Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Jr. Tales: Olives and Lemons Make Oil and Lemonade

Rhona Lewis

Nonna — Grandma — wasn’t smiling and standing over a pot of pasta sauce spiced with oregano, and Nonno didn’t come in from the groves at six o’clock

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

 Mishpacha image


T here are over 60 million olive trees in Puglia, one tree for every person in Italy. Hold on… where is Puglia? Remember that Italy looks like a giant boot? Well, Puglia is the heel of the boot. And it’s full of olive trees. My Nonno, grandpa, says that the gnarliest tree in Puglia is more than 1,000 years old. And don’t try to argue with him because he’s one of the oldest and best olive tree farmers in Puglia. And he knows all about olive trees, olive oil, and lemonade.

Every year, we leave the crush of Paris and fly back to Papa’s childhood farmhouse to spend the summer in Puglia. My younger brother Ari would rather spend his days on the beaches of Puglia, but ask me and I’ll tell you that farm life beats the surf.

This last summer was different from every summer I can remember. Gone were the long lazy days spent in the olive groves with Nonno and the picnic lunches of homemade bread dipped in Nonno’s specialty extra virgin olive oil that is pressed on the farm. And it was all because of Xylella fastidiosa.

Things began to fall apart about six months before we got there, but Nonno hadn’t said much about it. Ari and I arrived in the late afternoon and I sensed something was wrong right away. Nonna — Grandma — wasn’t smiling and standing over a pot of pasta sauce spiced with oregano, and Nonno didn’t come in from the groves at six o’clock to squeeze freshly picked lemons and make lemonade like he did every evening.

“Where’s Nonno?” I asked Nonna.

She sighed, closed her eyes, and wiped them with the back of her hand.

I got a funny itchy feeling all over. Like I’d trodden on an ant’s nest and a million little critters were zooming over my laces and into my trouser pants.

“Where’s Nonno?”

Nonna sighed again. “With the olive trees…while they’re still growing,” she said.

“What?” I scratched at my legs.

“Benny, you didn’t hear?”


“Hear what?” The itching along my legs got worse and somehow I understood that this was connected to the whispered words between Ima and Abba that I’d been hearing for a few weeks before Ari and I left Paris.

Nonna sat down and put her head in her hands. “Go into the groves,” she said. Her voice was muffled by her hands. Or maybe by her sobs.

Ari and I raced out, past the olive press and the store houses in the trulli, little stone huts shaped like cones that are built all over Puglia, and toward the groves. When we got to the edge of the groves, I stopped. I punched Nonno’s number into my cell phone. No answer. I looked around for Ari. He was perched high in one of the olive trees. He shimmied down even faster than he had climbed up.

“Over there,” he said. “At the far edge of this grove. There’s a whole group of men standing around. Looks like they’re fighting about something.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 695)

Related Stories

Intersection of Kindness and Warmth

Simi Besser

Sunday mornings in Montreal see a cheerful, bearded crossing guard singing parshah rhymes, and bring...

Jolly Solly: Full Stop

R. Atkins

The next Monday morning, a strange sight greeted the schoolchildren. There were two crossing guards ...

Wood You Believe These Trees

Sivi Sekula

Chewing gum owes its life to trees, as do loads of other everyday items you’d never have believed co...

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

Using Our Free Will Effectively
Yonoson Rosenblum The image we carry of ourselves is key
Eytan Kobre The ripple effects of one Jew’s kiddush Sheim Shamayim
Living the High Life
Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger It is exhilarating to matter, to be truly alive
It’s Time for Us to Speak Up
Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie We must speak out proudly for the values of Yiddishkeit
Kiruv Is Not Dead
Rabbi Meir Goldberg Do these sound like uninspired or closed students?
Frosting on the Cake
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman “Let’s not let a missing chocolate cake ruin our siyum!”
A Warm Corner in Flatbush
Yosef Zoimen It was a simple shul with a choshuve leader
Out of Control
Jacob L. Freedman “That’s illegal, Dr. Fine. I can’t have a part in this”
Song of Reckoning in the Skulener Court
Riki Goldstein “It’s awe-inspiring to watch the Rebbe sing this song”
“U’teshuvah, U’tefillah, U’tzedakah”
Riki Goldstein Throughout the Yamim Noraim, three words accompany us
The Rebbe Held His Gaze
Riki Goldstein A moment etched in Reb Dovid Werdyger’s memory forever
The Road Taken
Faigy Peritzman In the end it’s clear who really merits true happiness
Sincere Apology
Sarah Chana Radcliffe A heartfelt and complete apology can turn things around
Power Pack of Mercy
Mrs. Shani Mendlowitz The 13 Attributes of Mercy are “an infinite treasure”
The Appraiser: Part II
D. Himy M.S. CCC-SLP, and Zivia Reischer “Eli needs to see people who struggled to achieve”