Today I peeled a fat, ripe mango with a knife, cut pieces into a bowl, and finished it off, leaning over the sink. The strings are in my teeth, though I've cleaned my chin of the juice it gathered.
Back home we climbed the trees and ate the mangos right then and there, peeling off the skins with our teeth and spitting them out on the ground beneath us. We tried to avoid the sticky sap that oozed from the stem. Sometimes the mango we chose was green- we just couldn't wait another week to pick one. That was okay, too, but sour, and really better with salt.
We never had a tree at my house. Well, there was a tree, but it didn't produce until I was long gone, and even then but poorly. Instead we'd go to Loma 1 and climb the giants by the TSD or the one across from the guest house. Nobody really claimed these as their own. Aunt Frankie's trees were always full, and she would chase off the kids, but was willing to share when asked nicely. The MacIntoshes' trees produced the largest fruit -some were as large as an American football- and tasted of peaches. Most of the others were the standard size- about the size of two large hands arched in a circle.
When school ended for the year my brother, sister, and I were roped in by my mom to harvest and store mangos for the coming year. She'd get permission from someone with trees, and we'd carry our giant baskets over and load them up for my dad to bring back at lunch time on the motorcyle. First we'd collect and peel green ones, chop the meat off the stone, bag them, and load them into the back porch freezer. These were used for pies and cobblers. In a couple more weeks we started on the ripe ones. These were harder to get the meat off, and we'd finish up the last bits with our teeth, scraping down to the hard pit. The discarded pits looked like hairy little pod people in a dog pile. The uneaten portions were frozen, too, for mango jello and milkshakes. Sometimes we'd eat the frozen pieces like popsicles.
(We griped and complained about the excessive work, but saved the money we earned for our trip to the city later in the summer.)
The mangos always came in the beginning of the summer with the rains, but the last Christmas we spent at home before we left forever, the weather was unusual. It rained on Christmas day and one mango tree bloomed. In January, my friend brought me, already in the city, the last mango from home. Just ripe, it tasted sweet despite the lump of salt in my throat.