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9


A Basketful Of Figs



There is a fig tree in the center of our family courtyard. It has been with our family for generations, providing basketfuls of sweet-fleshed figs year after year. Celebrations are held under its peridot shade – announcements, birthdays, weddings and baby’s full moons. Even festivals, all based on the waxing and waning of the moon and the transitions of the seasons. Gifts have been made, exchanged and opened while the leaves rustle their gentle song. Laughter and dancing mingle with grief and pain.


It is a medium-sized tree with a thick trunk and heart-shaped leaves, spreading outward to form an umbrella. Ficus carica, under the Moraceae family. Wu hua guo. I love the sound of it, rolling it with my tongue and savoring the texture of the words with my senses. The taste of the figs is often accentuated by the enjoyment of the word-sounds – I am the only one in my family who can taste words and I cherish my little gift. Of course, when I bite into the pinkish heart of a ripe fig, nobody knows the joy, except myself.


Oh, the edible fig tree is an interesting plant, its fruit pollinated by the fig wasp and considered a flower, an inflorescence. Fruit without flower. How miraculous it is. We collect basketfuls on good years, providing sustenance to the entire household. We eat them fresh, dry them or preserve them for later culinary or festive use. We sometimes serve them to relatives and guests during the New Year period, accompanied by fragrant jasmine tea and tasty family gossip. Or we boil them into herbal concoctions for the soothing of sore throats and strained vocal chords.


Then the war comes and everything changes.


~*~


It is the Sino-European Territory War and it is 2376.


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