Hiraeth: Longing for home
March 05, 2020
Hiraeth (pronounced [hiraɪ̯θ]) is a Welsh concept of longing for home. "Hiraeth" is a word, which cannot be completely translated, meaning more than solely "missing something" or "missing home." It implies the meaning of missing a time, an era, or a person, including homesickness for what may not exist any longer. It is associated with the bittersweet memory of missing something or someone, while being grateful of that/their existence. It can also be used to describe a longing for a homeland, potentially of your ancestors, where you may have never been.
'Hiraeth' is a word, which cannot be completely translated, meaning more than solely 'missing something' or 'missing home.'
My brother, Vahe climbs mountains. “One mountain a year and then the tallest on my 50th,” he says. He’s 44. He makes the metaphor real. Climbing is about conquering, a hard-won victory over difficulties. I imagine the future is clear at the peak. He’s able to look over the horizon, above thick white clouds, then leave all his troubles in the sky.
Hiraeth implies the meaning of missing a time, an era, or a person, including homesickness for what may not exist any longer.
We’ve both lost our father to lung cancer, this we have in common. Along with our mixed Armenian and Argentinian genes. Our father was Bolsahye—Turkish-Armenian—although I always say he is, Armenian, born-in-Turkey, an important clarification. I’d never call any Armenian, “Turkish.” The irony is that the words are forever linked together by past events in a contentious dance. Armenian-Turkish.
It is associated with the bittersweet memory of missing something or someone, while being grateful of that/their existence.
Our father moved from Turkey to Argentina to be closer to the rest of his family. His younger brother, mother, and father were in Argentina seeking treatment for his younger brother’s failing kidneys. Our father opened a handbag store in downtown Cordoba where my mother eventually worked.
Our mother: “He drove by in his flashy car and asked if I needed a ride. I said no.”
Our father: “The minute I saw her I told my friend that she would become my wife.”
Despite our father’s prediction, years would pass and my mother’s mother would berate him: “When are you going to marry my daughter?” Our father sent our mother to San Francisco first. The rest of his family moved there after treatment for our young uncle in Argentina became exhausted.
By the Welsh people, they use the word hiraeth to describe a sense of admiration or nostalgia for the way that their country once was.
Our young uncle died the year I was born. When our father arrived in San Francisco, it was a day of grief and joy: the day before my mother went into labor. My brother was born after me, ginger-haired and to everyone’s delight, a boy—a reincarnation. Our grandmother named him after the son she lost—two Vahes living opposite trajectories, opposite lines of fate, a space of two years in between them.
Nonetheless, it creates a feeling that taps into your emotions.
My brother and I both look for a sense of home. Vahe looks for that feeling on the mountain. My own longing for home can’t be completely translated yet. Mount Ararat, taken by the Turkish government, is on Vahe’s list of places to climb; I write about places I’ve never been.
When understanding this emotion, we may know how to manage it.
Once upon a time, Ararat, where Noah’s Ark filled with two of every animal on earth purportedly landed, was in Armenia. How does one own a mountain? Especially one of (literally) such biblical proportions? The mountain is a mountain and doesn’t recognize ownership. Another seemingly unreachable place…unless you’re my brother.
He’ll continue to climb to cure his longing, his Hiraeth. I’ll write my way home.
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