A Memoir by Kandi Maxwell
This morning, a friend brought me a basket of figs. Organically grown in her backyard. Sweet and fleshy. Tender-firm, ready to eat. My husband, Lloyd, loves figs, but he is traveling and will miss the pleasure of the tree-ripened fruit. I want to save their freshness, but figs won’t wait.
Lloyd is in Hawaii with family. Today, he is climbing a volcano. Tomorrow, kayaking down a river surrounded by lush tropical forest. Anxiety and fatigue keep me home. I will miss the adventure, but I have the figs.
Last night, I finished reading Patrick Modiano’s novel Missing Person. The setting, Paris, during the German Occupation. Smoky bars, a restaurant terrace. The protagonist has amnesia, searches for old acquaintances in order to find himself. Names and faces have dissolved. Some have died. Stitching the holes seems impossible.
After reading the novel, I remembered Dee, a former acquaintance. Long, dark hair, frizzy in mist. High-strung-nervous. Smoked too much. She made shirts out of tea-towels, bold-colored embroidered skirts. Handbags out of strips of cloth. A modern day Frida Kahlo who covered pain with stitches and paint. Dee lost her home in a fire. Her paintings, dresses, and years of artistic creations turned to ash. Not long after the fire, Dee committed suicide.
For my friend who brings the figs, it is her first visit to our house. On the porch, a dust pan; a green plastic alligator serves as a handle. She notices this unique piece. “Dee made that,” I say. “Did you know her?”
“I never met her,” she says, “but I have heard her story.”
Did she know that Dee had given away many of her artistic works to friends just months before the fire? Like she knew what was coming.
We walk into the cabin. I show her around. On a wall, a large, fringed shawl. Brilliant turquoise, yellows and reds. “From Dee,” I say. If I had opened the closet, she would have seen an embroidered blue dress, flowered scarves, a beaded medicine bag filled with sweet scented cedar. Dee and I weren’t close. I only knew her briefly, but I can’t part with her gifts. I need to save these strands of sweetness, so Dee won’t dissolve.
Figs only last about a week after harvesting, so most figs are sold as dried fruit. The nectareous freshness may be lost, but when dried, figs become a power food. Fiber and mineral content increases. They’re packed with calcium, magnesium, iron. I bite into one of the ripened figs, leave the rest in the basket. Tomorrow, I will cut each fig in half, place them in the dehydrator, save them for my husband.
* * *
Kandi Maxwell is a creative nonfiction writer who lives in the Sierra Foothills of Northern California. She has been an English teacher, a backcountry and rock-climbing guide, a musician, a recreation therapist and a client to several psychotherapists. She is a wife, a mother and a grandmother. Her stories have been published in Hippocampus Magazine, KYSO Flash, The Door is Ajar, Raven’s Perch, The Offbeat, Wordrunner eChapbooks and in many other literary journals and print anthologies.