I didn’t taste a mango until early adulthood. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a problem of mango availability; I just didn’t like the idea of them. They were messy and sticky and watching someone eat that orange flesh was grotesque enough to put me off it entirely. Juice would dribble down their chin and then the sucking and slurping would commence. As a child, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. My mother, long and sinewy, with skin as dark as polished wood, would offer me half of her mango. Usually, this would happen when she was barefoot in our garden, patterned fabric draped over her shoulders, a look that was very unusual in our Canadian suburb. Each time she offered I would shake my head no. I would feel a pang of embarrassment in my gut, even if no one was there to see. Over the years, she persisted despite my resistance. By my teenage years, all she had to do was reach for a mango for me to dismissively utter No thanks. I now recognize the sadness that would cross her eyes each time I would refuse a piece of her fruit, requesting an apple instead. My mother loved when mangos became available in stores, they were the only product she would splurge on because they reminded her of home.
I first visited my mother’s home, Martinique, when I was in my early twenties. It was strange seeing her in her element like that. She seemed to glide across the sand, her luminous hair flecked with silvery strands, fastened with a flower. I tried to mimic her, but my feet weren’t used to the uneven terrain of sand and my hair seemed to reject every flower that tried to nestle between its curls. When I tripped for the fifth time, my mother smiled and sat down next to me. I was clearly frustrated with my lack of grace and I think my mother sensed that. We sat in silence for a moment watching the waves. My mother reached into her tote bag and extracted a mango. Carefully, she sliced it into halves. Tentatively, she offered me a half. For the first time I accepted, happy to share something with my mother.