The Missing Message

The current bedtime (or, really, any time when we’re the least bit still) favorite is Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece. I have a love-hate relationship with Shel Silverstein (and, as an aside, have you ever seen the picture on the back of The Giving Tree? Because it’s beyond love-hate into frightening. I should know; he’s forever frozen in the photo from my 19th birthday. And yes, I was still into Silverstein at 19, so you at least know I’ve been thinking about this for awhile). Anyway, I think his books are insightful, interesting, and finely illustrated in their sparse sort of way. But they make me sad, and the message is so deep I struggle to find it sometimes.

In The Missing Piece, there’s a circle with a chink missing. Hence, the missing piece. He goes in search of the missing piece. He’s rejected. He finds pieces that are the wrong size. He finds pieces that are the right size, which are either lost or broken. Most of the book focuses on his unsuccessful quest to find his long-lost missing piece.

When he finally finds it, he discovers he can’t do any of the things he loves now that he’s “complete”. So he sets the piece down, slowly and gently, and rolls away. The message ends up being one about our own completeness, chinks and all.

But I never get to this message. I’m always stuck on the shattered broken piece, the sting of rejection in the circle’s soft apology, the forlorn missing piece left behind. I yearn to see these stories told so that I can see them as beautiful, just as I see the self-acceptance that the circle finally finds. Maybe, shy and often lonely as I am, I identify more with those stories that then one Silverstein tells.

So instead, I enjoy the fact that on the page of most rejection, only on this page, some child has taken their green crayon and scrawled across the entire page. The library “Officially noted” this defacement. But I like to believe that somewhere, some child has done what we must all do. They’ve taken the saddest moment and made it theirs in vivid color so opposite to the black and white Silverstein uses. We should all take official note of that.

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