Figs & Dogs: A Tribute to Sosé
By Melanie Vartabedian
The fig tree in our backyard is a temperamental beast. Last year it decided to give hardly any fruit. The summer of 2011, the branches were practically dripping with fruit. We usually put out a call to friends and family to relieve us of the burden of these figs.
Figs seem to be quite polarizing. Most people either love them or hate them. Deep into the 2011 fig season, my inbox received an email for a fig cocktail. Only an Armenian would share with another Armenian this email, noting “the best way to use them up!” That person was Sosé Thomassian. She was suggesting I find a novel use for the fruit I was so tired of dealing with, and happily offered to take some off our hands.
A few days later, a paper grocery bag full of figs waited patiently on the dining room table. I showed Sosé the backyard; my parents’ passion for gardening had resulted in the orange and lemon trees having an illicit affair, giving birth to some inedible hybrid, demon fruit. One grape vine, apple tree, mulberry tree, tomato vines, peppers, zucchini, and eggplant later, we ended up under the fig tree. She was so impressed to see such a vibrant, healthy, fruit-bearing fig tree in Los Angeles. I suggested a graft – the tree would be happy to share itself!
She was only supposed to stay for five minutes. Then Jojo caught wind of a visitor, a dog-loving visitor…
Jojo is the quintessential senior citizen – senses mostly gone, but largely uncaring of how that affected those around him.
Upon realizing there was someone new, he interrupted our good-byes with incessant tail wagging and happy whimpering, tufts o fur landing all over us both, sniffing at the heavy bag of figs. Naturally, Sosé dropped the figs to adore Jojo.
My dog is a ham – a ham with cataracts and selective hearing – but if you’ll continue to pet him, he’ll continue to stick his wet nose and scruffy butt in your face. And that’s how Sosé and I came to find ourselves sitting on the floor next to the front door for the next 40 minutes. If my mother had walked in, she’d certainly admonish me for being a terrible host. I’m sure I offered more comfortable seating options, and certainly a beverage, but here we found ourselves comfortable and carefree, discussing everything from dog grooming to memories of Youth Corps trips from our respective years. Zeus, the Thomassian family dog, was far more obedient than my scruffy mutt ever was. Jojo wandered between us, treating himself to simultaneous scratches behind the ears and belly rubs.
It’s been about two years since that random weekday afternoon, but it’s imprinted in my memory. I’ve actually recalled that day a few times, remarking on how figs and our mutual lovely for four-legged mutts resulted in a wonderful, cheerful conversation I knew I would cherish forever.
Photos courtesy of Melanie Vartabedian