I’m a second generation American. My Dad’s family hails from miscellaneous parts of Italy from the north to the south and while we grew up a very very proud fairly typical American family, there are still times where I find myself thinking and referring to my slightly more homogenized friends as “you white people.” For those of you who grew up in any kind of culture that wasn’t all wonderbread (black, white, brown, red, polka dots-whatever), I bet you know what I mean.
As I have gotten older and the less desirable aspects of this sometimes old fashioned culture have fallen away, I find myself left with the warm and fuzzy memories of a family who still maintained some identity of their roots. These identities are often tied up with individuals, as with my Great Grandfather. I was lucky to know him as a teenager although to be fair, our language barrier was a pretty big one. But to hear stories of him through my Dad now that my Great Grandfather has been gone for a couple of decades, well it’s something special. I have learned that he was a mason and gardener at Kykuit (the Rockefeller Estate in NY) for pretty much his adult life. I have learned that the shovel that my Dad now uses was one that my G-Grandfather “liberated” from that same estate when he retired (sorry Rockefellers!) with an explanation to my Dad “Bucky-he got lotsa money. He no miss this“. But, I also know that his own garden was important to him. Enough so that when he came to America almost 100 years ago, he brought with him a fig tree.
Now, I don’t think we know how long he (or his family) had it in Italy, but I do know that my Dad has maintained his own cutting from it for at least 20-30 years. And this spring, we get our cutting of it for Blueberry Acres! Something that I look forward to planting in our ground with my little Blueberry beside me. A fig tree that has been in my family for at least 90+ years and 2 countries. I’m having a hard time putting into words how cool I think this is, but with all of this talk of native seeds, heritage breeds and heirloom produce…to be able to grow and enjoy delicious figs from a tree that was hand carried by my Great Grandfather on a ship across the ocean all those years ago. Well, I think it’s pretty cool that I will be able to pass that kind of heritage breed down to Blueberry one day. I wonder what heritage our grandchildren will talk about when we are long gone….it’s something to think about on those frustrating homestead days. We are creating a new heritage for our kids! Happy Homesteading!