EXCERPT FROM ADRIANA PARAMO’S MY MOTHERS FUNERAL
My earliest memory of Mom involves a mango. I’m bent over the kitchen sink, kneeling on a wooden bench. Mom is next to me washing two mangos, one for me and one for her. They are yellow and orange with reddish stripes that become brighter at the stem. Mom handles them with extreme care, like they are precious relics made out of thin crystal, pats them dry with a corner of her apron, and puts one under my nose.
“Smell this,” she says.
I giggle. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because my sisters are gone for the day and right here, right now, Mom is mine, and she is offering me a mango.
“Now this is what you do,” Mom instructs me. “Roll your sleeves up, like this.” She turns the right sleeve of my sweater, fold upon fold, until the wool is all bunched up in my armpit. I roll the left sleeve and wait for instructions.
“Now, take a bite. Despacito,” Mom says. “Deje el afán. Don’t chew and don’t swallow anything yet. Let the juice fill your mouth first.”
She bites into her mango and I into mine. A police car zooms by. Its siren meddles in my ears with the sound of the fruity juice gushing to the back of my throat. Mom lets out a loud mmm, eyes shut, her lips closed like a smile. I also say mmm, until the juice starts to run down my arm and makes a blob at the elbow. Mom has strict rules about hygiene. I reach out for the tap but she stops me.
“We’ll clean up in a second, Niña.” She wipes my arm with her apron. “You don’t just eat a mango from Mariquita. You experience it.”
I’m five years old. I don’t know the difference between eating and experiencing anything, let alone a mango, but I understand.
“This is what you do,” she says and smiles. This is an important grin. I store it in my heart as the first smile I ever see across my mother’s face.
Then she proceeds to lick the length of her arm, from her fingers, still holding the mango, all the way to her elbow. Or at least that’s the idea because no matter how far we stretch our tongues out neither of us can reach the elbow.
Adriana Páramo is a Colombian anthropologist winner of the Social Justice and Equality Award in creative nonfiction with her book Looking for Esperanza. Her writing has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, The Los Angeles Review, Consequence Magazine, Fourteen Hills, Carolina Quarterly Review, Magnolia Journal, So To Speak, Compass Rose, and Phati’tude, among others. Páramo has volunteered her time as a transcriber forVoice of Witness, a book series which empowers those affected by social injustice.
This week’s Wardrobe Best Dressed was selected Nicole Oquendo. Nicole Oquendo is an Assistant Editor for Sundress Publications, and the Nonfiction Editor of Best of the Net. Her most recently published essays and poetry can be found in DIAGRAM, fillingStation, Storm Cellar, and Truck.