Tuesday, April 11, 2006

My beloved tree

My favorite fruit in the whole world is mango. And even though I have not tasted all the fruits in the world, my tongue has a rock-solid loyalty to this absolutely delicious tropical fruit. I love mango juice, any mango dish, or basically mango in or on any thing that I find edible.

Back home (Nigeria), I particularly liked the soft, juicy kinds, with the skin a freckled yellow or a perfect yellow. On a particularly exhausting day, I liked to sit somewhere, get out a mango, and then eat it while watching people go by. Mango was my fruit or item of choice when I had any spare money.

One day in 1991 (I was about 10 yrs old), I had the best mango I had ever had, and that's saying a lot, given the amount of mangoes I had consumed. This single mango took sweetness to a whole new level. Sugar or honey or candy (I had (have) a sweet tooth) was a pitiful competitor. The softness, the juiciness, the everything about this single mango was indescribably perfect to my taste buds. My taste receptors must have experienced a whole new kind of fantastic, tasty message.

To cut the story short, I didn't want to part with this mango, with this taste. So I planted it. Yep. I planted it so I could have reminders of it for years. Every morning, I would wake up to water it and to sing to it.

The song went: mango pu, pu, pu pu. Iyu kun noneche, Iyu kun noneche. (repeated many times). song means: mango grow, grow, grow, grow. You are the one I'm waiting for, you are the one I'm waiting for.

I was the laughingstock of my friends and family, who found this romancing hilarious. I waited years to finally see my tree bloom. Its first set of fruit was delicious, absolutely delicious, but admittedly not as delicious as the parent fruit. I, however, accepted this with joy, because I had a part of the parent fruit with me (the tree), so there was always hope that one day, one or more of the tree's fruits would delight my taste buds in the, as yet, unique way.

The tree's fruits became sweeter and sweeter every year, and this tree became, in some sense, like my child. I frowned on anyone else who climbed it without my permission. I more or less waged war on anyone (one man in particular) who wounded it--to get its bark for some purpose, medicinal or otherwise. When I came back from school, I (and sometimes my friends) would climb it and explore the world from its branches. And on some days when I wanted to be hidden from everyone, to have some alone time with my thoughts, its strong, solid branches were always welcoming. My mango tree also made me richer in two ways. First, I no longer had to buy mango from others, and second, people bought mangos from me. I also acquired quite a few "want-your-mango" friends.

You can imagine my heart break when I heard the news from back home that someone had cut my beloved baby, my mango tree. I didn't get to say goodbye to it, and its potential to produce a replica of that unique parent fruit was, thus, cut short. I felt sad, I cried. I wanted to go home, to Nigeria, to see its remains, to tell it that I am sorry for leaving it to such a fate. My tree. My tree, how I had looked forward to seeing you again, taller, fatter, and more grounded. I miss the breezy days that I had sat on your branches, feeling so secure and like the owner of everything, as I looked down at everything, as I saw farther than I had ever seen.

But there is some justice in the world, and it wasn't rendered by me. The person who crippled my tree had done so because he felt that my tree was encroaching on his land and so was likely to weaken his fence. Well, it rained heavily sometime after his deed, and the fence came down; it was destroyed. Did I feel better, knowing what happened to the fence? No. My tree is no more. It's ok. My tree and that unique parent fruit are immortalized in my mind. I will always remember them. Their status in my mind will not be surpassed: the best tree, the sweetest mango.

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At 3/6/06 2:04 PM, Blogger booklogged said...

What a beautiful story and what a sad ending. I love that you were able to climb in your tree's branching and eat some of its fruit. I look forward to reading your debut novel.


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