nuances in such a way that you can remember not only hearing his words, but you can even remember your childhood perception of those very same words. It is within this type of simplicity, the simplicity of word and image but not meaning, that both Shel and my mom, alike, knew that my child’s eyes would see what had to be seen.
When I was younger I wouldn’t cuddle with this blankie or that toy, I would fall asleep with a stack of books under my pillow because my mom told me those books would fill my dreams. They gave me safety when I was afraid of what was under the bed. They gave me comfort when things became far scarier than what was under my bed. They comforted me even on nights when my mom couldn’t be there. Through all of this, what Shel and my mom gave me was a way to remember what it was like to be a child, what it was like to feel hopeful and silly at the same time what it was like to be enthralled by what words can do.
No matter how many weeks pass from now, how many years or even decades pass, Shel will still have given me this gift to remember what it was like to be a child listening to my mom read stories to me. And in giving this to me, Shel gave me this little piece of her, The Missing Piece, if you will, that I can always hold onto. In a similar way, what my mom gave me is an anchor that I can hold and will hold me right back.