H I R A E T H

H I R A E T H

I'm homesick for a place that no longer exists
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“A homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past and the departed”

I used to sit out on the front porch roof, right outside my bedroom window, and patiently wait on edge for a shooting star. The silence at 2 am was thrilling. The magic that took over when that tiny streak of light finally made its way across the sky, so sudden it was easy to miss, but so entrancing it caught your eye, would stay with me forever.

I used to wake up so early, especially on summer days. The backyard was enough of an escape for a five-year-old, with the sun barely awake, wet grass under my bare feet, and the sweet scent of summer stuck to my skin as I lost time with fairies and far away kingdoms that existed in the honeysuckle bushes.

On Friday nights when we were little, my brothers and I would get in our sleeping bags and sleep on the pullout couch for movie night. Our mama would order pizza, and we would struggle to stay awake through the entire movie. Friday nights were for Homeward Bound, The Worst Witch, The Chipmunk Adventure, Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, Free Willy, and Drop Dead Fred. I remember hiding my face in my sleeping bag so my brothers wouldn’t tease me for crying during the part in Benji when the dog gets kicked. I remember waking up in the middle of the night, the familiar sight of our living room slowly coming to me, and the feel of warm bodies surrounding me.

Even in the dark I could see the pictures in the frames that sat on top of the entertainment center. Even now I can see them, as if they still existed. As if that living room still existed, just inside the screen door with the broken handle, and the ugly green front door that you had to slam to get it to close right.

The stairs were on your right. Those stairs. The ones we used to slide down on cardboard boxes and I broke my butt bone when I was 7. The banister that my mama would put Christmas cards on was the same banister my brother would get his head stuck in so often we would just keep walking by him until his pleas got annoying. The stairs we would huddle on, watching and listening as our parents fought in the middle of the night.

Our older brother would lead us back to his room, the one at the end of the hall, farthest away from the chaos that became a regular 3 am occurrence. He would scare the shit out of us with ghost and murder stories, and then suddenly the sound of our family falling apart downstairs in the kitchen wasn’t that big a deal.

When the kitchen wasn’t a battleground, it was the heart of our house. Pancakes, board games, homework, birthday cakes, multiplication tables, heart to hearts, card games, chicken noodle soup – our kitchen table witnessed it all. That kitchen, with its yellow walls, cracks in the ceiling, and broken tiles on the floor, was the one room in our house where everyone gathered to eat, talk, and laugh. I remember having a friend stay for supper once, and when she was leaving she asked me, “Is that how it always is when your family eats?”

“What do you mean?”

“People just show up, and then everyone sits around and talks after you eat?”

“Yeah, pretty much.”

“Your family is awesome. I love it here.”

I loved it there, too. The good, the bad, the ugly, the anger, the fighting, the abuse, the comfort, the laughter, the noises, the chaos, the smells. My mama moved into that house when she was ten. She lived there until she was fifty-eight. My brothers and I grew up in that same house that sat smack in the middle of our street, where we were surrounded with neighbors that were more like family. My mama’s childhood bedroom became mine, the first one on the left when you came up the stairs.

I had one window in that room, the room that held my heart and soul all over its walls and my dressers. That window was my escape. It let out my loud, angry music I blared when my insides were just as loud and angry, letting the entire street know as well. That window gave me a view of the sky and the stars and the daydreams that happened in the night because I could never sleep. That window led to the porch roof, where the jump wasn’t very far, making it too easy to sneak out. In high school, my best friend would throw pine cones at that window to wake me up.

When we got too old to huddle in bunk beds and tell ghost stories to forget about the screaming downstairs, that window allowed me a place on the porch roof, where the silence of the night drowned out the timeless blackhole that was my parents’ marriage. As constant as those fights were, so were the stars in the sky to make endless wishes that never came true.

You used to tell me to wish on shooting stars, but that if I ever saw a falling star, to picture my future. I must not have done it right, because nothing happened the way you said it would when I made stupid wishes on dying stars. You’re gone. You left six months after dad did, and I will never understand how you could be so lost after you were finally free from the person that only brought you suffering.

