Driving back to Brevard on a late August day, I saw a farmstand
with a sign for fresh peaches, and quickly slowed down
hoping to buy some to take home.
As I climbed the stairs of the open-air market, to my surprise,
the sign “Figs” drew my attention away from peaches and
my mind journeyed back to Granny’s and Daddy’s fig bushes.
Granny didn’t want us grandchildren to pick figs,
and her large, six-foot, imposing frame and stern face like the fig police
kept us from fresh figs we loved.
Mama and Daddy had a beautiful fig bush as well and Daddy made
the best fig preserves in the whole world. I can still remember
the sweet smell as he cooked figs and sugar over a propane stove in the carport
after he picked the ruddy, almost purple fruit, delicate, tender,
and slightly fuzzy to the touch. When I was home, I helped him pick figs
and popped a few figs into my welcoming mouth as I went picking
and savoring each sweet bite,
while gathering enough figs for a few jars of preserves,
knowing I would get a jar to take home.
Daddy still made fig preserves when he was 90,
and he would hold the ladder for me to climb up the ten-foot bush
to pick figs at the top, sometimes holding my breath at the height
as I dropped each purple treasure into the
waiting pail Daddy held as he steadied the ladder,
and welcomed that manna from heaven.
Daddy’s keen eyes would spot a ripe fig hiding behind a leaf,
always being the supervisor of the fig picking, and I loved being
with Daddy picking figs and sharing precious time together.
When Daddy moved into assisted living, I grieved
for that fig bush, then at least ten feet high, and
remembered Daddy holding the ladder for me to pick from the top.
My cousin Kathy bought Daddy’s house and cherished the fig tree,
offering me figs in late summer when I came to town. As I held the figs
placed in my hand, they were like sweet communion to me.
Upon opening the last jar of preserves Daddy made,
I wept over that jar as if it were the hidden treasure in the field of life
and wanted to preserve that sticky sweet taste forever.
Whenever I find southern figs at the farmstands in late summer,
they whisper sweet words of love and family, reminding me
of Daddy’s amazing preserves as they invite me to take them home.