A Mother’s Hands, an essay by Erika Bodor

A mother’s hands are magic. They heal pain. They are tiny homes in this big world, and when the world feels too big, a mother’s hands become even bigger.A mother’s hands are refuge.

In 1979, my mother came to the United States from Hungary as a refugee. I have heard the story many times – sitting at the train station with her brother and sister-in-law, she had forbidden tears in her eyes.

“Don’t you cry now. If you cry they will know. They will arrest you. Pretend you will come back. Pretend you know for sure that you will see your family again.”

Months in a camp. Celebrating her first wedding anniversary apart from my father who was taken to another part of the refugee camp. Waiting. Finally getting word that they were to be resettled in America. Flying over an ocean. Culture shock. Finding a job at a factory. Getting pregnant. Going to doctors visits with a dictionary to make sure that she understands everything.

The questions are always: “Why would you go through all this? Why leave your home?”
The answer is this: For us, her future children. My mother and father left danger, persecution and fear in search of freedom and opportunity for the family that they would one day have. This breaks my heart in the most beautiful way. They loved us before meeting us, so much that they risked their lives, risked never seeing their own families ever again.

This is the story of so many people.
My parents made new lives here in America. Raising a family. Becoming citizens. Buying a home. Watching daughters grow up. My mom raising dozens of children as a daycare provider. Losing her husband. Finding herself. Traveling.
America is my mother’s home now, but when she talks about Hungary, she always refers to it as “back home”. The strongest woman I know made a home for me in her world of split homes – she taught me not to fear crossing borders.

I cannot help but think of how fortunate I am. I have never been hungry, I have never really been afraid for my life, and every time I have crossed a border it has been to discover and enjoy. This past year, I became a mother myself. I was on a comfortable maternity leave, surrounded by so much love, support and joy.

And so much food.

It was such a beautiful time getting to know my new son, but it was also a difficult time of sleepless nights and anxiety over what is normal or not – I believe any new mom knows this feeling. I think of what my mom went through with me and my sisters, and what so many mothers struggle with on a daily basis. I simply cannot imagine spending this time in life as a refugee (or any other time for that matter).

Love. Perseverance. Power. Wisdom. Selflessness. Kindness – These all fall short. There are no words I can think of that can describe what I feel for my mother. There are no words that can describe her, or her strength throughout the years.

My mom is a longtime friend and supporter of Project Worthmore. She says she is proud of me for working for refugees now. That alone would make my work worth it. But I also learn from the mothers I see every day. The love they have for their children, the way they even loved their children before meeting them, the way they protect their children from the world.

They are refugees, but their hands are refuge – hands that are bigger than the problems of the world. As we celebrate Mother’s Day, I also will take time to hope for a better world, where the only refuge that is ever needed is a mother’s hands.

Becoming a monthly donor means you support hundreds of refugee mommas who are clients of Project Worthmore. Will you become a donor this Mother’s Day and help us reach 35 new monthly donors by World Refugee Day?

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