Someone wrote a Facebook post this morning about her breakfast of figs and yogurt. It brought this memory to mind.
The man stood each night in the shadows in the alley between his house and the house next door, only about four or five houses from the one we lived in. An elderly man. I remember him always wearing a jacket and tie, as well as a hat, but it would seem strange if he wore that during warm weather.
I was nine or 10 years old at the time. I’d see him every night when I was walking the dog in the evening. You could easily pass and not see him if you weren’t looking in his direction, he was that still. Truth be told, I was a bit frightened of this specter as I passed him. I was not the only one; most of the kids on the block avoided him.
But one night I said hi as I passed him, and after that, greeted him each time with a waved hand or a word as I walked past with my dog. He would respond with a silent movement of his hand in return greeting.
Then one night he motioned me over. I was a little leery, but walked a little in his direction. Right next to him in front of his house was a beautiful rose bush. He snipped one off and gave it to me. We exchanged a few words and I went on. After that, when roses were in season, I’d sometimes get another. Then one night, when I walked by, he waved me over with a smile and held out a dish that had something on it I had never seen – a fresh fig. He apparently had a fig tree in his backyard and it was fig season.
I loved figs the way we had them at the holidays – dried figs sliced open, with a piece or two of walnut meat inserted and powered sugar dusted on top. They were really good. I never thought about what figs looked or tasted like before they were dried. As good as those holiday figs were, they were nothing compared to the wonder of a fresh fig.
I’ve loved fresh figs ever since; I almost dance with delight when I see them in a store. And almost every time I eat one, I think of that elderly man, long dead by now.
I think he just appreciated someone saying hello. And a rose or a fig was his way of saying thank you.