Hiraeth – A homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the longing, the grief for the lost places of your past.
Do I want to be home for Christmas? The question swirls around me, a millstone I can’t remove. I hate my answer, it twists my every sense of right and wrong.
Because, when I am truthful, I answer no. When I want to be good, I say yes.
When I hear the radio, the constant playing of “I’ll be Home for Christmas” I long for someone to really mean those words. My friends chatter about family traditions, picking presents for siblings, holiday plans.
But my family chatter is quiet.
It is seasons like this, that I most long for North Carolina.
Perhaps that throws you off. Maybe you ask, ‘what can a state have to do with unfulfilled Christmas cheer?’
That’s a question I’ve been sorting out a long time.
In college, I’m known as a Texan. I brag about the Cowboys, casually mention our GDP, and assert that everything is bigger in Texas.
But under my Twitter profile reads, “To be rather than to seem” – the NC state motto. NC politician’s bumper stickers are pressed on my computer. And when asked where I’m from, I’m quick to mention, “Originally NC, now living in TX.”
It’s a distinction important to me. I’ve desperately clung to my North Carolina identity for so long, I’m offended when it’s questioned.
And that happens. Just a few weeks ago, “Aren’t you from Texas? Why is that sticker on your computer?”
I answer the question glibly, but the true answer has deep roots.
I remember as a kid, almost every time we saw a NC license plate, “Hey, Elizabeth, you should ask to hitch a ride back with those people!”
It was a joke, but I did want to talk to those random car-people. I somehow felt the NC license plate turned strangers into instant friends.
We traveled to NC nearly every year. Not many adoptive families put that much effort into restoring a biological connection. I grew close to my great-grandparents and grandfather. We chatted at least once a month.
But my great-grandmother died when I was 16. I visited one more time, stood at her grave. My mom hugged me, as I read the words, “Delores Guttery Haithcock”.
As we got back in the car, she handed me the cemetery map. I didn’t keep it. I had already promised myself – I would not step back in that place. A place that confronted me with harsh truth. Grandma was no longer a phone call away.
Withen 5 years, my great-grandfather and grandfather were also gone. I refused to attend my grandfather’s funeral. Or think of seeing his grave.
Tonight, I write this, wishing he was still in NC. Grandpa Clint, who prayed for me everyday. He would have kept me if he could, he wanted to protect me. He used to take me aside during our visits, “Elizabeth, you are in a better place. These people can do for you what I can’t.”
North Carolina holds everything given to me and all that I’ve lost. It is a distant treasure. A time when three sisters were together, when a little girl lived with her grandparents who loved her, a time before reality destroyed dreams.
Will I ever let go of that? I think it would destroy me, to give up a rare ideal of happiness.
That’s why I came to college at Bob Jones University. Some people come here because it’s Christian. Some people come because of the discipline, or the major, or the liberal arts focus.
I came because it’s close, but safely distant, from my childhood.
I wanted to live in the Carolinas. To be where I dreamed of for so long. And I love it here. I love my church, my school, the weather.
It is comforting to know I’m a few short hours from my childhood.
And while here, I cannot recall a single time I was truly homesick for Texas.
I see the practicality of Texas. I kind of wanted to graduate from a Texas school and work in Texas politics. I have a lot of Texas friends, I love seeing the stars at night. I love the wide roads, bluebonnets and real, actual Mexican food.
I applied to transfer. I worked at it while in Texas over summer break. I was restless, and thought it would be a good idea to attend A&M @ College Station. Maybe it would give me real Texas credibility. Plant me deeper in the state. I knew after a semester in South Carolina, I knew, that I was loosing my Texasness. Attending A&M would restore my Texas identity.
But once I stepped back in South Carolina, I immediately began to doubt all that. Enrolling in A&M meant giving up North Carolina. It meant a future in the Lone Star State.
Somewhere along the way, I hoped a year in South Carolina would pacify my homesickness. My heart would recover, and be ready to return to Texas.
But that hasn’t happened. I’m disappointed in myself. I filled out hours of applications, only to decide not to pursue enrollment at A&M. I couldn’t explain that very well. I cringed thinking of trying to get people to understand. I’ve rejected countless phone calls from the University, and ignored enrollment mail.
And now, I go back to Texas. Christmas in a place I reluctantly call home. I wish I could change my feelings, but I don’t know where to even begin.
They say home is where your family is. If only there was a home for family.