They are speaking in quiet, respectful tones. My maternal grandmother bends over the bed and strokes the thin pieces of wool that are lined up there. A paper sketch showing leaves in a circle crinkles nearby, and my mother encourages me to come closer.
“Do you like these colors?” The question comes down from on high because I am only 3.
“Yes,” I say and I think in that moment my color preferences for life are set.
“Colors of the fall,” Grandmother says. “The wools for this hooked rug will be hand-dyed.”
She is making a rug for me because I am her namesake by way of my first name, Margaret. They say that one day the finished piece will be the pride of my very own house. Visions of being an adult are too big, but I do think about stretching the colors out between my twin beds sometime soon.
My mother says, “This is a rug for our house until you grow up, then you will have it in your own home.”
I hear that my father will letter a piece of embroidery for the underside of the rug. He has a beautiful hand, practiced from years of working as an architectural draftsman.
Going to my grandfather’s office to watch Daddy draw blueprints was fantastical during my preschool days. Those memories are a relic of the era when structural design plans were drawn by hand, erased and redrawn to perfection.
After about a year, Grandmother’s time commitment to the rug was served, the artful elements spun into gold. Grandmother and Granddaddy delivered it to our ranch-style house on Frances Square in Tupelo. The house was a simple structure with a magnificent oak in the side yard.
I was waiting in the swing that Daddy had suspended from that tree when they pulled into the driveway. For some reason I remember kicking my new school loafers, black suede with leather fringe tops, through the leaves as I followed the white-haired couple, bedazzled in uniform blues as was their habit, into our living room.
They unfurled the family treasure. We all sighed at the sight of hooked leaves underfoot.
My grandfather kicked the corner over with his block of a shoe and there it was — documentation. Grandmother and I were entwined forever in Daddy’s strong script. She gave me a squeeze.
Though she lived another 25 years, we never spoke of the rug again. It drifted around my parents’ new home in Tennessee until I married and then another ceremony occurred.
“Here it is,” Mother said after she escorted the rug back to Mississippi where we lived at the time. With arms akimbo, she kicked the corner over for memory’s sake.
Rumi said, “Let the beauty of what we love be what we do.” Handmade is a meditation for the future. A prayer in every stitch. It affirms a point in the shadowy time to come where people can surrender to their ancestors and collect the message in a bottle.
How about commitment? How about trust and familial pride? How about enchantment? Tokens of character shine out from the handmade to untold generations like pristine salutations.
So after it spent decades of real life underfoot and under-paw in my own Tennessee home, I rolled the frayed rug up and placed it on the shelf. Later, when the internet ramped up, I researched hooked rug repair. Such artistry is rare — it too is passed down like the privilege of obvious choice that it is.
I made contact with a fourth-generation rug hooker, Stephanie Allen-Krauss at Green Mountain Hooked Rugs in Vermont. After reviewing photography of the rug’s damage, she accepted our artifact for repair. I packaged it up, mailed it off, and waited. And then waited some more.
In the meantime, did I say that we named one of our daughters Margaret Quinn as the next namesake for my grandmother who hooked the rug? I internalized hopes that certain heirlooms would connect to story and name as they did for me.
Still, I’m not one to insist on past traditions. I tether such dreams lightly; it’s the only way to ensure their purity if they should occur. Happily, the idea that the story would continue presented itself when daughter Margaret Quinn named her girl Margaret.
Imagine the synchronicity years later around little Margaret’s third birthday when I received an email from Stephanie. The rug was repaired. It had been a challenge, but she accepted it because of its particular beauty, and no doubt because the Daddy-documented embroidery on the back would take it into the future.
My daughter’s enthusiasm for the “Rug of Margaret” tied the story up into a bow. She is about to move into a new house where she has claimed wall space for its exhibition. The embroidered legend will be on the outside.
Quinn took to the rug like she personally knew in this lifetime her great-grandmother. The art of gifting handwork is a love she has made her own and so the thread stretches still.
With detached expectancy, I wonder: Will little Margaret pick up the strand?
Copyright (c) 2021 by Roben Mounger. All rights reserved. Roben Mounger was a curious girl. Her aunt thought she was too nosy for her own good. Since then she satisfied her inquisitiveness by working in libraries, non-profits, sales and television. Because Roben’s aunt also told her that it was good to share with others, she documents the beauty of it all whenever possible.