the braided rug

The braided rug. Oh the tale that accompanies the braided rug.

Some time in the great past my mother thought she would make a braided rug. There were some new tools she had found. If you cut the wool strips about two inches wide, then strung them into these metal tools, it folded the wool on itself and then you could braid the strips into a rug. No problem.  It would be a great activity to do in the summer. Need I say she was also the chief cook for the multitude of people who showed up over the summer weeks. But the braided rug looked like fun.

From somewhere, I know not where, she acquired a large box of wool scraps. Surely this would make a huge rug. My memory of this box rates it about  24  x  18 and 10 inches high. Now that is a huge box of wool.   Momie set about cutting the wool into strips and the braided rug began. In no time the scrap box was empty, and the rug was a nice size to set by a tub, a bath mat size, hardly big enough for the living room at the big house.

So the plea began. Do you have any wool scraps, old wool skirts, shirts, anything Momie could cut up to make the rug. It became the summer experience to ask and beg and get packages of wool from guests who had gone home after their visit and sent old wool items.

One such item even rated a poem. Mr Allen sent his old bathrobe with a poem called “Ode to a departed bathrobe.”

The nights are cool, blue is my face
When through the house the pup I chase.
It’s not her fault I’ve caught a bug
My bathrobe’s now a braided rug.
I’ve chills and aches, my nose is red.
If it gets worse I’ll go to bed
And dream about that shifty thug
Who snitched my robe to make a rug.
The doctor’s been here twice today.
He gave me pills and made me pay.
“Keep warm” he said, with voice so smug,
He knew my bathrobe’s now a rug.
When I rise from my bed of pain,
And walk around the house again,
I’ll take with me a steaming mug
To stop the chill. Dad-rat that rug.        Donald Taylor Allen            August 1954

When the rug became large enough to leave on the living room floor, every guest was told you could not walk on the rug if you had not worked on the rug. Mary and Judy and I had all helped in the braiding. Marg and Peanut and probably Lucy and Bobbi, (my aunts,) had helped in one way or another. Over along the unfinished edge would lie the braided bits waiting for new strips to be added and braided and then sewn to the growing oval.

Sea, sitting on floor to right of piano

It was about this time Sea came into my life. It was the summer of 1954. I was working in Nantucket as a waitress in Siasconset. Sea was at summer school at MIT. He came to visit me arriving in Hyannis by bus, and missed the ferry to Nantucket. He called me wondering what he should do. I gave him the Cotuit number and said, call them. They will pick you up, house you for the night and get you on the ferry tomorrow. Now mind you, Sea had not met my family. We had only met in June.

My dad drove to Hyannis and brought poor Sea to the Big House. He was greeted at the door by my mother with a pair of scissors in her hand. “Cut here,” she says, and Sea cut where she said. “Good, “ she said, “Now you can walk on the rug.”

There was a house full of guests that week. My father’s roommate from college, Dudley Bell, was there with his wife and four kids, all about the same age I was, young college to aged high school kids. I am not sure how Sea managed that evening. He was put on the ferry the next morning and we visited in Nantucket. It was my last weekend of work and I returned to Cotuit with him on the ferry. I assume someone met us and brought us to the
Big House. So there we were with the Bell family, the usual family members, Marg, Judy, Jeff, Mary… I would have to check the photo to identify others, and the Bells had this great game we loved to play when they were there.

The game was “Categories.” It was explained to Sea. You pick a category and, to the rhythm of snapping your fingers, you’d say, for example, if the category was cars, Ford- Lincoln, and next person would say Lincoln- Buick… and so it would go around the room as fast as the beat could go until someone could not think of another car. Lots of laughs and fun… except for one thing. Sea was incapable of snapping his fingers. The wonderful click the rest of us could produce, was nothing in his hands. Here he was in his new girlfriend’s home, and could not snap his fingers and keep to the beat of the game. On top of that this maniac mother had greeted him with a pair of scissors and told him to “cut here.”

The rest is history.

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8 Responses to the braided rug

  1. pamelahodges says:

    Delightful. Wonderful. A tale of love and fabric and memories. Love it.

  2. pamelahodges says:

    Oh, and he is cute.

  3. Ruth Ayres says:

    I love the way you capture stories from the past and make the matter to the present. So glad you are writing.

  4. Tara says:

    I loved all the details you wove into this story to capture a momnet in time, a particular place, and a blossoming relationship…oh, and the photographs were just splendid!

  5. Just another terrific story to put into your book, Fran. Like your quilts weave a story, this rug certainly adds an important one, the first family time with Sea. I love that your family makes so many things. We just looked over the family quilts Sunday & my daughter & daughter-in-law divided most of them up, some very old ones, some from my mother. It’s lovely to have those things. I loved seeing the photos too-really a special look back!

  6. newtreemom says:

    I loved the feeling of this story, and the pictures added so much to it. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Judy C. says:

    What a delightful story! Thank you for sharing. It is wonderful that you are taking the time to write about these times in your families life to share and preserve for generations to come. The photos add just the right to touch.

  8. You have taken us back to another time and stirred my own memories. My parents had braided rugs, though not handmade ones. And what a wonderful tale of togetherness. Thank you!

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