There is a German word for (gemütlich) it and an even better Danish word (hygge). I’ve felt it throughout my life though it has no name. Playing cards with my dad, sister and friends in the evening. After a Thanksgiving meal playing charades with my parents, aunts and uncles. In my college suite where we gathered and joked about sex instead of studying. With my 20-something roommates, sitting around the kitchen table, talking and laughing about everything. Vacations in shared cabins with good friends. We need a compound word that means “a warm group of people laughing in the evening.” I wish I spoke or German or Danish. In Chinese you could use the word 熱鬧 (loosely translates to “hot-noisy”), which is how I’ve heard big family meals described.

I’ve always believed that my life would continue to be full of that hot-noisy. It ended abruptly the year that I got pregnant with my first child and bought a house. My roommates who were like family to me moved out. The replacement roommates kept to themselves, and so did the next set and the next set (with a few exceptions). So I felt lonely and built five bedrooms into my dream house to make sure it would be full of people. I built a common area with room for everyone a kitchen at its heart.
I must have missed some critical piece. Maybe it’s because the house isn’t cozy enough or because the kids are too young? Maybe everyone has Things To Do that are more important. Maybe I’m just not fun anymore. I don’t know, I don’t know. I go to sleep troubled every night. I worry about chore wheels, dented floors and children’s conflicts. I’m finally realizing those are all decoys. My mind and body are disconnected because of chronic sleep loss so my emotions aren’t as clear to me as they once were. But I know now what it is that I want so badly it aches. It is that thing that has no English word, that sounds gooey or antiquated when you try to name it (“the soul-feeding company of merry spirits”?) I need this. It isn’t happening yet. Dinner is frenzied with young children, we put them to bed and then the house seems to die for the night. I don’t know how to even ask for it, or how to make it happen.
Then should I post this in the blog, for my friends, roommates and family to maybe read, or forget to read? For the World Wide Web to know? Would that make the lonely less? Would that create an awkward flurry of unspoken concern in my house that only makes things worse? I tend to scare people away with my blunt desire. But I’m going to work toward it. Because I need this, you see.

One thought on “Hygge”

  1. By the time I have spent two minutes in the “hot-noisy-ness” of a downstairs filled with screaming children at dinnertime, my only options are to sequester myself or to leave. Last night was such a profound assault on my senses that I lost the ability to be even civil.

    So by all means, let’s aim for gemütlichkeit. But let’s try to find ways to take the noisy out of hot-noisy.


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