My mom, a culture of her own

Ariella Brodie-Weisberg - Brazil

March 19, 2019

The way I am Debora’s daughter is nothing like I am my mother’s daughter.

In California I am the daughter of a woman who has seen me develop since

birth, who can pull memories like tarot cards that explain the confusions I

often bring to her. I’m an intense kid, she’s an intense woman. She makes

me feel seen and heard and reflected in this world. She’s the first to know

when I’m upset and often the only one who knows what to say. When I come

home late she’s usually on the couch, fallen asleep while waiting up for


In Brazil It’s 10 pm and I’m perched on another couch’s arm, watching

Debora get ready to go out; asking where she’s going, and who with. She

laughs a little as she finishes putting on a pink lipstick and smiles at

me, “Ay mamai, quem é a filinha aqui? Tem certeza que não quer sair com a

gente?” (Ay mama, who’s the daughter here? You sure you don’t wanna go out

with us?).

Being Debora’s daughter means sitting with her late at night, figuring out

how to put parent controls on my brother’s Youtube account. It’s her asking

if I’m hydrated and telling me not to worry about what others think,

reminding me to do things we both know I’m gonna forget. It’s watching a

mother move through the world barely affected by news, politics, or

the judgments of others. It is being the daughter of a woman who loves in

daily, ever present ways; in making smiley faces out of breakfast for her

clients at the clinic where she works as a nutritionist, in taking my

brother’s shoes off as he lies on the couch, in asking about my plans for

the next day each night before bed.

Culture is deeper than a country, a town, traditions, religion etcetera.

Culture is smaller, it is personal. I was parented by a deeply feeling,

critically thinking woman who has a profound thirst to understand her

world. The culture shock of being parented by Debora — who is phased by

little and loves lightly — was so profound that for a long time I

misinterpreted her thoughtless acceptance with inauthenticity.

This year, the more obvious culture shocks often eclipsed the more intimate

ones that were less about Brazil and more about human beings, or, more

specifically, mothers and daughters. Now, with two weeks left, it’s clear

her love and acceptance are both deep and real, and that my bewilderment by

her way of loving was an experience of culture shock. She accepted me from

the moment I walked in the door with a simplicity I do not understand, but

that I have come to appreciate deeply. Sometimes it’s not about

understanding someone perfectly, its just about accepting them for who they

are and not trying so hard to understand. Being Debora’s daughter has

taught me this, and for her light wisdom I am extraordinarily grateful.

Ariella Brodie-Weisberg