This coming Sunday is a special Mother’s Day for me. This year Mother’s Day falls on May 10, which is also the birthday of my eldest child, my daughter, Tova, who is today, also a mother. This seeming coincidence expresses poignantly the continuity and the link to the generations.
Mother’s Day is a universal reason to celebrate: Without our mothers none of us would be here. However, as universal as the holiday is, each mother is unique and precious.
My mother who is “the rock and inspiration of our family” has journeyed through life with strength, courage and optimism. She was born in Hungary in 1923 into a large, Jewish Chasidic family. She learned to cook and sew and was quite independent from a young age, always ready to take on a new task. For example, when her mother sent her as a young girl, with the family milk bucket to get milk, she learned how to milk a cow, so she would not have to wait for the farmer to milk the cow.
In 1944, when her family was taken to the Berekszaz Ghetto, she volunteered as a nurse, although she had no formal training, simply because she wanted to help her young brother who was put in the ghetto infirmary with measles. Throughout her time in Auschwitz and Torgau (a sub-camp of Buchenwald) she was constantly trying to help others. In Torgau, she obtained an apple from the German foreman to give to her mother’s friend who was desperately sick.
When her older, and only surviving, brother found her after the War and smuggled her across borders to Germany, she hung on the outside of a train in December, in icy cold weather, in order to get there. And after the War, while living in Germany with her brother, Morton, their apartment was always open and welcoming to other survivors.
Beginning her life anew in the States with my father, my mother sewed her clothes, and mine (from remnants which cost pennies) in the early years, so that we would have nice clothes. She worked side-by-side with my father all the years, as together they built a family and business. She cooked gourmet meals and served fresh dinners every single day to my father, my brother and me. And her home was always open to family and friends. I remember as a child, my mother sitting and talking to and playing games with my friends, and my brother’s friends.
She did all this without her mother, or any extended family – all of whom were murdered by the Nazis.
My mother is stubborn, strong and determined. She is optimistic and faces challenges head-on, always with courage and humor.
And her greatest joy is her family – her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Now that I am a mother and a grandmother, it helps me understand how comparatively easy my journey from childhood to motherhood and grandmotherhood was compared to hers. It makes me grateful and humble….and ever-so-thankful for my mother.