Tag Archives: sap

Can’t Go Home Again

28 Jul

The sap of a fig bush is toxic, and if you pluck that fruit without gloves and long sleeves, your arms will erupt and itch.

My grammy had a fig bush in her front yard, by the gardenia tree. (Fact: what you think smells like magnolia is actually gardenia.)

I don’t remember ever picking figs, I guess because it could hurt me. She would pick them, though, and boil them down with sugar. We ate them over pancakes or biscuits or just plain white bread. Then we moved and I didn’t see her anymore (she hated my mother, might still hate her.) And there were no more figs. I guess they don’t grow up here. Now I eat all the fig chutney from cheese plates and ask for more. I don’t think my grammy knows what a cheese plate is.

A few months before I got married, she discovered she had breast cancer. A quick mastectomy. Then she had a stroke and her daughters (twins, fathered by my 70 year old grandfather. She was 30.) put her in a…home? Not her home, with the linoleum in all the rooms and no toaster, ever. But a home.

This fall, my father made the trip back home to say goodbye to his mother. And I said, please bring me some figs. That’s what I want from home.

And he was dutiful, and he did. Two jars, one for me. I gave the other to a close friend, because figs are the kind of food you share.

I put them on a top shelf. I am afraid to eat them, because it’s the last I will have. She was a strange women, at best distant and at worst vicious. But she gave me my sweet father, and for that I am grateful. If I eat those figs, something is over and I’m not ready for it to end.