My grandmother’s rug in my living room in Chicago

Welcome to Day 6 of my countdown towards my online course Capturing Family History in a Book of My Things, which begins on January 16, 2022. Each day I am sharing a story about a family object, including tidbits of my process putting it together. I hope that’ll give you some ideas and inspire you to come up with your own stories. And of course I’d love it if you joined the course😉

I can’t even imagine life without my grandmother’s Oriental rug.

You might already recognize it from my course page:

That rug has just always been part of my life. In my grandmother’s small social-housing block apartment in Wiesbaden, Germany, it was a fixture in her living/dining room. Her dining table stood on top of one end of the rug. However, enough of the rug was free of furniture and visible, taking up the middle of the room.

Oma in her apartment, her right foot is on the Oriental rug. Sadly the picture is a bit too dark to show its pattern. Wiesbaden, 1989

Unfortunately, I don’t have a good image of the rug in my grandmother’s place. (That is to say, I can’t find one at the moment.)

In the above image, my grandmother, whom we all called “Oma,” is sitting on the sofa that could be converted to a bed. She usually sat there as that spot was a tad too low for the table but she always wanted to leave the more comfortable dining room chairs to her guests.

Oma managed to put up all five of us, i.e. my parents and us three kids, in this 45 square meter, one bedroom apartment. This was accomplished with two twin beds in the bedroom and a cot squeezed in, as well as this sleeper couch and another cot in the living room. All five of us only stayed with her on rare occasions, usually stopping over as we were driving to our summer vacation at the North Sea. Usually, it was just Oma and one of us grandkids, and we got to sleep in the unheated bedroom under pillowy duvets.

To this day, my brother contends that this rug was the best surface ever to play on with his Matchbox cars.

Just recently, when he saw that I’d used the rug for my course image, he said, “Oh, that rug was just perfect for playing cars on. Those rows had just the right width, and off them were bays perfect for parking.” See above image with one of my husband’s vintage toy cars.

Note on process: Somewhere there must be a photo of my brother as a little boy, playing cars on that rug. For sure, our dad would have taken a picture like that. But where to find it?

Original receipt for the rug, 1961

Oma was proud of this rug.

She and my grandfather had bought it in 1961, after they had received reparation payments from the West German government. Finally, they could afford a luxury like that rug! The reparations were compensation for having lost everything when they were deported and lost their home in Czechoslovakia after World War II. (See my story The Flying Dutchman for that history)

I still have the receipt for that rug!

Oma was careful about keeping the receipt as a proof of its value and provenance, i.e. that it is a Kashgai rug. She made sure we grandkids knew where she kept valuable papers like this.

My grandparents paid DM 850 for it, which convert to about $2,000 today. I don’t know the first thing about Oriental rugs, except that I love this heirloom.

It clearly is a top quality rug. At 60 years of age, it shows little signs of wear.

And wear it got! It sat under Oma’s table for 31 years. Now it’s been on full display in my living room ever since Oma passed away. My sister had it cleaned after we finished clearing out Oma’s apartment. Then, on one of my trips to Germany, I brought the rug home in a big suitcase.

blue exercise ball, bare feet on Oriental rug

These days, I do my exercises on it every morning. So does my daughter when she’s around.