When I bite through the bright orange skin of a persimmon, when I feel the faintly sticky trickle down my chin, I am back in Ashikaga. It isn’t just that the first time I tasted the warm, sweet fruit was in Ashikaga, nor is it just that I learned there to leave the fruit until it almost began to bruise with age in order to get the best taste and softest bite. Part of the memory is seeing persimmons, full and ripe, weighing down branches along the path I walked between the bus stop and the smaller of the two elementary schools where I taught English (and played with the kids during recess).
When I taste a persimmon now, I can smell the air shifting to crisp and remember what a relief it was after the humid heaviness of summer. I can see the bright leaves of autumn. I remember seeing pictures of my younger students, especially those at the preschool for the English-immersion school in the next prefecture over, dressed in brilliant kimono for Shichi-Go-San.
By contrast, even though I loved to buy mangoes from the fruit vendors outside the gates of Shengda College in China’s Henan Province, eating mangoes here in Ireland doesn’t bring memories up in the same way. The mangoes are the wrong colour here—instead of yellow, green edged with red—and if I do buy them anyway, the taste has the wrong balance of sweet and tart. Even the pits are the wrong shape, so I don’t feel like I’m back on the dusty streets where, until a law-enforcement crackdown removed the tables, students played pool on the sidewalks.
Two fruits, two sets of memories. I don’t forget the one just because the variety of fruit carried on a different continent isn’t quite the same. But the difference is enough that the memories are not as powerful. I’m not there. I don’t feel the way I felt. The tiniest shift in circumstance can change the landscape of our memories. I suppose I could resist the effect, but if I did what serendipities would I miss?