Two weeks ago, I finally had the courage to go through an over-sized cookie tin that I had put aside from my parents’ house.
I had forgotten it was full of seeds! My heart sank for two reasons: (1) the seeds are old from between 1994-2004 and would most certainly not sprout anymore and (2) the seeds had been saved in old pill containers that had once been filled with medicines for my parents. I made the full realization that both my parents were very sick for such a long time. So here I had before me, bottles and bottles of old pill containers holding a new potential for life in the form of seeds.
While they were relatively healthy, and later ill as they were, my parents continued to garden and provided the best of organic fruits and vegetables for themselves, their children and grandchildren. I was super lucky to grow up on home grown organic food. Year after year, they saved the heritage seeds (mostly vegetables, but also flowers) they had brought over from Sicily. My parents were so incredibly organized. Though they only had an 8th grade education, they both had deep intelligence and survival savvy. The old pill-containers-now-holding-seeds are carefully labeled in mom and dad’s delicate Sicilian-style handwriting, carefully describing the various types of seeds! Reading the labels gives the word “bittersweet” a new meaning. They are gone, their handwritten labels remain.
I cry and I smile as I read mom and dad’s handwriting. Mom and dad both wrote in their unique Italian/Sicilian/English grammatically incorrect trademark style, reflecting their adorable, endearing, and comical mixed up way of speaking. They were absolute geniuses at creating a language that worked for them and all involved!
s. di papavere tutti colora ’04 (poppy seeds of all colors ’04):
In another note, mom wrote: “Seeds from white flowers ’03 from the park. They are planted at the front of the house and are beautiful.” (“Simenta de fiori ’03 bianch del parco. sono mesi al fronti della casa sono belli.“) She had a favorite park in Valparaiso, Indiana, and much to our embarrassment, was quick to take seeds from the flowers there, even as passersby watched!
Dad’s cucumber seeds from 8-22-04 (written in shaky hand due to his illness/weakness):
And here is the cucuzza seed note (along with wild fennel) written in dad’s elegant handwriting before he got weak and shaky! Cucuzza is a Sicilian 4 foot-long (or longer) squash that was my nightmare growing up. The smell of it made me feel sick and my mom made me eat it. I was always the last one at the dinner table because she wouldn’t let me leave until I made a valiant effort at eating it. This went on until I was 10! When I was 10, Aunt Lily moved in with us and all hell broke loose. She quickly stood up for me, scolded my mother for forcing me to eat things I didn’t like, and went so far as to eat it for me! That was the end of my cucuzza torture days.
I hope my sisters Nora and Zina are reading this because they will scream when they hear what was at the bottom of the seed-filled cookie tin: moth balls!!! Now evaporated, yes, so really I found the ghost of moth balls, all wrapped up in an empty sachet and tied up with a pink string! Mom had a horror of moths and had moth balls in every closet and drawer. When she was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, we went through the house and threw out every damned moth ball we came across, much to her protestations!
Sadly enough, most of these heritage seeds are from 2004 (some older ones from 1994)! I know seeds have a life, but I took the chance and planted trays and trays of seeds. And no, in case you are wondering, I didn’t plant the cucuzza!
Well, well, well….Various seeds have sprouted. I am convinced miracles do happen! Heritage zucchini, heritage cucumbers, Sicilian sweet melon, ma’s poppies of all colors! Of course I am left wondering if the moth balls may have helped preserve the seeds!
YES! I am thrilled beyond belief.