renee-michelle-harris_web.jpgI grew up with a passion for mangos.  Each year, I look forward to sinking my teeth into their juicy tropical flesh.  Some of my favorite memories of my grandfather are of our sitting on the porch together—my legs dangling, his firmly planted on the ground—juice dripping down our chins as we devoured the fruit from our tree. 

The much-anticipated summer arrival of mangos became part of my childhood vernacular.  A year became a “mango season.” My teen brothers and their friends were likely to deem a chronologically suspect young girl as “off limits,” saying that she needed “a few more mango seasons.”  

Late May signals the appearance of mangos; July heralds their peak.  We have no mangos in our yard, so summertime finds me searching for trees with an abundant harvest–and generous owners. 

My kids know – and dread – the drill. They will witness their normally shy, laid back mother knocking on strangers’ doors to petition for their mangos.  I’ve never been turned down. In fact, owners appreciate my approach, preferring it to having fruit taken without permission, as other mango addicts undoubtedly do.

It took years of watching trees loaded with mangos go unharvested, and seeing mangos rotting on the ground, before I had the courage to approach folk to ask for their fruit.  

Several months ago, I spotted a tree in my neighborhood primed to deliver an enormous harvest. I passed the house daily when I dropped off my daughter’s friend from school.  The fruit’s progress toward ripeness deserved my close attention.          

When the fruit of the tree began to beckon me with its tempting hints of yellow, I knocked on the owner’s door.  A relative answered, listened to my request, and escorted me to the back yard to meet the homeowner, an elderly gentleman with a warm Caribbean accent and friendly demeanor.

I repeated my request and, with a smile, the tree’s owner shook his head “no.”  The mangos weren’t ready, he said.  And, in spite of its appearance, the tree was not productive this year.  Further, he had promised the mangos to his large family so, sorry strange lady with considerable gall (I intuited his thoughts), you may not have any mangos. 

Despite the gentleman’s refusal, I thanked him and shared my thinking in asking that the  worst he could say was “no.”  As I exited his yard, he smiled and assured me, “Maybe next year.” 

As I pulled away in my car, the relative caught my eye.  He stood at the yard’s gate, holding the biggest, most beautiful mango I’d ever seen.  I gladly accepted the precious fruit in two outstretched hands, and thanked him.  He warned me with a sincerity that has earned mention in my “gratitude journal,” that I would have to eat the mango “today, because today it’s perfect.”