Shag me rotten


Back in 1986, we moved into a new house in Richmond, Virginia. Coming from a trailer, something without wheels was in itself a big deal. I explored eagerly, amazed at the stairs to a god-honest basement, the closet space, the linoleum in the kitchen instead of carpet. In a closet in a bedroom, I found a plastic garden rake. I asked my mom “Why did they leave a rake?”

“It’s for the shag!”

Yes, the cherry red shag carpet. So we’d rake the shag, as if it were a lawn.

Even though I was the oldest, I took the smallest bedroom to avoid the shag. My carpet was olive green. But it was low-pile. Even at eight, I instinctively knew shag was tacky. Meghan Daum has a great essay about the class implications of hardwood floors. To this day I refuse to rent an apartment with carpet. I am a floor snob.

Eventually my sister and I would use the shag rake in vicious one-sided jousting matches. Then I got a field hockey stick, and the shag rake was no match.

My parents ripped out the shag a few years ago. I was long gone, and I think my sister was too. They left the mirrored walls in the fireplace, though. And the purple “gro light.” Sometimes they put plants in there, as intended, but usually it’s just lit up, reflecting the room in a purplish glow. Confusing the occasional cat. The ghastly fireplace came with the house, and my parents aren’t really big on altering their surroundings if they don’t absolutely have to. Property value be damned. The house is unwittingly maintained as a1960’s pleasure dome. I hope to come back one day and find my mom wearing a lamé turban and serving rumaki in the grotto.


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