It has been on North Caicos for almost 12 years now and has been way overdue for a cleaning. But there are no dry cleaners on the island, so the best I could do was to throw it over the porch rail, scrub it, give it a thorough rinsing with the garden hose and leave it to dry, hoping for good weather.
No, this is not a practical thing. But having it here makes me happy. My mother made this rug. I was about eight years old when she took on the project, which started with her rummaging through closets and ripping up old coats and whatnot. I believe the main "ingredients" come from my uncles' World War II Army coats, and I recall a wool dress of hers in that light green.
Using those strips, she began one long braid, working in the evenings while we watched TV. She used some tubelike metal things to draw in the fabric and pulled the braid very tight. Sometimes she would let me braid, but I'm pretty sure that my sections had to be redone after I went to bed.
When she decided the braid was long enough, she fashioned the rug, sewing it with what appears to be household string and pausing now and then to make sure it could lie flat.
She did a remarkable job. This rug,, now about 53 years old, got plenty of use in the "piano room" of her house until she died and I claimed it. Then it followed me from apartment to apartment, got rolled up and shipped here, and lived first in the downstairs living area and now in the upstairs. I've slung it over the rail and beaten it many times. It got soaked when Hurricane Hannah leaked through our windows and was spread on the rope hammock to dry.
All this rough treatment might seem odd for a family heirloom, but there it is. I see my mother in this rug, even though it lives in a house she never saw on an island she never saw.
Once, shortly after I moved here, I was working in the hotel kitchen with Susie Gardiner, washing dishes. I began to tease her about the pot she favored, which was dented, blackened and thinning so much it was only barely servicable.
"I really think you could stand to get a new one, Susie."
She turned from the stove, looked at me a moment and said quietly, "That's all I have left from my mother."
I get it, Susie. I get it.