Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My Father's Mangoes.

It has been over six years since I have seen father. My sister travelled back home to Nigeria and was kind enough to create a video of him. (By the way, check out her blogs HERE and HERE). Within the first 3 seconds (literally) of watching it, I broke down crying. He has grown old. It seems silly, of course he aged. My solidified childhood imagery of my father being a physical pillar of strength waned. Anyway, I want to share the video with you all. Many of my friends who grew up all over Africa have watched it and all say that they miss their fathers as well. I hope you guys can get some good nostalgia from this. Below is another short story of mine.

My Father’s Mangoes

     The mangoes came with the rainy season. We had two mango trees altogether. One was on our neighbour’s side of the compound and it was huge when compared to our somewhat stunted tree. Their mangoes when ripe, became deep red and orange. It attracted the biggest of fruit flies and the greediest of birds. Even the texture of their fruit was different from ours. We would bite into it and the fibers from the seed would instantly nestle between our teeth, juices would flow down our chins, get attracted to the grasping fingers and drip, drip, drip onto already dirty clothes stained by dust and childish adventures of a day spent outside. My neighbour’s mangoes were messy and squishy. They littered the front compound with their rot and they lured in the ugliest and strangest of insects. How I hated picking them off the ground with the hopes of finding a whole mango, but only to discover  a bird had beat me to it. 

     My father’s mangoes were different. They were more firm and ripened with a solid blend of yellow and green. When cut open, they were smooth, their juices did not leak out along the sides as a blade cut into them. They always lingered on the open wound of the fruit with lady-like mango juice perspiration. There was no denying their simplicity, and it was my father’s mangoes that fully came with the rainy season. The first rains of the season came in full celebration and we danced in and with it. I remember that freedom, the freedom of getting completely soaked, my clothes clinging pleasantly to my skin and the calmness with which the water dripped off me. The winds would blow heavily, and then you would hear them, the mangoes. Our mangoes would drop and with that being the signal, my sister, brother, cousin and I would dash out of the house and into the rain. It would pour so heavily one could barely see. The earth was not sucking in the water fast enough so we waded past our ankles, but we could still see them. We could see their colors in the murky water, making very little effort to hide. After much jostling, insults and delighted laughter, we would go to the kitchen with our arms full. I can’t remember my cousin and brother, being the older ones having their first pick; it would make more sense that they did. However, I remember always having good mangoes. 

     I would wait patiently for my father to return home. Then I would select from my little collection; the two best mangoes. I always had the magnanimous nature which came so blindly and willingly to some children and I would closely inspect them; making sure the skin had no dark spots on them. The skin was eaten with the fruit for that extra crunch.  I would cut them carefully into five pieces; two fat pieces off the broader side of the mango, then two narrower ones off the sides. I was always careful to leave enough flesh on the seed. Daddy liked the seed and so did I. I would arrange them carefully on one of our several ceramic plates...did they have a pattern? I can’t remember anymore. When I gave them to my father, I looked forward to his eyebrows rising up in feigned surprised and his mouth briefly forming an ‘O’ before breaking away into a broad smile. As he ate, I would sit in a chair near him and entertain myself  with the television or the newspaper cartoons. He always left me a piece. If there were two mangoes, he gave me the seed. If it was just one, he gave me one of the broader slices and I would savor those pieces like those were the last mangoes of the year, but knowing that there was still tomorrow and it would rain again.