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Graziella This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   Her eyes were the reflecting pools of her being. She wasas wise and kind as her sparkling pupils, as sad and pensive as her droopinglids. She would stop and look at the vivid panorama that the small campanaoffered, quiet in contrast to the jovial background of people laughing, eatingand talking. Leaning on the oak door of the farmhouse or sitting on the limestonewall separating the vineyards and the olive groves, she would gaze at the tawnycliffs reflecting the tender light of the serene Sicilian sun.

Graziella,my great-aunt, would grab me by the arm and say, "Figgi, figgi," and Iknew it was time for fig picking. She would lead me along the small flagstonepath wedged between rows of gigantic parsley and gargantuan basil, and stop amoment to look at the quilt-like pattern of green vineyards and golden grain sewntogether with the gray-tan thread of dusty roads.

Farther along thetrail, there was a large fig tree. Its trunk was twisted and pitted as if by someunseen torment, its branches contorted around each other, its leaves growingsporadically across its distorted limbs. We always made our trip to Sicily inAugust, just as the tree's one and only true treasure, the ever-sweet fig, wasripe.

She stood on her toes, basket in hand, stretching to pluck the figfrom its reluctant stem. The first fig always went in the basket, the second intomy eager mouth, and after the picking was done and the basket full, my great-auntsavored the last one - a feast for the hard worker.

Graziella liked to sitand look. She didn't talk too much, and when she did I couldn't understand herdespite my infrequent but intense commitments to learn Italian. Her eyes conveyedmore than words ever could. Her favorite rocking chair had deep, polished grooveswhere she had rested her hands countless times. She sat there, with her smallnose twitching and her tiny, booted feet tapping to the beat of inner music. Shelistened to the pre-dinner conversation around her, and looked about with herchestnut eyes.

She could always be seen down on her knees, weeding hergarden. She tended the rows of crimson tomatoes and purple eggplant and viridianartichoke that seemed to reflect the colorful valley where Graziellalived.

When cooking, she was in her element. My great-aunt was not sonarrow-minded that she thought cooking was done only inside the kitchen. Cookingutensils flew as if they were in a whirlwind and through the cyclone of forks andknives and rolling pins she emerged, not with a cooking instrument, but a shovel.Her narrow shoulders strained as she dug a shallow hole, and her snowy hair,combed into a swirl, was bedecked with bark as she heaved wood and kindling intothe pit. With her hands laced with veins and a throng of twisting wrinkles, shefirmly struck a match and set the brushwood aglow. Into the conflagration thatcrackled and spit blazing ruby embers she dropped eight foil-wrapped artichokes,picked just hours before.

My great-aunt would sit, poking the fire withher blackened pole and eliciting crimson sparks that swirled around her face,heightening the shadows that grew like moss from the recesses of her face. Hersad, bright eyes peered out from her slightly down-turned lids; her chapped lipshad a small, mysterious smile that hinted of a joke yet to be told. The smokethat eddied around her fragile body and curled around her work-worn hands slowlydrifted up into the evening sky, and, like Graziella herself, out of sight andinto memory.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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