Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I'm walking through the jungle gathering mangoes. I meet Raquel Welch. I make a nice mango cream pudding.

I absolutely hated doing yard work growing up. There were some things I didn't mind, watching the grass yield to the power of my mower, that was pretty cool. But pulling weeds or raking the yard was like being sent to the gulag to a 13 year old me.

But the absolute worst job was gathering mangoes. We had a huge old mango tree and my sister and I would have to gather the rotten mangoes off the ground and put them in a trash bag. We might have had to separate the good mangoes and put them aside or something, I have completely blocked that out of my memory.

We would put this job off as long as we could. It didn't help that we never knew when it was going to be forced upon us. My parents didn't seem to have any sort of schedule for chores, it was more like my dad would decide, "hey, this is the exact minute the kids need to clean the yard of nasty, rotting mangoes. Let's get them on it right now."

Standing out in the sun, praying for rain or the sun to set, picking up brown, squishy gnat-infested mangoes was like working on a chain gang. And that smell - that sweet, rotting smell - that stuff smelled like death. The worst were the mangoes with bites out of them. That meant that the huge river rats had been feasting the night before, and were probably hanging out in the darker parts of the yard waiting to bite us and fill us full of the rabies.

It also didn't help that we could see our dad sitting in his chair watching football while were slaving away. He didn't have anyone telling him to work, we bitched to each other. And none of our friends had to do yard work. I remember my neighbor telling me, "My parents hire people to do that stuff. That's what you're supposed to do in the '80s." My parents did not subscribe to that theory.

Picking up mangoes could take us all day, mostly because we would have to gingerly pick up the smallest portion of mango possible with our thumb and forefinger and throw it into the bag before the rats came charging at us, and also because we didn't understand that it would have been a lot quicker to, you know, actually do the job instead of standing out in the yard complaining about it.

I suppose that stuff was supposed to build character. I don't know if it worked or not. Now that I am old, I am obsessed by yard work. I can easily spend all day pulling weeds or raking or mowing. And I have my dad's "I just got this idea! It has to be implemented right now" trait. But you know what I will never do? Touch a damn mango. Neither will my sister. Just seeing the nasty things bring back memories of brown, rotten, rat-bitten fruit baking in the Florida sun. Do you know how many times I've been in a nice restaurant and heard a waiter describe a piece of fish that sounds awesome until he utters that terrible phrase, "covered in a mango salsa?" Too many to count, my friend, too many to count.

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