Back, when I was working, I used to buy the most beautiful figs for my mom. On farmers' market days, I would shoot out of my office at lunchtime, hoping no one would pin me down for needless small talk or some random assignment, head straight for the elevator, ride down 24 stories, and beeline for the Ferry Building. There, I would scurry past rows of tables, push through mobs of leisurely shoppers huddled around the stands sampling pieces of apples and persimmons, and scour for sightings of my black mission figs.
As soon as I found them, I would zoom in and scrutinize them for imperfections. Were they ripe enough? Over-ripened? Were they flattened, mottled, punctured? Were their stems intact? I would hold up each basket to examine the fruit on the bottom. Were those on the bottom crushed by the weight of those on top? I would resist the urge to pick them out individually to examine them. Once I was satisfied of their perfection -- soft and dry to the touch, full and plump, skin taut, with each holding its own shape -- I would plunk over my money for as many baskets as I could carry.
On the way back, I would stop by CVS to pick up some disposable plastic containers. Then, back to my office where behind closed doors, I would arrange the figs in the containers one by one. First, a row on the bottom, right side up, each of them resting snugly side by side to keep them from moving around and bruising each other. Then, another row on top, but this time upside down, in order to fill a layer in the gaps created by those on the bottom, like the way teeth of a zipper meet. After I securely filled all the containers, I would grab a FedEx box from my secretary's desk and fill out the form with my personal use ID.
Then, I would place the sealed box on my secretary's station.
"Could you please send this out for overnight delivery? Please make sure they are for delivery by tomorrow, not two days."
All afternoon, I would keep my eye out for the guy making his rounds on the floor to ensure that he picked up my box for overnight delivery. I imagined the sealed box, with my rows and rows of perfect figs waiting inside, forgotten in some dusty corner of some overheated truck or dropped by mistake by some careless worker. That night, they would journey across the continent from Northern California to New York while I slept.
On days when farmers' market was not open, I would taxi to Whole Foods to find my figs. One time, when I was checking out, the cashier was stunned by the amount of figs I was purchasing.
"What are you doing with all these figs?"
"I'm feeding my mom."
Fig season passes quickly, and I would send them to her just a few times before they were no longer available.
The morning after I sent them, I would await her call.
"Were they damaged?" I would ask. "Did they get ruined on the way?"
"They made it over okay," she would reassure me. "They are perfect."
Then, she would tell that she will eat some and freeze the rest. And then for many months to come, she would call to tell me how much she enjoyed the frozen ones. Like little popsicles, she would say.
Once I called some fig growers that I found online to ask if they shipped out to New York.
"No, not for home delivery," they said.
The other day, while I was at Lowe's, I picked up a fig tree for my mom, something she had been wanting for some time. It is still a young tree, inconspicuously bearing just a few green pearls among leaves the size of my hand. I imagined them ripening over time into the kinds of perfect figs I used to buy for her. Jeff drove it over in the back of his truck to their new home while they were unpacking. In their new complex, they have no yard, but we gave her an enormous pot we had lying around our own yard. I think it's big enough to hold the tree, with some room to grow, at least for the time being.