One Refugee Mom-to-Be’s Letter to Her Future Son

“I want my son to know I hold my childhood experiences as a refugee with a badge of honor and pride for my mother.”
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profile picture of Masiela Lusha
October 4, 2017
Pregnant woman sitting cross-legged, writing in journal
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You may know her as Carmen from the George Lopez show, but Masiela Lusha is also an accomplished poet and a devoted humanitarian. And she’s about to step into a new role: a mom. Here, she shares a glimpse into her pregnancy with The Bump.

“I have learned how to live. How to be in the world, and of the world”—Audrey Hepburn whispered this lyrical line in the classic film Sabrina. From her Parisian window, Sabrina writes to her father, thanking him for the opportunity to truly experience the world. At the age of 14, my eyes widened at the sound of her voice, rounding out the vowels of so much simple truth. That’s what I must be, I thought, of the world. It comforted me.

As a refugee child, I didn’t belong in one family, one culture or even one country. I was still searching, still running. And through the bullying of elementary kids who couldn’t understand me, I was often ordered to return to the country I came from. I didn’t know where I came from; I couldn’t recall the essence, the scent, the memories of my mother’s land. I was a toddler when we escaped from Albania. And besides, I came from a handful of countries before calling America my home. Never fully understanding their childhood taunts, I didn’t take it personally. In fact, I carried my nomadic upbringing with pride. “I love Budapest and Vienna. I visit my adopted family every summer,” I would reply with an eager smile, inviting them to hear my stories.

I want my son to know that growing up, I belonged to a broad swath of languages, contrasting cultural expectations, experiences and ethnicities. Traveling with my mother across Europe and America meant reinventing ourselves every year, learning new languages, reinterpreting friendships and re-establishing a semblance of security—whatever security could have possibly meant for a single refugee mother in her early 30s and her daughter. It forced me to grow up quickly.

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I want him to know I hold my childhood experiences across the continents with a badge of honor and pride for my mother. Yes, we were refugees; yes, we often traveled with our worldly possessions in one duffle bag (when we were lucky); and the thought of a new toy for my birthday hardly crossed my mind at 7 years old. It simply was not our reality. Yet we survived, and we found reason to laugh. I didn’t feel deprived because I didn’t know any other reality. We were forced to realize together that we didn’t need much to be happy; we had our love, our poetry and I had my best friend every step of the way. To this day, I continue to carry this realization with me through every difficult life decision.

Dear son, I want nothing more than for you to be happy, content and courageous. I hope to experience with you the same level of unshakable friendship my mother gifted me. I hope to share one shadow with you as you learn to see, feel and experience both abundance and depravity. Yes, I want you to befriend depravity as he is often borne from our inner fears; he is our nearest ghost haunting life decisions, gripping our sleeve, pulling us back. Recognize his place, and receive him for what he is: a mere illusion. You can choose happiness.

I dream of introducing you to a big and vibrant world of rich cultural perspectives across the continents, contrasting spiritualities, heartaches and triumphs. I hope that through these experiences you shed the trappings of material attachments. Inner wealth comes from the confidence to pursue your dream despite the chattering of “what if’.” Yes, “what if?” As my mother would say: “And, so?” Above all else, I want you to explore the art of languages. Language is the soul of a country; it cradles its deepest wisdom, history and identity. Recognize this beauty and allow it to teach you. Learn the value of speaking your mind clearly and unapologetically. Aim to speak with others in their language so that you may understand each other more deeply. Learn patience through language. The true meaning of words is difficult to master, and even more difficult to teach.

Dear son, be courageous and be of the world.

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