Sunday, December 28, 2014

Hiraeth



Hiraeth (heer-eyeth) is a wonderfully evocative Welch word I recently learned. It's defined as a homesickness for a place to which you can never return; nostalgia or yearning for the lost places of your past. 

The picture above, taken from Google Earth (2007), was the home of my maternal grandparents. The size of the yard is distorted -- it looks absolutely huge -- but in a way that's appropriate because in my earliest memories, it was huge -- a great, green grassy empire that was all  mine. 

When I was very young and my father was in that mysterious place known as ‘overseas,’ my mother and I lived for a time with my grandparents. And later, when my father came home from WWII, I continued to spend a great deal of time here.  My family lived just around the corner but I spent a great deal of time at my grandparents' house -- I even had my own bedroom.

The new owners seem to have made very few changes -- at least as of seven years ago when this picture was taken. I can look at the picture and remember so many different times -- much like Miss Birdie's hall of doors I posted about on Christmas Eve. But here the memories are all good. 

My earliest memory is of lying in a crib between the two big beds in the master bedroom upstairs while my grandfather in his bed held my left hand while my grandmother in hers held my right . . . and the fresh smell of pillows put to air in the sunny eastern windows . . .  and later when my younger brother and I were both there for the night, how we would sit on little stools in the big bedroom and eat apples while we listened to the Lone Ranger on the radio . . .

Above the garage was a bare room, in the late Forties and early Fifties home to a ping pong table and my grandmother's treadle sewing machine --  remodeled in the early Sixties into an apartment where I lived while John was stationed in Japan a year after we were married.

I rode my bike along that sidewalk when I was a gawky pre-teen and later my grandfather took my older son for walks there. I looked out those windows to the right of the front door and saw John (only a classmate and acquaintance at the time (8th grade or thereabouts) driving his go-cart on the sidewalk across the street.

And from the breakfast room windows to the left of the garage, I would watch for John when he came in his Model A to pick me up during our senior year of high school. And our wedding reception was held here and we ran down the front steps in a flurry of rice in 1963 -- just as my parents had in 1941. . .

Of course the memories of this beloved place have crept into my writing. A Christmas post a few years back about an incident when I was young (HERE) surely contributed to Miss Birdie's Christmas memory (though without the bitter part.) 

And while I do, indeed, have hiraeth for this lost paradise, I know that I'm where I belong and where I want to be. But I still love prowling that hall of memories. . .






8 comments:

Ms. A said...

What a beautiful home! My grandparents tiny, little home, was the scene of many memories for me. My sister and I still own the home and land, but without my grandparents, nothing will ever be the same. Renters and deadbeats have nearly destroyed all that was ever wonderful about the place, except in my memories and dreams.

Kath Marsh said...

What wonderful memories. And how wonderful that this home is obviously still so well-loved.

Frances said...

Vicki, thank you for reminding me of that marvelous word hiraeth.

What a pleasure to read this remembrance of your times spent in your grandparents' home. Very special times, indeed.

I admit to laughing with recognition at your mention of listening to The Lone Ranger on radio. Oh yes, I do remember those programs well.

xo

Beth Plemmons said...

I love this term. I, too, have hiraeth--for the house in which I grew up; for my Mamaw's house, which burned to the ground soon after she moved out of it; for the first home we "owned" as a married couple. Each still exists in my mind in living color, and sometimes I can visit them again in my dreams (those are even better visits when Daddy and Mamaw join with me)...but at times I do long for them and know I can never go back. Thank you for giving that feeling a name for me.

June said...

My God, what a gorgeous home! The style is what I call a My Three Sons house, with the perfect proportions and the symmetry. That's the kind of house I wanted to build when we first bought this land. It's a grand thing that we couldn't afford to build for a long time. It gave me time to realize how much cleaning a house like that takes!
There's a German word for the same emotion . . . Friko blogged about it a few years ago . . . more than nostalgia. I know that emotion, but I can't recall the word.

Christie Campbell said...

That reminds me of my Nana and Papas home in Nicholasville. I don't have many memories of that home. Then again, I don't have many memories of my childhood. But if I stayed in a home like that, I'm sure I'd have some fond memories.

Carol Crump Bryner said...

I loved that Christmas story about the little pots and pans. And I, like you and Frances, remember listening to The Lone Ranger on the radio. Thank you for writing these posts every day. They have now become a fixture in my life, even though I don't comment often. You're lucky to still have that house to look at, although I always wonder how disappointed I might be if I were to go back to my beloved grandparent's house today (it burned down in 1971)and see changes that probably would have been made by new users. Better maybe to have hiraeth.

Vagabonde said...

Such a great house – I can visualize you in it by your words. I did not know the word Hiraeth but will add it to my list of words that speak of nostalgia, of longing for a past that is no more. In French you could say “le mal du pays” which dictionaries translate as “homesickness” but it’s not exactly that. Another word that is of similar meaning is the Portuguese “saudade” – Wikipedia says “It describes a deep emotional state of nostalgia or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves.” Much beautiful music has been written in Portuguese on saudade. Another word is the German “heimat.” It refers to a place towards one feels a strong feeling of belonging, with deep-rooted fondness, usually in one’s native region. I think in many languages there are words like this to express the deep emotional ties that we may have with places that we loved in our past, and that are no longer there.