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His tree bore the fruit of generosity

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'Hi, Candy," Mr. Glushenko called out. "Hi," I said, waving from my bike.

"I have some things for you," he said, while laying a pair of hand clippers on the wide rail along the back of his white picket fence. Excited about getting some goodies, I squeezed the hand brake on my bike and met him at the gate. I walked my bike into his front yard and laid it on the grass.

"Follow me," he said, heading toward the side of the house.

Mr. Glushenko, who was about 90, had lived on our street longer than anyone else. The Redondo Beach he originally knew was a grassy hill covered with more buttercups than houses. Decades later, neighbors viewed those same buttercups as weeds, pulling them from their lawns every spring.

"Candy, you've come at the right time. This fig tree is heavy with fruit. I've got to pick them before they all go bad."

My ears strained to hear his soft voice swaddled in its thick accent. Mr. Glushenko was one of the many Russian Jews who left the Soviet Union in the early 1920s after the revolution. I didn't know if he had any family, but he lived alone.

"Here," he said, handing me some of the soft purple figs.

"Thank you," I said politely, not really sure what to do with them. My family had never eaten figs before, not even fig bars. I didn't know the first thing about how to eat them. Did the skin have to be peeled? Was there some part inside that shouldn't be eaten? Did it need to be cooked first?

I didn't think to ask Mr. Glushenko these questions, and I can remember feeling a little embarrassed that I didn't already know the answers.

"I have some more things for you inside, too," he told me.

We climbed up the porch stairs, and once inside, made a right turn into his small kitchen. After loading me down with a package of cream-filled cookies and a half-gallon can of honey, Mr. Glushenko sent me on my way. I left his house, pushing my bike with one hand and holding a paper bag full of Mr. Glushenko's generosity with the other.

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