Updated: May 8
By Dinah Sher Gongora
There are many more mangoes in the world than the ones found in my grandma’s backyard. Definitely hundreds, probably thousands. But none that grow more soft, more green, more ripe. None that are as sweet; that taste as warm and pure on my grandma’s front porch. My grandma has created more life than most creatures do. Her square concrete house in the small town of Dangriga, Belize has held more life than most homes do. Her small backyard, shaded by palm and carambola trees is home to one of the many gifts this Earth gave us: mangoes. Although many end up in the mouths of her chickens when their branches hang too low, sometimes I am lucky enough to have one plucked by her, just for me.
My grandma is a force of nature. Although I am not one to credit things to magic or deities, I am almost certain that my grandma pulled those mango trees up with her own hands and squeezed mangoes out of each branch. I think this is why the trees don’t cry when she is the one to pick their fruit. She is not afraid of a little dirt, just as she is not afraid of much else.
I am also almost certain she is the one who tells the breeze to shake the trees at night to feed each chicken in her garden. This is the truth about grandmas, isn’t it? They will feed all just as they feed their chickens: from their garden of mango trees that they pulled up from the Earth themselves. They will feed until there is hardly any more to give; until there is one mango left. And then they will scoop the seed out and plant a new tree where its mother once grew. And with the elegance of the Earth herself, they will squeeze mangoes out of each branch so we have something to eat for breakfast.
My grandma, much like yours, I’m sure, carries her country on her back, giving and creating for those she carries. Her skin, as thick as skin gets, is home to rainforests and mountains. Homes flower from her spine and trees spring from her shoulders. She has a different kind of strength, one that she was not born with but was placed on her by generations before her. She is taught to give until she has nothing left, and then to give more.
A woman that holds a country as our grandmothers do is a force to be reckoned with. They are orderly in a universe of entropy. They are the breeze that stands the trees upright, the water that soaks all roots and grows all gardens of mango trees to feed their neighborhoods. They are mothers as the Earth is.
With all our grandmothers carry, it is incredible how perfect their mangoes grow. It is incredible how, despite how many mangoes exist in this world, our grandmothers create the best ones. It is incredible how our grandmothers, with a world balanced on their spines, can pull entire countries up from the dirt of the Earth and balance them on their hips, just as they did with us when we were small.
We have so many things to learn from these women.
There are not many consistent things in our world, but my grandma’s mangoes are one of them. Although I can’t promise she will be around, if you want to try one of her mangoes, I’m sure if you walk by her home (the small concrete one on the corner) at the right time of day, there will be a seat on her porch for you. And if you wait, I am almost certain you would see her hand reach down from the sky and pluck a mango for you, too.