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Experiences with Antique Oriental Rugs
My Grandmother's Rugs
I always thought my grandmother was crazy because she used to cover her gorgeous antique oriental rugs with cheap bathroom rugs she would buy at thrift stores. I would tell her all the time that the entire point of having a rug (a beautiful rug, no less) was to show it off in the house. Her response? Her rugs were too good to be stepped on, smashed, or even worse, exposed to the sun. God forbid if her antique oriental rugs actually saw daylight.
So why did she have them? The point is she wanted the luxury of having a beautiful, plush, detailed rug in her home that she could swoon over whenever she wanted. Every now and then I would catch her lifting the corner of one of her grubby, crusty old bathroom rugs so she could peek at the glory underneath. She would literally grab her heart and sigh with endearment and proclaim, "Isn't this rug beautiful?"
And indeed it was- all her antique oriental rugs were. They looked brand new. Probably because the last time they had ever felt a foot was when they were being made. Her rugs were treated like the royalty she believed they belonged to. No footsteps to make impressions on them, no sunlight to damage the tender fibers, and not a single cat hair would ever so much as graze her precious rugs.
I, for one, would rather have my rugs mauled on a daily basis if that was the price I had to pay to enjoy their beauty. But that’s not to say that I don’t understand and even respect my grandmother's philosophy. She really did love her rugs. For her, they were too precious to even use, and had she realized that she could just as well have placed them on a wall, she still would have likely covered them with a sheet. For her, just knowing she had these beautiful rugs in her life. Every time I see a bathroom rug in someone's home now, I just can't help but lift it up to see if there is some alluring miracle underneath.
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What Antique Persian Rugs Have Meant to Me
Antique Persian Rugs have always held a place in my heart. Growing up as a small child, my mother and father always had two of such rugs around the house, one at the bottom of the stair case leading into the kitchen and one by the front door. These rugs were both placed on the hard wood floors that we were not allowed, as children, to play or run on, leaving the covered up spots tiny spaces of safe havens where we were allowed to lay out our blocks and dolls and have a good time. Growing up as a kid, I never really stopped to analyze the intense and intricate patterns that lay beneath my toes in any way of aesthetic appreciation, however, their patterns and paths laid out a maze of streets on which the toy cars would travel and patches of color on which my Barbie dolls would make their homes.
As I got older and put these toys back into their boxes, I began seeing and appreciating these rugs for the master pieces that they were, and now living in my own home as a young adult, I possess smaller knock off versions of similar rugs to the ones that my parents own to remind me of my first home and of my family. After a few years of art school under my belt, I visited back to my parent's house and saw fully for the first time what works of craftsmanship these Antique Persian Rugs were.
The natural dyes, wools, silks, colors, patterns, and tiny details stunned me and I understood finally why I was not allowed to have a glass of colored punch when playing on these surfaces. The rage of my mother when I dropped my food on the way up the stair case became clear. These rugs that were such an important, though mostly ignored as a child, part of my life were finally appreciated and now just seeing such intricate pieces of work make me, not only, appreciate their beauty, but memories of past. Eventually I hope to be in a place in my life where I am not living pay check to pay check and will be able to purchase a beautiful Antique Persian rug of my own that will follow me throughout my many home moves and play a role, though unnoticed, in the lives of my children.
When I was about ten years old my father brought home a rug for our living room that caused quite a stir. It was an antique Persian rug that had belonged to my grandfather. As it turned out, my grandfather had originally received the rug from a client as payment for his medical services – he had been a family physician in old Sacramento. This carpet was huge. It just barely fit in the living room. It must have been a hundred years old when we got it.
I remember my father proudly explaining to our neighbors that it was a genuine Persian carpet, and that it had been in his family since he was a child. Apparently it had been quite old before he and his three brothers had trod over it in their youth. He pointed out that you could tell it was a Persian by the hand tied knots. He turned it over and showed the neighbors as we looked on. I was mesmerized by the deep blues, purples and red colors. I had never seen patterns like that before. I could look at it for hours.
After the arrival of the carpet, my siblings and I were forbidden from walking in the living room with our dirty shoes on. We could only even be in the room once we were bathed and in our pajamas. My father did not want the Persian to end up looking like the tattered carpets back in our own bedrooms. My two brothers and I were not easy on anything and, as children, carpets were the last thing on our list of things to be careful around. Of course we would occasionally run through the living with our muddy boots – after which our mother would chase after us, promising that we would have hell to pay. After putting us in our rooms, she would get out the vacuum and scrub and scrub at the carpet with a brush. No matter how messy we got it, she always got it clean. That rug held up beautifully.
Years later, after it had survived my father’s boyhood and then ours, it was still bright, colorful, and showing much less age than the wall to wall carpets my mother had had to replace in our teens. Finally, when we sold the house we passed the carpet on to my cousin who had a living room big enough to take it. I’m not sure it looked any older than it had when I had first seen it at age ten. By then my son was ten years old. That Persian rug was always the most beautiful carpet I had ever seen, and I know it will continue to be beautiful even after I’m gone