But then you left, too, and all the suffering was left for us. I never stepped foot in your room again, the room where I ran to with bad dreams, sore throats, and tummy aches. I should have, though, because I never got the chance to again. That house is no longer ours, and I haven’t had a home in nine years. Strangers live in that house, laugh in that house, yell and scream, sleep, eat and love in that house now.

And as long as you’re gone and I keep fucking up my wishes on the stars that fall from the sky, I will never have a home again.

Hiraeth.


Cover Image Credit: Kerri Caldwell

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the beautiful barefoot boy

The goal isn't to live forever, but to create something that will.

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This morning, I did the same thing I do every single morning when I wake up. Before my feet hit the floor, I say a prayer. I thank God for waking me up, blessing me with such a good life, and pray for any specific thing that is laying on my heart. Lately, I have been praying a lot for the same person many people in my community have been praying for- Matt McGregor. I have prayed for healing, comfort, strength, and many other things to happen in Matt's journey, but I also prayed that God's will be done in his life above all else. Little did I know yet that His will had been done.

I remember Matt from school. Every time I saw him, everyone around him was laughing. And I am not exaggerating. He was one of those special people who can literally make anyone and everyone laugh no matter the situation. He was one of those people that the world needs around to make life more bearable and just down right better.

Death sucks. Cancer sucks. Yes, I am glad that Matt is no longer suffering, but that does not really give me a sense of relief because I know his family and friends are suffering. I think about Matt's sisters, and cannot fathom the pain that they're feeling. I could not imagine life without my brothers, my kids not getting to grow up and hang out with their cool uncles, and telling on each other to our parents when we all come home for Christmas when we're 40. I think about his parents, who are having to do the hardest thing anyone could have to do, say goodbye to their son. I think about his friends, who's lives will never be the same every time they do something that reminds them that he's no longer here to share life with. He was too young, too full of life. The worst death are the ones that can't be explained, and this one of them.

That's the thing about life, you never know when it's going to end and that is what makes it so fragile. Someone you know passes away, and you suddenly start to contemplate whether you are living your life "good" enough. You wish you'd spent more time with the one who passed, hold on a little tighter to the ones who are still here, and make sure you remind them you love them. But to show someone you love them is much more powerful than telling them, and that is exactly how Matt lived his life. His life light was beaming all the time and he was constantly sharing that with everyone around him. That is part of why he was so special.

When someone dies, they leave their own legacy that is different from every single other person on the planet. Your legacy depends on the amount of light that you have shed on others. Looking through Facebook today, it is so obvious that his light touched so many people. Matt's death has reminded me of those that I have and will continue to lose throughout life... there is no better way to say it than death sucks. But even though death sucks, it reminds us to live our life to the fullest, and continue the legacy of those we've lost.

On a side note, I found it interesting that Matt was barefoot all the time, so I googled being barefoot in biblical times. Moses and Joshua was commanded to take off his shoes as he was standing on holy ground, and poor people did not have shoes so they went barefoot. But this is my favorite: priests in Israel went barefoot while ministering. They would take their shoes off before blessing their people. It is evident that Matt blessed so many people's lives in his short time on this Earth. Coincidence that he was known for always being barefoot? I think not.

Let your life light shine brightly like Matt's, and always live life to the fullest.

. . .

In loving memory of Matt McGregor Jr.

Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them." Revelation 14:13

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11 Things I'll Make Sure To Do Before Our Next House Party

'Just some close friends' obviously is a matter of perspective.

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It was Rabi-ul-Awwal last month and that's an important month for Muslims; everyone is eager to celebrate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), whom Muslims believe is the final messenger sent by God. My mom has a Milad (an event to honor the occasion) every year and after this year's party.

Now, my family doesn't really do parties and this event has convinced me of why my mom is usually wary even going near the p-word. Also, tired college students don't really make the most willing helpers as my mom realized with my sister and I. While I know, she's probably going to be thinking twice about any decisions she makes now, I'm definitely taking away some pearls of wisdom. Here are 11 things I plan on keeping in mind the next time we have a 'small gathering.'

