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1. You were constantly reminded about the sad reality of hunger and poverty in the world.

Every time you disliked mom’s food, she reminded you, “So many kids are starving and here you are, being melindroso.” Feeling terribly sad about those kids, you would then make an effort to swallow the bean soup with way too much cauliflower and cabbage. Truth to be told, many other times you would feel grateful for mom cooking your favorite dish.

2. You are an expert in conflict management.

The best way to end a fight between your siblings and yourself was mom acting as a mediator. “I don’t care who started it, but it ends NOW.” Indeed, it was over.

3. You quickly understood why you have a first and a second name.

If you have ever wondered why you have two names, it’s so you know mom is definitely bravísima. Whenever she uses your two names — “Lorena Fernanda!” or “José Andrés!” — you know it’s time to start praying.

4. You always enter a room and greet people properly.

If you ever dared to run into auntie’s home and go straight to play with your cousins, mom forced you to come back and properly greet everyone. With a KISS.

5. You learned you need a good reason to cry.

Mothers might be a little “morelias” from time to time. However, whenever you cried because the ice-cream ended up on the floor or a toy got broken, mom taught you not everything deserves our tears. The lesson boiled down to: “When I die, then you can cry.”

Let’s not even mention whims and moods. You attempted to cry that time your parents didn’t buy what you wanted or you fell from the tree. But the “Now I might even give you an actual reason to cry” threat was enough to wipe away the tears and acknowledge it was not the end of the world.

6. You learned nothing is lost; everything is transformed.

“Waste” is not a word in mom’s dictionary. Everything can be reused or repaired; nothing is discarded. Yesterday’s leftovers make a wonderful arroz relleno or creamy vegetable soup today.

A needle and thread is all mom needs to work her magic: holes disappear, clothes shrink, and grandma’s old dress turns into the newest fashion in just-about-your size.

7. You realized Jesus learned how to multiply food from his mother.

The Ecuadorian mom might get annoyed when you show up with friends for dinner without previous notice. But in the end, she won’t worry too much. Donde comen dos, comen tres. Miraculously, everyone has a meal of mom’s homemade delicacies and ends up with a full belly.

8. You fear nothing.

We have all been exposed to “espanto,” or the “Evil Eye.” As a baby you carried a red bracelet, you went through a “limpia,” they rolled an egg on you, or they spit alcohol on you. Perhaps you slept with a branch of rue under your pillow.

And whenever you had nightmares and the darkness was scary, mom’s arms were the best shelter in the world. Sleeping by her side was the greatest therapy for fear.

9. Your house was a sort of alternative medicine repository.

There is a combination of natural herbs for each condition and only moms know which is which. An egg’s inner membrane heals scars; a 50-cent coin cures bumps; menthol cream applied to the back and chest alleviates a cough; a cold lock (after leaving it outside at night) will treat a sty; alcohol compresses help fight a fever; plus, thousands of other herbs, teas, and beverages you never managed to identify or name, yet found themselves in your medicine cabinet. All had to be taken without complaints, sin respirar y sin chistar.

10. You discovered no artificial flavoring masks the taste of cod liver oil.

Ecuadorian moms are certain cod liver oil is “everything a child needs to grow up strong and healthy, due to its high vitamins and minerals content.”

Mom tried different tactics for you to drink it without noticing it, including the orange, tropical fruit, and cherry versions. But nothing masked the unmistakable fishy flavor. Of course, there was no room for complaints. Later, mom would make you that smoothie you loved so much to wash away the previous traumatic and unpleasant experience.

11. You know everything has its own rightful place or it ceases to exist.

“Cosa que encuentre en el piso, cosa que boto a la basura” (whatever I find on the floor will be thrown away). So you grew up with the eternal fear of loosing the toys you did not place back on the shelf.

12. Your best memories include carb-rich foods and grandma’s recipes.

Mom has the best recipe for every occasion. She knows what we need when we feel unwell, such as a light noodle-and-potato soup or an angel-hair pasta soup. As grannie used to say, “The sick who eat well do not die” (“enfermo que come, no muere”). She has also taught us ceviche and encebollado are the best treatments for hangovers (chuchaqui). Hot coco with cheese for cold afternoons, or bolones and coffee in the morning guarantee you’ll be smiling.

Mothers know how to make life sweet: cocadas, figs with cheese and the nutritious chapo are always ready — just in time. Add to that delicious recipes prepared on holidays — inherited generation after generation, like the colada morada con guaguas de pan in finados for The Day of the Dead, or fanesca during Easter.

These are the secret formula for a child to grow healthy, handsome and red-cheeked. For you, “full belly, happy heart” (“barriga llena, corazón contento”) is the ultimate truth.

13. You have come to accept mom is clairvoyant, always “told you so,” and “you will only understand things over time.”

Mom always knows how things end —

      “You’ll fall!”

 

      “It’s going to hurt.”

 

      “You’ll get burnt!”

 

      “It bites!”

 

    “You’ll end up crying.”

And boy did you got sick of hearing “I told you so,” and “Only when you have your own children will you understand me.” In the end, you don’t need to understand it all. You just need to know mom wants the best for you.

Beauty and age will always be relative, because you’ll always be the most wonderful baby on the face of the Earth. As a matter of fact, she will remind you and everyone around her that is the case.

And you, even when you are wearing gray hairs, will call her “mi mamita.”