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  • We lived in a small house made from compressed sugar cane and glass louvers. The house was an eye sore on our street; but it was home and was great. Ma Fig lived obliquely opposite and quite often you could hear glass breaking in the house. In true Caribbean fashion, all the neighbours poured into the street to get a better view and audio of the commotion. I was too old not to know what was going on around me, yet too young to bother myself with it. Instead, I spent a lot of time in the mango tree in our backyard.

    I was tiny and could climb higher than anyone because only I dared to dangle precariously from an unreliable branch. I knew well which mangoes were full and ready to be picked. Look to the base for a yellow dot. The mangoes were a huge kind called Graham. The neighbours would scowl and tell me I should not climb the tree because I would sour the fruit. I think it was just coincidence that our mangoes were actually pretty sour near to the seed but otherwise, the flesh was delicious and many came asking for our mangoes.

    To get to the first branch was tricky, so we used an old broken window frame as a ladder to get to the first level. I close my eyes now and I can remember every contour of that tree. Once up there, you had to look out for wasps and caterpillars. Those caterpillars were giant monsters and they wove large cocoons on the trunk and branches. There were many birds as well; mostly Kiskadee, Blackbirds and Hummingbirds and they particularly liked the sour sap (guanabana) fruit which was right next to the mango tree. Toward the top, the branches and leaves of both trees intertwined and it was a real jungle. Which child would not want to be up there?!

    One day I came home from school and my mother was dangling from the penultimate branch. She had lost her footing and slid down part of the tree and the underside of her arms were bleeding. I shook my head and asked affectionately, "What are you even doing up there, woman?" She laughed and said, "Look. Just pass the ladder (window frame) and help me down." Well, the mango does not fall far from the tree. I am her.
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