1. Choose an outfit and stick with it.

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When you host an annual bash at your place, it's like the one day where you should obviously be worried about the whole dress-to-impress business since most of these people are actually people you know and care about.

I bought an awesome dress just for the event and had everything been laid out a week in advance. The night before my mom decides to mention that she think's it's too nice for the occasion, of course.

I spent a pretty sleepless night worrying about looking like an overdressed chicken and spent a hasty ten minutes the next morning scouring my closet for something passable. Next time, maybe I should give my clothes prep a good two weeks.

2. Assume people are going to bring food.

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We were so worried about meeting our quota with the food we catered that we completely didn't factor in the possibility that others might like to bring something too. We got three giant cakes, trays of cookies and tarts, a tray of sandwiches and a giant bowl of chickpea salad.

What actually did come as a surprise was that most of it was gone by the end of the day!

3. Be prepared for some serious cleaning the night before.

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The good thing about having an annual bash as big as this one is that it reminds my dad we actually need to get some people in to spruce up our place. Goodbye dust motes and stray hairs, hello shiny floors and mirrors I can actually see my reflection on.

Best of all, we didn't have to worry about a lot of the cleaning (except for our personal messes and rearranging some furniture).

4. Make sure the guest list is accurate.

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Till the last moment, my mother kept going on about how the list had capped at about 70 people and having 80 was almost impossible. Well, when I surveyed the 100+ ladies trying to squeeze themselves into the open spaces of our home, I wondered if my mother's math was off or if people like showing up without any sort of RSVP.

5. There will be photobombing. Get over it.

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You think, at your own event, you would be able to take a few pictures in relative peace. I tried to get a video of the food for my story and had about six old ladies calling something at the top of their lungs in the midst.

Forget trying to take a selfie because it was going to turn into something looking more like a family reunion pic.

6. Make sure you have backups for paper products.

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So, since our guest list was rather messed up, we ended up running out of the 120 paper plates we had. We also had to deal with kids who thought it would be fun to take three plates each and put almost nothing in each of them. We ended up having to pull out our own set of dishes, and since our dishwasher has been feeling out of sorts, you can just imagine how delighted we were.

7. Get some child-proof locks.

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Before taking their kids to someone's place, I think parents ought to teach some basic manners. Something along the lines of "do not go where you have no business" would be greatly appreciated. I mean, I didn't clean my room just to have a gaggle of toddlers decide it was their own personal playground. Then there was a group of girls who decided to have a tea party on the staircase.

8. Make sure you brush up on names.

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I've always had a hard time with remembering things, and people's names tend to top that list. I met a bunch of people who warmly hugged me and exclaimed over me, but the whole time I was thinking, "What in the world was their name again?"

I also ended up calling for the wrong people because I couldn't differentiate between the ten different people whose names all sounded the same to me.

9. Never skimp on dessert.

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It doesn't matter what diet these ladies might be on; even if they eat nothing but salad or air for dinner, no one is going to want to skip dessert. As for the ladies who are old enough to have shed off all concerns with their metabolism, you had better be sure they get seconds and thirds because otherwise, it's a personal insult to them.

You don't want to go down as the stingy girl who only gave out a single scoop of ice cream.

10. It's OK to take a break.

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Being the introverted person I am, after a couple of hours I felt like I was going to lose my mind and have to have my family pick up what was left of it after the party. I excused myself, went to the sanctity of my room and spent several minutes just cooling off with a book. Then, I was ready to rejoin the battle ranks and feeling much more composed.

11. The real party starts when the party ends. 

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So it was mostly a success, and you had a bunch of happy guests and a house full of presents (most of which is Pyrex glassware). You think the fun is over? Nope. The next two hours, the whole house is going to be in an uproar trying to restore the world to rights and make your house look less like it was trashed at a teenage party. Believe me, by the end of it, you will resent plastic water bottles.

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