My time under the mango tree

My love of reading started in pre-school.
My father was often late in picking me up from school. I would wait for him under the mango tree outside the Headteacher’s office, my ears alert to identifying the engine sound of my father’s white Morris Minor car.

Whilst I was waiting, I would use twigs, stones and green mangos that had fallen off the tree to build my imaginary bedroom. My make-believe bedroom would be full of cuddly teddy bears.

One day, my father completely forgot to pick me up from school. I started to bite my nails. The Headmaster gave me a book to read. Little Red Riding Hood. He told me I could keep it. From that day onwards, I did not worry about being picked up from school. Little Red Riding Hood became a permanent fixture in my school bag.
Words in the book became sentences, sentences became paragraphs, paragraphs turned into pages. I read Little Red Riding Hood so many times that I could recite the story from memory.

Two years later, I played the role of wolf in our school play of Little Red Riding Hood. It was so much fun to be the big bad wolf. One of my classmates who was good at math was disappointed he was not picked to be wolf. We never became friends, but we shared one thing in common. His mother would also forget to pick him up after school. Instead of reading a book he would walk around the mango tree reciting multiplication tables. He called me Book Worm. I called him Boring Tables.

Looking back on those days, maybe I should have invited Boring Tables to read with me under the mango tree. Maybe he should have invited me to practice multiplication tables.