It was light maroon, darker than Pepto-Bismol pink, wrinkled, stained, and old.
I remember that the best, the old. Even without the spills and the animal fur and the burn mark in the corner, it had history and thickness and smell. And I loved, I loved to stretch out naked, my five-year-old skin licking the coarse thread, young eyes examining the fibrous intricacies, the individual strands of braided yarn knitted and pressed from so many years of bare feet. I stretched out and the sun would pour in through the big window, and that was the best time, when I could see the sun flecks floating down to join the uncountable thousands of buried dust bunnies. It smelled of southern home-cooked meals, and dusty dogs, and popsicles, and sweat, and flatirons, and laughter. And when the Christmas tree was up, the little needles would pack into the filaments, thrusting spear-like and skyward to stab unsuspecting young toes, and it would smell of pinesap. The dogs loved the smell, too. They would dig and scrape, pulling up the corners to expose the cement underneath, striving to reach the alluring bouquet, until my parents yelled and clapped.
When my family moved into the house, Mom vowed to remove it within the year, but I was well into high school when I came home to find it stripped. The new one was gray and beautiful. It smelled fake and clean and foreign. It has since become a family member, like the pink before it.
And now I am older and sometimes, my feet ache for home, for the comforting give of my Pepto-Bismol friend.
When I return, I will stretch out and rub my skin on the coarse gray threads. I will take my sisters in my arms, and throw them down on the floor and we will smell the memories that we have pressed and jammed and loved into the grayness. The sharp needles will poke my bare feet, and the dogs will pile on me, and we will romp and make new smells and new stains and new happinesses.
When I come home, I will race to the carpet.