Hiraeth (Welsh)

A homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, or a home which maybe never was.

At eight, when we had to leave my childhood house in the village which had a backyard and a swing, to move into one above a restaurant in the city, I cried for an entire month. My mother, a poet herself, pacified me by teaching me new words that sounded melodious. Or maybe, she was trying to pacify herself.

Hiraeth, one such word, has stuck with me for years.

I felt the word when I was eleven and my father took my younger brother and left to earn the daily wages but both of them never returned. My mother cried uncontrollably and the sinking feeling in my heart was Hiraeth. The family I knew would never be the same and I would miss it my entire life.

At fifteen, my best friend, my only friend, moved to another city. I waved goodbye to her till she became smaller and smaller until I couldn’t see her bus anymore. Recalling the promises that we made to keep in touch, I walked back home, through the streets, we once joyously played in. The streets seemed haunted and strange, as though I’ve never walked down them before. Hiraeth, I called it, when I realized that I would never look at the road back home with the same familiarity ever again.

I felt homesick again at twenty when the boy who said he loved me was saying the same thing to another woman. When I went weak in the knees and felt like my heart would explode, I termed the feeling as Hiraeth. I would never look at love the same way. I could never go back to thinking about love as the innocent, pure, and safe space that it’s supposed to be.

At thirty-three, when my mother passed away, I was left with a house, my mother’s diamonds, and a loveless marriage. I wondered why I had everything in the world, a comfortable life and yet I didn’t feel fulfilled. I called the emptiness in my soul Hiraeth. I missed my house in the village with a backyard and the swing and wondered how feeling homesick goes beyond missing four walls. Hiraeth.

Picture by Arno Smit (Unsplash)


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