There is something about swamps to me. I live in southeastern North Carolina and where I live there are many of them. They have beautiful cypress trees, areas of water that have Lillie pads, some of the areas in them are a little dry, others covered with water, and sometimes in the midst of it all are streams. But what I love most of all are the birds that inhabit or frequent the area. I’ve spent a little bit of time trying to research what the names of these birds are, but still have not come up with what exact species they are. They are some type of egrets or cranes. Many are white and they are so elegant looking and sometimes you can spot them easily in the swamp, sometimes gathering in large groups, sometimes they are alone. However, sometimes they are not so easily spotted or you never see one at all. Sometimes I see the lone solitary grey one that is larger than the rest and his long beak reminds me of a stork, but I know that’s not what he is. He’s a different type of bird than the white ones. These are harder to see and rarer to see. I pass a swamp like this all the time on my way to my mother’s. I use to pass this swamp at least twice a day when I worked in the town past it or took my girls to school.
There’s something about these birds. As I always took my girls back and forth to school we would always pass this swamp (and sometimes when we went to other areas of where we live and see other swamps). We always made it a point to try to see the birds as we passed in the car. Every time we saw one we would cry out, “BIRD!!!!” And we would all look to see the beautiful white bird or birds. We would try to see who could spot the first one.
As time went by, my oldest daughter Stephanie got her license and no longer rode with me leaving me and Kaitlyn (4 and a half years Stephanie’s junior) to drive back and forth through these swamps. It became a very special thing to us. It was always fun to spot these birds and we would still call out “BIRD!!!” when they were spotted. The last time she was home at Easter, the week before she died, we spotted these birds and continued our ritual. “BIRD!!!” (Kaitlyn and I shared so many things like this).
Five years before the end of Kaitlyn’s life, she left home to go to college, to undergrad. This was really hard for me because she was my youngest, my baby, and my kindred spirit. It’s always easier to let the first one go because you have one left, but when that last one goes, for me, it was really hard. I went through empty nest syndrome big time. Which was strange, because I didn’t ever think I would. My husband and I ensured that we would have plenty to do once she left and we had a motorhome and a motorcycle and we often took many trips on long weekends and weeks we would take vacation. Those things were fun, but I still had an empty hole in my heart with her being gone. I never told her how bad it was, I didn’t want her to know. She knew I missed her, but not to the extent it was. I didn’t want her to worry about me. I missed her presence. Her presence was illuminating. We shared so many things and she was so interesting to talk to. She always was, even when she was a little child.
When we would visit her or she would come home, those times were one of the biggest highlights of my life.
After she left for college, it took me two years to do anything with the room she left behind. She left so many things, especially after she moved from a dorm into her own apartment. The dorm things were brought back home. I kept asking her to do something with all she left, but she never did. Finally one day she said, “Momma, just do what you think is best with them.” I felt I had to change her room and clean out her old things because her room was just as she left it and it reminded me of when she was still here, still a high school girl. Not only that, the other spare bedroom where she originally slept before she moved to the bigger room her sister had before she left, was full of the things she had as a child. I was stuck in a time warp that made my empty nest more severe. I had to do something.
So two years after she left for college, I finally got busy and cleaned out her things. Some were put away in chests or boxes that were too sentimental to give away. Some things went in the trash that I knew she didn’t want; the rest was given to my mother in law for a garage sale or to goodwill. (This was a hard process too and took me several days and it was emotionally draining). Then I totally redecorated this room. I kept the furniture, because it was beautiful and of high quality, but the rest was totally changed. But guess what my theme was? Yes, a swamp. Sounds ugly doesn’t it, but it’s not.
It all started with the matching curtains and bedding I selected first. It was of swamp-like/water theme. I had no intentions of making it a swamp room, or picking out bedding like that, but it all evolved from that bedding. So then I went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and bought a painting of a swamp. Then I bought a metal hanging of 3 Dragonflies for the wall. Then a few other decorative swamp like pretties. But the two things I wanted most of all for the room eluded me for a long time. I searched the internet, I searched stores, ebay and everywhere I could but I could not find them. I wanted two small white egret statues for the room. I never found them. What I settled for was two water birds of some type, perhaps they are egrets, but they are not white. I never found a white one. They are greyish/blue. They are beautiful carvings. But these are still beautiful and serve the purpose of the theme I have for the room. I think it’s beautiful.
I have no taste whatsoever in almost anything, certainly not decorating unlike Kaitlyn who was gifted in this area like so many other things. I do however recognize and appreciate good taste. But this project overtook me and the theme of it evolved into this and I didn’t even originally plan it to be this way. I was just going to buy new stuff and hope it looked ok.
This room is now a spare room where Kaitlyn always slept when she came home. The only thing that originally was Kaitlyn’s are the books on the bookshelf, and a picture of her. I felt better after I did it. I felt it helped decrease my empty nest syndrome and realize that we have moved on from her childhood. She was pursuing her dreams which I ALWAYS wanted for her. I never wanted her to stay around here for my sake so I wouldn’t be lonely. I knew she would make her way far away from me. I always unselfishly let her go because her needs and ambitions were more important than my missing her.
Though few of her things are left in this room, I look at those egrets and I think of her. I look around the room and see the swamps I love. I think of her and say “BIRD” just as I still do when I pass those swamps.
One of the saddest things I experienced after she had gone away to college, was one day as I was driving through the swamp alone, I saw this beautiful white egret flying at the edge of the swamp. So beautiful, so elegant and graceful. Surely one of the most special of all the swamp. I watched it in its beauty as it glided around the periphery of the swamp, transfixed in its awesomeness and its apparent love of the glide. Then, all of a sudden, it flew into a power line that ran next to the swamp, fell into the swamp and I assume lost its life. I’ve never gotten that image out of my mind.
The very last Facebook entry I sent Kaitlyn was just before she came back home for Easter before she died. It said, “The swamp room waits.” And she replied, “Yay! So excited!”
My special egret fell from her beautiful glide but the swamp room still waits……..