Okay – this is admittedly a real stretch for this week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks blog prompt, “Maiden Aunt.” I was struggling to think of who I could write about, not having any maiden aunts. In fact, I have no aunts at all anymore. Nor are any of my siblings “maidens.” So – I started to play with the words…. maiden…. made in… made an! That’s it! Read on to see how I managed to make a connection to this week’s prompt.
NOTE: Writing this post reminded me of a several important lessons:
1) Our memories are not always accurate.
2) Photos are very powerful memory joggers.
I was sure my mother, Doris Lichenthal Falcone, started making punch-needle rugs when she was diagnosed with pemphigus – a very serious skin disease. Pemphigus is a rare auto-immune skin disorder that causes blisters and sores on the skin and mouth. It can be life-threatening. Mom had a very serious case. She couldn’t eat due to pain from sores in her mouth. When fabric such as clothing or bed sheets came into contact with the open sores, it was quite painful. Think burn victim – that’s what she was dealing with. The best course of treatment involved large doses of corticosteroids like Prednisone. (Mom remained on low doses of Prednisone for her entire life which caused other serious life-threatening diseases.) In order to get the disease under control, Mom spent months at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Once home, she was really incapacitated, basically bed-ridden for most of the day, unable to go out for fear of getting an infection.
In my memory, Mom began making these rugs in order to have something to do from her bed or the living room couch.
What stopped me in my tracks was the photo of the green rug with the kitty on it. As I began to type the caption, an image popped into my brain. I remembered having a ceramic cat that exactly matched the color scheme of the rug. I loved the color combo – pink, green, and white. Wait. Those were the colors of my basement bedroom. Hold up. I occupied that bedroom in the late 60s. Mom didn’t get sick until the mid to late 1970s. So, she couldn’t have made those rugs during her illness.
There went my entire “backstory” about the origin of the rugs! As I gazed at the photo, visions of the green kitty rug kept popping up – laying on the floor beside my bed, covering the top of my cardboard closet to hide the water stains… I suddenly remembered another photo – a shot of my bedroom at the time. It was quite easy to locate the picture, safely stored inside my 1970s psychedelic photo album! If I had only found that photo first, the dating of the rugs would have been a bit more accurate.
The photo is dated MAR 1970. My cardboard closet is in the back corner, behind my brother Dean. There is yet another punch needle rug on the floor – pretty sure it was pink. EVERY room I occupied during my childhood (at least four) had a pink theme.
|March 1970 – Not the neatest room, but a nice photo of my brother at age 5.|
It was clear that my memory had failed me. Or at least concocted a great story about the origin of the rugs. The truth is simple: My mother was always creating something – sewing, cooking, dollhouse miniatures. The woman didn’t sit idle for a minute. (I have the same affliction!) Despite raising 5 children on very little money, she always found a way to express her artistic side. The rugs were her “modus operandi” for that time in her life.
Thanks, Mom, for leaving us these wonderful mementos of your talent!
|Mom’s punch needles|
The Aunt Lydia Rug Yarn Company produced the printed rug patterns. Printed in blue ink on a canvas fabric, the process was similar to coloring or paint-by-number. Each section was identified by the color yarn one would use to fill in that area. It took some skill to “load” the yarn through the eye of the needle, choose the depth you wished the yarn loops to be, and punch through the canvas repeatedly, filling in the area without pulling out the loops you already
Click here to see a video of the technique.
I have two of Mom’s rugs and can count at least 4 more whose designs I can recall. I’m sure there are more I have forgotten about or that she gave as gifts.
|Three Kittens – proudly owned by sister Betsy|
|One of two Noah’s Ark rugs Mom made. I have one – no idea where the other went.|
|My kitty cat rug. I remember having a ceramic cat that looked just like it!|
Now that I have corrected my memory, the original ending of my post is no longer connected to the story of how my mother “made-an-Aunt” Lydia rug. But the information is still accurate, and provides a “cliff- hanger” – so I’m using it!!
While Mom lived with Pemphigus her entire life, her symptoms were managed well enough that she had only one more hospitalization in 1981. And that one led to a marriage. (I’ll probably write about how I became engaged to Scott Holman in a future post.)