In the Back of the Closet … (A writing prompt)

“In the back of the closet . . . is a rolled up rug. It leans into the corner, behind my prom dress and college graduation robe, where it is never seen.

“When I come home to visit my parents, I look to be sure it is still there. Once I see it, I am reassured; I can go on with my life, I can deal with disappointments, I can expect miracles. But most of all, I can believe something unseen lives with me, protects me, loves me beyond all else.”

I wrote those words when I was in college, in one of the journals I kept. No one has seen these journals but me, unlike some of my earlier diaries. Shortly after I began to date in the ninth grade, I realized my mother was reading the diary I kept in the nightstand beside the bed. Her lack of respect for my privacy shocked me at the time, and I found a better place to keep my journals, away from  prying eyes. When I left home for college, I took the diaries with me. One of them contains the only thoughts I ever recorded about the rug.

Years later, on the day my aging parents were preparing to move every thing from the house they had lived in for fifty years to a local retirement village, I drove home from the City to help. My job was to clean out the room which had been my bedroom, a room mother had long since taken over to use as extra clothing storage. Possibly, she had even begun to sleep in that room — my dad’s snoring was horrific, like sleeping next to a chain saw with a short in the motor.

At any rate, on that day I went to my old room and pulled open the door to the closet where my old dresses and memorabilia from high school and college had been stored. I pushed aside my graduation robe. The rug was gone.

My spirit went cold. Some part of me lifted up toward the ceiling and then spun in ever-widening circles. The rest of me rooted to the carpet and held on for dear life.

Where was the rug?

I forced myself to calm down, to pull out some boxes and sort through them, dropping items into the trash bag which had no use to anyone and were of no sentimental value. During the process, I wondered about the rug. Mother was not exactly a hoarder, but she kept things. It was unlike her to have let the old rug go to Goodwill, or put it up for sale.

When Mother called from the kitchen, “lunch is ready,” I bolted from the room to come together with my brother, his wife, and mom and dad at the dining room table. Each had been working independently in a room of the house, going through shelves and drawers with trash bags and empty boxes already labeled for charities.

“Can’t believe you still have those old board games, Mom,” my brother said, chuckling. “Most of the game pieces are probably lost by now. Who could play them?”

“I kept them for the grandkids,” Mother said defensively. She picked at her potato salad with her fork, stirring it around and then stabbing a yellow chunk but never lifting it to her mouth.

“And those paperback detective stories? Do you think the library will still take books from the Fifties?” my sister-in-law asked.

Dad shrugged and stared outside the window, chewing absently. His jaw had been set in an angry clench ever since the decision had been made to sell the house and move due to his worsening health and fall risk.

We ate quietly after that, only an occasional clink of silverware breaking the silence of the old house.

As my brother and I finished our bologna sandwiches, I cleared my throat. “Does anyone know what happened to that old rug I kept in the back of my closet? I think I’ll take it home to use on the back patio. The dogs will appreciate it.”

My mother settled a steely look on me. “That crazy red, yellow and blue rug?” She made a sound in her throat similar to someone throwing up. “Long gone. First thing I threw in the garbage once we were told we needed to move out. It stank. Had mold growing on it. You didn’t want it, did you?”

Unbidden, a thousand memories rushed through my mind. Buying the rug for my first apartment, watching TV on it, studying on it, spreading picnics on it, making love on it. My happy, independent young life was represented by that rug, along with my self confidence, my determination, and my future.

“Well, did you?” my mother asked again.

“No, I don’t want or need it,” I said slowly. “Just curious what happened to it.”


(From a writing prompt)

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