Hiraeth

Hiraeth*

When I went traveling, missives from home
awaited me everywhere I chose to roam.
Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Dakar—
No matter how foreign, no matter how far,
as I traveled by boat and auto and train,
over and over and over again
at postal restante, the letters they came—
varied in handwriting, varied in name.

Neighbors and cousins and aunts in strange places—
names conjuring up familiar old faces—
Letters at each port—sometimes a small pile—
arrived as I piled up mile after mile
of distance between the places I’d known
and all the new places to which I had flown
that spectacular trip of four months duration—
that long yearned-for chance for global education.

In that time before cellphones and internet and
when communication was all done by hand,
I still felt a bond with home and my past,
no hopeless feeling that I had been cast
into a strange world where I had no place.
My mother insured that this wasn’t the case,
for note after note conjured up the warm heart
of all of the people who’d been there from the start.

Later I found that since I’d left home,
to quench that long yearning to discover and roam,
each letter home that I’d written and sent,
my mother had copied and then she had leant
to the local paper who published them all
from the time that I left in the early fall
to the time four months later when I opened my pack
to reveal all the letters folks had written back!

Past teachers and uncles that I’d never known,
wrote insuring that I’d never feel all alone.
And each time I opened one, glad as I was
to be out in the midst of the the world’s alien buzz,
nonetheless I felt hiraeth raise its warm head
and for a time felt nostalgia instead.
Thus with one hand did my mother let go
to allow me the freedom that I needed so
while with the other she created a tether
that bound my two worlds securely together.

 

Prompt words for today are hiraeth, *a deep longing for home, hopeless, spectacular, missive and train.

True story.

24 thoughts on “Hiraeth

  1. SAM VOELKER

    Well done Judy, great poem, travelogue, and expressing your feelings at being a fledgling. I really enjoyed it. It just so happens that this was about the same time that I arrived in Algiers, which was to be my base and our home for several years. Sometime groups such as yours came by and I thrilled them by standing on my porch in my dishdasha, which I would wear while at home. So they sometime took photos of me in my native way of dressing~! Did you stop and get a photo of a good looking, but pale faced native at the little village of Moretti Algeria~?

    By the way I wrote what amounts to a “book review” on Tenochtitlán today. I think that it may have made a good post for “El Ojo del Lago”, if they had only shown an interest in what I had to say. Not complaining, just thinking.

    500 YEARS AGO THIS MONTH

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  2. Eilene Lyon

    I absolutely love everything about this Judy. What a fabulous experience you must have had (do tell more!). And for all those people to write you, thanks to your mom – what a tremendous gift she gave you.

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  3. calmkate

    nice to document that first adventure which never really stopped in your case! Very different to my experience where my mother’s, the only one to write, letters got lost at the post restante … taken for the stamps I’ve since been informed!

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      I had one package that followed me all the way around the world and arrived back at my parents’ house a month or so after I got back. I wish so much I’d saved the mailing paper as it was completely covered with forwarding stamps from Portugal to Morocco to Dakar to South Africa to Kenya to Thailand to Hong Kong to Japan to Hawaii and back to Arizona where they’d sent it from. I missed it in every port. I would love to have that wrapping paper now!

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      1. calmkate

        wow that would be super special … I sent loads of postcards which were fortunately kept and I’ve put the stamps around one of my photos I had blown up. Stamps from countries that no longer exist or have changed names.

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        1. lifelessons Post author

          My mother saved all my letters as well but I don’t know if I still have them. I have all the ones I sent her from Africa later when I lived there for a year and a half.

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