Food from God & Mario…

While the title of this post might seem as though I have veered completely off the subject of Mario and the other Greys, I promise it will make sense in the end…

In the last ten to fifteen years, I have done extensive genealogy on both sides of my family. My mother’s side is completely Italian- Sicilian to be exact. Initially, my father’s side seemed clear cut German. However, before she died my German grandmother told me there was some French & Swedish thrown in the mix too. Learning my family history has been a fun and interesting journey that would take much longer than you are probably willing to read to explain. However, one of the fun things has also been learning about the cultures, beliefs and traditions of all of these nationalities. One thing to which I was completely unaware was the connection between Italians and fig trees. Apparently, it is a given that all good Italians have a fig tree or two in their yards or on their property. My little Italian grandmother was not exception and the source of this learning experience for me.

My grandma, Angie, actually Angelina, was one of 14 children, came to America, Via the Port of NY – Ellis Island, in 1904 with her mother, older brother, Vincenzo, and younger sister, Louise (the rest of the children were born in the US.). My great-grandfather, Angelo had been in America for two years to establish a life for the family. My grandmother outlived many of her siblings, her husband and friends. She was a woman ahead of her time, something that was evident in the boutique she owned in Manhattan in the 1920’s, her work in the Garment District in NY and so on. Eventually, she moved from Brooklyn, where the family was established to the Bronx, NY. But as every good Italian knows you have to be with the family for those all day Sunday dinner experiences. So once a week she would ride the subway from the Bronx back to Brooklyn to spend the day with her siblings, their spouses and children. Despite the dwindling number of family members, and her own age, in the 1980’s, Angie still went every Sunday. It was on one of these Sundays that my grandmother, very excitedly, received a cutting of the neighbor’s (in Brooklyn) fig tree.

Angie’s fig tree, unbeknownst to me, grew and even produced fruit, which she often would take with her to Brooklyn on Sundays to share with her sister and two brothers. Years later I would learn of this tradition and my grandma’s pride in her fig tree. In the early 1990’s the time came to move Angie out her home to live with my parents in Upstate NY. After she was settled and before her house was sold I drove to the Bronx, dug up her fig tree and brought it to my house, also in Upstate NY. I struggled with this tree for years. I tried planting it outside, but the winters were too harsh. People told me to wrap the tree with saran wrap and blankets. I tried it. It didn’t work. Another method was to dig a trench, lay the tree down and cover it with dirt for the winter. Didn’t work either. Each time I prayed the tree wouldn’t die. While the trunk was dead the roots were not and Angie’s tree persevered. During this time my grandmother died, which only strengthened my resolve to keep the tree alive. In the end, the tree lived in a very large pot, which was moved indoors during the harsh NY winters. However, it never did thrive; only producing very tiny figs that never were able to ripen. It was rather discouraging.

Things began to change after I moved to the south western US in 2002. The climate was perfect for growing fig trees….and now it wasn’t just Grandma’s tree, but one of my own that I had grown from her tree. I should also say that from her tree many other trees have been grown and are scattered in different towns and even states.

Grandma's Fig Tree today....

The 'baby' fig tree

Finally- figs! The first couple of years the wild birds took most of the figs, but now there are more than enough for everyone! And speaking of birds…back to Mario. Last year when Mario was so ill, receiving 6 medications daily, I searched high and low for a food that he loved. My goal was to find something to which I could add his meds, thereby reducing stress (for everyone involved). For Magee it was peanut butter. However, Mario wanted no part of it. By the grace of God, the figs were rampant and, it turns out, the ONLY fresh food Mario would eat. As the number of meds declined it created an ideal opportunity to give him something fresh and provide the necessary medications he so desperately needed. Each morning I headed out to the fig tree. I would cut the fig in half and mix his medication in each half. He ate them with no problem. The figs (and my grandmother) played a pivotal role in Mario’s healing, and thus became in my mind, the Food from God….truly a gift from Above… 🙂

All the birds, Parrots and wild, now enjoy fresh figs from both Angie and my fig tree....these were picked just yesterday....

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