Remember the Red

13 February 2018

I used to stare at the carpet.

Sometimes the sunlight would seep through the curtains and spread itself across the fabric. It covered nearly every inch of space in my grandmother’s house. I’d gaze into the specks that hid amongst the woollen carpet, hoping for a glance of the possibilities that lay below. It used to be red.

A deep red. I was always thinking about how the carpet was supposed to be a red. Passionate and alive. Red like the lipstick your mother wore before you were born. Like a reflection of a cherry—mildly sweet, with just a little bit of tartness for character. But always what lay in front of me was a carpet that seemed almost orange. When inspected closely one would find it had an inexplicable brownish tinge, too much dirt and history danced through. The carpet had a life before we got the chance to step on it. The family living here before us, I imagined, were taken to trampling on the red—too impolite to take off their shoes. By the time we had the chance to experience it, the colour was faded, fraying. Worn thin by the years to expose the steel plates that were meant to stop the carpet from spilling into the other rooms. It was as if nothing could escape the impending grasp of the carpet.

The carpet reminded me of her. My grandmother embodied red—fierce and determined. The carpet was a welcome challenge. She would vacuum over and over again, but despite her persistence, cat fur and biscuit crumbs lingered still. Every morning I’d hear the rolling sound of the hoover. The invention of the electric dust-buster and fancy vacuum cleaners both passed us by, but she remained loyal to her hoover. Painted an elaborate lime green, it followed her around as she roamed the house in her signature pale pink dressing gown—made of a harsh cotton that outlived even the hoover. When you heard the sound of her moccasins rubbing against the carpet it was a reminder that the day had begun.

Every morning the sun’s light would gleam against each strand of the carpet’s fabric. Exposing the blemishes of its structure. Sometimes I’d try to hide the red. Closing the blinds to darken the house. But the blinds were too weak to endure the brightness of the day, always leaving room for the sunlight to sneak through. My grandmother would sit on the old grandfather chair, tattered and torn. She’d sip on her tea, balancing it on the ledge of the window. Her eyes closed and dressing gown opened. A moment of relaxation, feet buried in the warmth that the carpet offered. A luxury, she thought. But I was jealous of the floorboards that lined the houses of my friends. I kept finding myself apologising for the carpet’s age and untidiness.

It was a red so intense, it left itself deep-rooted in my history. Splatters of pigment cloud my mind. A thought of red and it’s hard to focus on anything but her. How old-fashioned and absent-minded she could be. Not understanding that the world was changing, stuck in her home with her carpet that she refused to change. Years went by, and there I was becoming a woman. Now with a body that had bumps and hair in unusual places. Hair she refused to acknowledge. Forcing me to wear shorts, unaware of how the other kids would notice and stare. Treating me as a child up until there was a new red. A red that was inevitable, crimson and bloody. Growing up she made sure the room was always cluttered.

Filled with her favourite elephant knick-knacks and stacks of pillows, it always felt warm. On the walls she kept her prized possessions. Metallic frames with professional photos. Posed and censored and neat. Placed perfect and levelled on the wooden walls. Then as the family grew, precision declined. Digital camera snaps in plastic frames from the dollar store. Crooked and blurry.

I stare at the floor now, and wonder what my Nana would think. Odd to call her this, when for years to strangers she’d simply been a grandmother. More formal and less emotionally attached. When the carpet was pulled and plied from the floors of our home, the last of Nana went with it.

Now there’s just one photo remaining, gold and engraved. Hung on a hook too small for its frame. Not a picture of a family, just a snapshot of the house. Looking at it, you’d never be able to tell that it had red carpet. Or blue blinds, or white walls. In the photo, it just looks like a home. A home with good and bad times. A reassuring cliché.

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