My mother was the only patient in the ICU of Haywood County Regional Medical Center on Wednesday evening, May 9, 2012. The Unit was eerily quiet, absent of the usual beeping cadence of monitors, and that of my mother’s – her monitor and I.V.’s disconnected a few hours before. The sole light burning was the one over the nurses station which cast a diffuse fluorescent glow through their observation window into her private room. My mother’s life was slipping away as her still warm hand lay in mine. She communicated to me the best that she could as I expected she might, “Please take me home!”
I knew what that meant, as she had repeated this phrase several times over to her friends when her mom passed away 25 years earlier in 1987. “I am bringing her home,” she would tell them.
“Home” for her was Cameron, S.C. – a small town at the headwaters of the Four Hole Swamp. I often visited there as a child, spending more than just a few days with Grandmother Houck, “Aunt Vera”, as was the local naming convention. Cameron was and still is a comfortable town filled with comfortable people. Cousins I played with then are running the family farm now. The experience of visiting them is like stepping back into an earlier life.
A few things have changed – farming, for one; the century farm is even more amplified in it’s character with bigger machines and fewer laborers; the century family is bigger than life with everyone-at-the table meals; and the family bible from 1883 is prominently located as a premonition of all good things to come – even me!
This experience has become the basis of my multimedia graduation project at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Over the next few months, there will be several “rough-cut” screenings, as I massage the story and the technicals. If you have not been invited, please ask to be as it is a story worth sharing.
The still photographs will become part of a book and an exhibit, entitled “Coming Home to Cotton”.