From Amazon to Garden State: A mother and son's extraordinary journey

NEW YORK -- You'd never know, looking at old pictures of David Good's mother, that she was anything other than a typical New Jersey housewife. In fact, David himself never really noticed.

David Good CBS News
"I don't remember being cognizant of the fact that she was this Amazonian jungle woman," he says. "No, she was just mom to me."

David's mom, Yarima, grew up 3,000 miles away in southern Venezuela, near the headwaters of the Orinoco River. This is Yanomama territory, home to some of the most primitive and isolated tribespeople on the planet. And it was here that Yarima met and later married American anthropologist Kenneth Good, David's dad. They moved to the States in 1986.

"It was like she went through a time machine or through a portal and went through a whole different cosmos," David says. "She thought the whole world was the Amazon jungle. When my dad said, 'Come to my village of New Jersey,' she thought she was just going to another shabano, you know, another Yanomama village."

Yarima seemed to adapt well to American life. David Good
Considering that, she seemed to adapt pretty well to this alternate universe. She and Ken had three children, and for six years, life was good. But during a trip back to the jungle to visit her family, Yarima made the decision to stay. She said she just couldn't live in America anymore.

David's first reunion with his mother. David Good
"I internalized it as abandonment, as a kid," David says. "I felt like I wasn't good enough for her."

David says for 15 years, he hated his mother -- but not anymore. A few years ago, he realized you only have one mom, and only so much time to spend with her.

"I put my hand on her shoulder, and I was so nervous, and I couldn't talk to her, and she couldn't talk to me," he says of their first reunion. "And then, all of a sudden, just remembering that comforting feeling of having a mother -- and that's when I just -- I broke down and lost it."

Since the reunion in 2011, David has been back again and plans to return many more times. David Good
Since the reunion in 2011, David has been back again and plans to return many more times. In fact, at the end of his last visit, his mom told him, "It's hard on me when you're gone so long. Don't take so long before you come back."

Their story is truly unique, but it feels like there's something universal in it.

"Family is family, you know, no matter if she makes me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or presents me with a piranha head, saying, 'Eat this,'" David says. "A mom's a mom, no matter what."

There's a lot more to this story -- Steve Hartman will have it this Sunday on "Sunday Morning."

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  • Steve Hartman
    Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.