Musings: Rag Rug

Today’s topic is: “Flash Fiction: Write a short story about a rag rug.”

Once upon a time…

Braided Rug by Margit Johnson

In the early 1940s, a young newlywed couple named Paul and Mary built a modest yet beautiful home in which to raise their family. With little money for furnishings, Paul used his masterful carpentry skills to create several built-in bookshelves, cabinets, and window seats. Mary sewed window treatments and bed linens but still felt like the house needed a softer touch so she decided to make a rag rug for the large living room.

Paul and Mary had gone to school with the owner of a local coat factory, who agreed to give them as many scraps as they’d need. Paul collected vast amounts of this excess material, carefully wrapped it around a square dowel and cut it into long, even strips using his table saw. Mary and her mother worked together for many months to braid the strips together and then sew them into a beautiful oval rug.

The rug provided warmth and comfort on the living room’s hardwood floors. On that spiral rug, their four children learned to walk, played marbles, and spent many hours putting together wooden puzzles that Paul had made. But after many years, it began to show signs of wear and, not having the time to repair it, Mary moved it to the attic.

A few years later, Mary’s mother returned to stay with them for the summer and discovered that the rug had been exiled. She brought it down from the attic, removed the weak portions of the braid, and added new material to restore the rug to its former glory.

Decades passed. The children grew up, moved out, and had children of their own. Yet for more than fifty years, that rug remained a staple feature of the living room. During a casual visit in 2002, one of their grown-up granddaughters realized that the old rug was beginning to look rather threadbare. Since she couldn’t imagine the house without that large oval rug, she decided it was time to patch in new material to mend the worn out areas. She returned home and started braiding. She braided and braided and kept braiding until she had a large center section ready to transplant. On each subsequent visit, she would insert more and more braid, slowly working her way out, gradually refreshing the spirit of the old rug.

A year after Paul passed away, Mary decided it was time to leave the big, empty house behind. But she refused to part with the heart of the home. She insisted on moving the rug and happily signed the nursing home’s waiver about the tripping dangers of area rugs.

Mary lived to be 98 and when she died, the cherished furnishing was passed along to her youngest daughter, to provide comfort and warmth for generations to come.


~ Phoebe DeCook


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