It was an unwritten tradition in our family: When a person retired or neared the end of his or her life, a purchase of carpet was made for the home. This was no frivolous tradition, because at least one room always was in need of recovering.
Wall-to-wall carpeting wasn't common in the early days. Most houses featured hardwood floors that later lost popularity because they had to be washed, waxed, and polished each season.
My mother was the last family member to carry out the tradition.
She lived alone in a small townhouse and delayed too long in replacing the old living-room rug.
At the time, Mother was nearly blind, so it was not surprising that she selected a vivid blue color. Most people considered the carpet too gaudy, but it was the color she liked best as she looked at it with her deteriorating eyes.
While vacationing this summer, I decided to take my turn and carry on the tradition by purchasing covering for a bedroom floor. But just like my mother, I waited too long. My own eyesight has failed. I could not distinguish the colors or patterns.
But even with dimmed vision, I made many discoveries.
I found that carpet patterns, color, and texture were about the same, regardless of the store. The only difference was in delivery and installation promises.
I thought that buying a rug and having it installed in a room would be a comparatively simple affair, but I soon discovered that times have changed. These days, few installers will remove furniture and do a complete installation job.
Our time was limited, so my daughter and I did not bother with samples. We assumed a neutral beige color would look well with walls and woodwork. But it did not.
Mistake No. 2 was that I decided to have under-rug padding installed. This was not really needed because the carpet itself was thick and of good weave. My existing carpet never was padded. It laid flat and low on the floor.
This probably was why it never dawned on me that doors would need to be removed before the new carpet could be laid.
The bedroom doors came off easily, but the carpet installers would not re-hang them: It wasn't included in the contract. Putting back the doors over the thick carpet required a carpenter and considerable work to trim the doors.
Finally the job was done. It took most of a week, from measuring to door-hanging.
But the work was really not finished - I still have the old, worn-out carpeting. The installers threw it out of the upstairs bedroom window and left it in the yard. My daughter dragged it to the curb, where it stayed for a week. We learned the city will not remove it as trash unless it is cut into strips and tied in rolls. I have since hired a handyman to suitably cut and tie it.
We halfway like the new carpet, and I have fulfilled a family tradition. Nevertheless, I have given my daughter some advice: If she chooses to carry on the tradition, she should do it earlier and plan it better.
Millie Benson is a Blade Columnist.