My dad was born on Rosh Hashona. His calendar year birthday is September 20th, and in the year he was born, it turned out that that he was a New Year's baby. There's a picture of him as a baby in my parents' dining room. It's in black and white, but you can still tell that the smiling baby is perched on the carpet that up until Monday, covered my living room floor.
The carpet was a Persian, I guess. My grandmother was born in Rovno, a small town on the border of Russia and Poland. When people ask us what we "are," the answer has to be, well, we're Jewish - because we're certainly not Russian, nor are we Polish. They lived on a shtetl; it was a small community. Someone, a cousin perhaps, had the audacity to marry a Russian, and the Yakira's became soiled goods in the matchmaking business. So, the only option was to marry each other - my greatgrandparents are second cousins. They had three children, and at some point, when my grandmother was a toddler, my greatgrandfather set off to New York, with a wave and a smile - don't worry, I'll send for you. Well, the call never came, and my greatgrandmother got tired of waiting. She packed up her three kids, and rolled all of her possessions in this large Persian rug, boarded a train, and began her journey. There's a story out there about how picky an eater my grandmother was, and that my greatgrandmother forced the train to stop somewhere in Siberia, where she commandeered a chicken, killed it, and cooked it so that my grandmother would eat with satisfaction.
So, the carpet crossed Siberia, had a layover in Japan for several months, crossed the Pacific, entered the country through San Francisco, crossed the United States, and made it's way to the Bronx, where my greatgrandfather was hiding, er, living. The wife, the kids, the carpet moved in - my greatgrandmother's house, then my grandmother's apartment. My dad often waxes poetic about his days in the Bronx - comparing it to shtetl life (although there hardly seems anything remotely attractive about living on a shtetl, but whatever). And, in pictures through the years, family gatherings, there's the carpet. Passover dinner, the dining room table, the carpet. A new baby, toys on the carpet. It's amazing to watch the decor change around the carpet - the barebones of the early tenenments, the kitschy 70's decor of my grandmother's New Rochelle apartment, the mixture of old and new in her retirement home in Bricktown, New Jersey.
My grandmother eventually had to go into an assisted living care facility. When she did, the place required her to cut the fringe off the carpet. Much discussion took place - it would destroy any value to the rug - but the value, to my grandmother, was having the rug with her.
After she passed away, the rug sat in my parent's garage, until I bought my house. I think it was the first thing I moved into my house. It made my house a home. Over the 12 years I've owned the house, this rug - this rug that crossed Siberia, was waylaid in Japan, had more than a dozen babies play on it - has been destroyed. Between the moths, the accident prone dog, the foot traffic, the parties, etc. I had managed to ruin what had been kept pristine for at least 100 years.
Recently, I started dating this guy. I knew right away he was a neatnik -- he has a 10 year old son, which means, you know - his car should look like he has a child. Nope - spotless - 2 years later, it still even smells like a new car. I'm not dirty (you've all heard about my shoe stealing cleaning lady), but I am messy messy messy. About 2 weeks ago, he told me that he couldn't be with me if I continued to keep my house in such dissarray, that he spent more time thinking about how I kept my house than about the time he spent with me. At first, I was like, fuck that. But, then I talked to my brother, and his response was "well, fuck that guy, but do it because it's the right thing to do - you can't continue to live the way you do, you're a grownup. I'm stressed when I'm in your house, too." I mulled it over, and talked to my friends. All of them were so excited about the prospect of me cleaning up my act, so to speak. So, over the past week, the beginnings of Operation Clean Up are underway.
So, on Monday, I went home because I forgot my cellphone. It was lunchtime. When I went to leave to go back to work, my deadbolt was busted. I had to call the locksmith - he said it would be about 2 hours. So, I sat down on my couch. I had already rehabbed the kitchen (isn't Target great???). It was time to start the living room. Without much thought, as if I was possessed, a copmlete frenzy! - I started rolling the carpet up - quite the feat - I had to move the t.v., the couch, everything in the room myself. Not only was it hard physical work, the smell of the thing itself made the job tough. But it was trashnight, it was an opportunity - and I tossed it out onto the street. My back was killing me, I was covered in filth - but all of a sudden, the room looked so much bigger. The musty smell was already floating right out the door behind the carpet. I cleaned up, and went back to work. By the time I got back to my house at 6:00, the carpet was gone. There's probably some homeless guy sleeping under the el wrapped in my grandmother's rug.
I stared at the sidewalk - it was really gone. I called my brother - he reassured me, said it had to be done. I went in my house, sat on the couch. And, all of a sudden, my living room had such potential - fresh - a new start - the hardwood that was hidden under that rug is truly beautiful. I saw a new rug in my head, smaller, lighter. And a valance over the window. Perhaps new pillows for the couch.
Some people talk about spring cleaning - but New Year's cleaning seems appropriate, too. I don't know how I'm going to tell my dad that that carpet is gone, but someone born on New Year's should understand new beginnings, and a fresh clean start better than anyone, right?