When you are a child, you aren’t given the details. You have a house here, you go to a house there. You have a farm somewhere. We had a mystery farm down the mountain.
The collective we was our family. Grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins and sometimes their relatives if they came into the family via marriage or affinity. The ownership of property existed in the memory of a child and was bought with love and happy experiences.
Every joyful encounter bought more equity in family property until the time I was grown up and was free and on my own. At 21 I owned more property in my memory, more rooms were kept in my heart than I could count.
Life does this to you, you acquire memories or places and people met and they exist in untarnished perfection, ever young, needing no maintenance but the summoning from the reserves of memory like a magic lantern.
I never visited this farm. It exists in my grandfather’s letters, in plans that didn’t make it to fruition, because of the many trials of premature death, life in the tropics, changing governments and all the things that make people say it is better to live here in the USA than in the tropics, where life is very different.
Not better than here, just different, and different is good as I grow older and perhaps, ever so slightly wiser. I never knew exactly where this farm was. Down the mountain, and closer to the beach. The farm grew mangoes.
Every year in a certain month, there would be a knock on the front door and an old man in a straw hat would be standing there, with two or three very large baskets brimming with ripe mangoes.
Big, ample mangoes with the distinctive perfume. The season had arrived, thanks to the old man and his mysterious method of transporting baskets of mangoes up the mountain roads to Baguio.
We were allowed to all we wanted, while the bounty lasted. I learned how to cut a mango, feeling the seed with the edge of a sharp knife. Scoring the cheeks with a criss cross pattern. Either scooping the gold out with a spoon, or inverting the mango and eating it right off the skin.
Mangoes were a given. Expected, appreciated, consumed. Little did I know that I would miss them so much, and spend time wondering how to find ripe mangoes here in the USA.
Mostly it has been a disappointment. Mangoes bought in the 21st century brings back memories of free mangoes of childhood. Mangoes as abundant as apples in New England.
In the middle of winter I remember where I grew up and the many mysteries of daily life. Of food magically appearing and being cleared away. Of rooms cleaned and sparkling like a fairy had waved a wand. Of the endless parade of relatives and intrigues and funny stories. Of laughing like a crazy woman, bent over and gasping for air. Of sleeping soundly under blankets in the pine scented air, and waking up to mangoes for breakfast.