While discussing The Outsiders with my class, I asked the students what they thought it meant when the dying character Johnny tells his best friend Ponyboy to “stay gold.” Students said things like stay good, stay true to yourself, don’t get tough, don’t change. Then, one boy raised his hand. “I think all of those are right,” he said, “but none really says it like ‘stay gold’ does.”
I thought about it for a moment and then replied, “I guess that’s why we use symbols and metaphors, because it’s the metaphor that says it best.”
My student’s words have been on my mind for the past few weeks. We are now in the season of symbols – Santa, wreaths, holly, miseltoe, candles, and for many, the story of Jesus’ birth in the manger.
For me, the Charlie Brown Christmas tree has always been the symbol of the season that speaks to me. I can’t say exactly why – it’s probably partly the memory of seeing it on TV when I was a little girl, but it’s something deeper than that. Of course, as my student pointed out, if I try to find words for what it is that the tree says to me, the words will never be as good as the symbol of the tree itself.
We did not get a Christmas tree this year, but instead decorated a small sapling in our back yard. We have no idea where this evergreen came from; one day we just noticed it had sprung up. It’s been there for over a year now, and without receiving any care from us, has grown taller and stronger.
I suppose, then, that is all I need say.