The Ficus That Crossed an Ocean

In 1987 my grandma, Sima, left her home in Bucharest, Romania, to move in with me, my sister and my folks in northern New Jersey. The move was a jump of numerous sorts of confidence. Following 40 years in a similar loft, she shut her entryway and crossed a sea. She was 78, talked no English and had no companions here. In Romania’s capital she strolled every day to the food merchant, or the theater or a companion’s place. When she remained home she watched life in the city beneath from her window.


The suburbs, then again, was vacant. Not one individual in the city, she said with supported astonishment a seemingly endless amount of time.

She accompanied couple of effects: a little bag, a long coat, and in within pocket of that coat, a little branch growing a solitary leaf. She had cut it from the ficus plant my dad grew up with in a similar flat she abandoned. It was a two-room condo on Calea Victoriei. One room served as a kitchen and room. A little wooden table remained at the foot of the bed before a window confronting a ventilation duct.

On my visits as a tyke I stooped on a seat by that window and rubbed bread between my palms to make morsels for the pigeons that assembled on the ledge. A silver meat processor clung to the finish of the table with a clip. A stove sat by the table. The main sink was in the washroom; cheesecloths dangled from the fixture trickling coagulated drain.

The second room was a lounge in later years in any case, back in the ficus’ initial life, it was my dad’s scantily outfitted room: a table where he got his work done, an armoire, the couch that served as his bed, and the ficus at the foot of the couch by the window confronting the road. In my dad’s telling, on his path home from fourth grade one day, after a lesson about plant spread, he saw a ficus in the anteroom of a building. With the lesson new at the forefront of his thoughts, he severed a twig, took it home, and place it in a glass of water.

My grandma gave us refreshes about its prosperity. Something is irritating it, it’s losing clears out. Or then again it’s experiencing a development spurt. It was dependably feekoosul (the ficus, in Romanian) or the feekoos in my folks’ Romanian-tinted English. For quite a while I thought ficus was a Romanian word and I had no clue how to allude to it in English. Presently I have a wealth of words for the plant I have: ficus elastica, elastic fig, Indian elastic hedge.

How did my grandma get the ficus through traditions? She’d bounced harder obstacles than that. She brought a newborn child through a war that began a long time after she conceived an offspring. She consulted with fringe protects. She bosom sustained as bombs tumbled from the sky.

After the war, Communism gulped down the nation and in the 1960s its last despot, Nicolae Ceausescu, came to control. He administered reasonably at initially, and after that mercilessly through the 1980s. Discussions were whispered in corners, far from tapped telephones; companions and neighbors were compelled to turn on each other; sustenance deficiencies left everybody hungry.

My grandma came to New Jersey two years previously the transformation that toppled the dictator. She wrapped the ficus branch in a sodden fabric and concealed it in her dark coat. She wore just dark. When I proposed maroon she chuckled: “At my age?” She sunk into my room. I was 17 and would leave for school in a year in any case, so I consumed the visitor space. On the day she arrived she filled a glass with water and plunked the branch inside, similarly as my dad had accomplished the greater part a century sooner. “On the off chance that the ficus flourishes here then I’ll flourish as well,” she said.

At first we contended. She needed to deal with us; we would not like to be dealt with. She demanded scooping the snow off the front strides of my folks’ home and we couldn’t appear to stop her. There were generational battles as well. I needed to go out with my companions; she needed me home with family in light of the fact that alongside a dark coat and a ficus she carried with her an alternate world.

In time we quit advising her to rest. She cultivated and scooped and cooked. She visited with our neighbors from Croatia: “hey” and “bye” and “robota,” the single word they both comprehended: in Slavic dialects, the word for work.

Before long she was wearing maroon and taking English classes. She never skirted a task. Robota. She worked. The homework got harder with time and with her developing vocabulary. Expound on your family. Or on the other hand expound on your end of the week. Furthermore, once, compose what you think satisfaction is. My grandma’s answer: Happiness is the point at which your life outwardly coordinates your life within. Still the best definition I’ve ever heard.

My grandma flourished. And afterward she developed.

Following five years in New Jersey, at 83 years old, she turned into a United States national. She contemplated the 100 civics addresses anxiously for quite a long time, knowing she would be solicited 10 from them however not knowing which ones. She needed to answer six accurately to pass, which she did.

A couple of years after the fact, with my dad’s assistance, she connected for Section 8 lodging so she could live freely.

She kept taking classes at the neighborhood senior group focus, which she energetically called “kindergarten.” She read the daily paper each day for whatever length of time that she could and when her sight declined, an assistant read to her. She watched shows on PBS, prepared excellent strudels, tattled about her neighbors, and was occupied with each part of our lives and life when all is said in done. One month after her 100th birthday celebration, she kicked the bucket in her rest. She had been living individually for a long time.

When I moved to Massachusetts in my mid-20s, my dad severed a little branch of the ficus, as he had done when he was 8 years of age, and offered it to me to plant in my new home.

Numerous years after the fact, soon after my grandma passed, I moved to New York with my own particular branch, cut from the plant that had hit the roof of my Cambridge condo. I place it in a water-filled container in the glass holder of my Toyota trusting it would withstand four hours in travel. A companion disclosed to me it wouldn’t survive.

“Ficuses don’t care for transform,” he said.

Be that as it may, this wasn’t any ficus. The roots from which it sprung clung to after war soil. The storage compartment that birthed it watched whispers in dim corners. Its leaves sank in the grimy Balkan air, and rose again and attached and kept on establishing and rise, this extraordinary amazing plant of my grandma’s sea crossing ficus.

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