Writing about objects is primarily retrospective: this carpet is from my mother’s 1970s trip to Morocco. In what way does an object look forward?
There are four kinds of poems, someone told me: praise, lament, elegy, and prayer. It interested me that these could be defined according to both time and attitude. Praise and lament deal with the present, elegy with the past, and prayer with the future. Could an object act as a prayer? Could I think about it in terms of the future?
The carpet is a happy object. Old but not very valuable, it lies under our dining table, and we don’t worry too much about it getting dirty. We spend many hours around our table, eating and talking, doing homework, reading, paying bills. When we’re at the table, our two dogs like to be under it, so though our house has many rooms, often six creatures can be found in this small place (seven when oldest child is at home). The table on top of the red carpet has a gravitational pull. It’s also near the food.
When we lived in a small apartment in Barcelona, I noticed one day that all five of us were sitting on the couch, each engaged in an individual activity. The apartment was small (I thought of it as a sailboat) but not that small! We had become accustomed to being right next to each other. Oldest child went on a school trip that year and called us several times. Her friends asked why she kept calling us. “We’re a close family,” she said. For a year we lived in quite a tight space. Now we have more space but the table is the center of the house. The dogs squabble on the carpet and tangle in our legs.
The Moroccan carpet recalls my mother’s adventure, with two women friends, in Morocco in the 1970s, a trip during which they were often the only women in a restaurant or bar, or within sight. Their rental car broke down in the desert. They had an excellent time. The carpet reminds me of travel, and the way in which the concept of ‘global village’ is true in some ways and an illusion in others, because places are fundamentally different. The rolling hills of my Adams County may recall Tuscany, but the Apple Harvest Festival is rooted here—would the band called ‘Mason Vixen’ be playing in Pienza? Would the Montepulciano elementary school have a hoedown, with square dancing and hammer dulcimers?
My carpet was a prayer for a happy, busy home, or at least an eclectic one, with room for objects from disparate places and times. And the objects should be attached to experiences, my red carpet said. This one can fly me right to Morroco, where my mother is sitting in a tent having tea, afraid the carpet seller takes her for a sucker. She’s going to settle on a price, and some weeks later she and my sister and I are going to heft and drag a heavy wrapped object into our living room and unroll it. “Isn’t that green great?” my mother is going to say. And then, since it’s the 1970s and we’re one woman and two girls on our own, we’re going to put on either Carole King or Earth, Wind, and Fire, and dance on the rug, to break it in.
When I consider an object, time just dissolves.