On Sticky Sweet Memories and Fresh Mangoes

I ate my first fresh mango when I was 16 or 17 years old. (No, that’s not code.) It was the summer before my senior year in high school, and I worked as a cashier at Greenlife, the formerly hip and somewhat local health food store in Chattanooga. Working there served as a passageway (gateway drug?) for so many opportunities and experiences in my life. Not only did I meet incredible people whom I still call friends, but I also actively took an interest, or became more conscious of healthy, delicious foods, including the mango.

The produce section remains one of my favorite departments to wander through, poking grapes and fondling avocados. At the time, a woman named Carole worked in produce. She showed me how to choose and cut up a mango. Slice off the halves, cube, and flip the skin inside out.

It’s easy for me to write off high school experiences, but the memories I have of those years working at Greenlife stick out to me more than any school friends or stories. I was always interested in moving on, doing something else, getting in to whatever was next, which at the time was figuring out who I was and how to take care of myself.

Tonight after a simple dinner, the 20 mangoes from a dear friend were calling me. I’ve been in South Florida for just over a year, and I must say the newness of tropical fruits and vegetables has yet to wear off. I processed 14 mangoes for freezing, each one taking me back to some sweet memory of years past, of firsts, and of the difficulty of transition.

Plantains, also popular in SoFla, are great for conference calls.

Plantains, also popular in SoFla, are great for conference calls.

Sure, I can reminisce and think back to the Greenlife years with rose-colored glasses. But the truth was I struggled to identify with kids my own age. I felt like the oddball out at school and found solace with a group of friends older than me. Sure, I can reminisce about the last year of moving to a totally new city and environment and see it with rose-colored glasses, full of fun trips and new experiences. But the truth is I struggled 85% of the time to find the confidence and courage to face my fears of reaching out to new people, making friends, or going to new places.

Someone posted an emotionally driven article on social media today—breaking news. Why you should move in your 20s to a city where no one knows you. I read it, intrigued and smiling, feeling somewhat self satisfied, but also reflecting that no, Ms. Author, moving to a new place isn’t all shits and giggles, or filled with going to parties by yourself. It’s also full of desperation and doubt. But she was right, and I do agree, that moving away helps you realize the ability to conquer your fears.

Mangoes somehow represent a luxury and gift I appreciate about this place, and they remind me of the beauty and grace that comes with transitions. I’m finally feeling more local in Miami, in part due to this bounty of mangoes and the rash decision to cut them all up, but mostly because of the great support of friends, the bearers of mangoes, who make such a big sunburnt city feel like home.


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