My inlaws were in from Chicago this weekend and we subway’d it out to the beach Saturday to fly a tiny kite and to say hello to the ocean. It was the Mermaid Parade, which we’d managed to forget, so we also saw a lot of glittery, near-nude women with Technicolor hair.
And I guess that not all of them were women.
We had passed several thousand Mr. Softee trucks, tinkling their siren songs, when I saw our four year old stomping with a twisted, tortured face. I noted that he wanted ice cream but didn’t want to ask.
I have a conflicted relationship to him asking for things. On the one hand, I want him to feel more comfortable asking for things than I did as a child and frankly, than I do now. On the other, I don’t like being asked for ice cream every single time we walk by it, and because it is on wheels, it is not above following us.
Seeing grandparents is on the level of Mardi Gras for the children, so we knew that the treats would be flowing. So finally we asked him whether he’d prefer a treat then or later in the day. He wanted a treat just then, of course. But right at the moment when it was decided then we passed a spectacular sight, which was a man grabbing a mango from a box, impaling it on a stick, peeling it lickity split at an awkward angle, then hacking at it willy nilly with a machete in order to turn the stone fruit into a lovely blossoming all-fruit lolly. Then he’d hand it to a thirsty, sandy customer and collect their money. The customer could add lime and chili, or just walk off and eat the lushly orange fruit as is.
Henry, stunned at the sight, forgot about ice cream and asked for one of those. Most of me inflated with happiness that my son wanted a beautifully presented fruit rather than industrial-grade ice cream, but a small part of me winced in anticipation. His father was certain that a whole mango would be too much, but I knew that a whole mango would be perfect if it was the sort of mango that passed muster – but that Henry has a very complex relationship with mangos. When they are good they are very very good, and at other times, he wants them to be good, and yet is disappointed, and begins to shriek in a way that only a 4 year old hysterically disappointed by the characteristics of a mango can, or would.
We waited for the mango-ist of mangos to come out of the box: shiny, orange-fleshed, still firm but juicy and softer than the drier, yellow, less ripe versions. And then we stared into the sea and were ruffled by the breeze as we enjoyed the lush and colorful beachy treat.