My mom, a culture of her own

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.