The Straley Family

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Morsey The Horsey

My sisters and I moved our mother a few years ago into an apartment within in a few miles from me. She had lived in the same home, our childhood home, for nearly 30 years. Mom’s MS had progressed to the point where she could no longer safely navigate the stairs. Daddy passed away in that house in December of 1991 from colon cancer. He was 59. I must stress here that this is not a job for sissies! It took a physical and emotional toll on all of us.

The five of us moved into the house on the corner of Pomona Drive and Ammons Way in Arvada, Colorado on March 17, 1973. For the first time in my life (I was 8 at the time) I had my very own bedroom; a very big deal for a third grader!! Dawn was just a kindie! Debbie was attending Arapahoe Community College and was engaged to the handsome David Everett. Mom was young and strong then and Daddy was so handsome, happy and healthy. Grammy Byberg was just as excited as the rest of us! She made all the draperies for the new house!

So many memories resided in that house and you never knew what kind of emotional landmine awaited you each time you peeked inside a box or opened a dresser drawer. I’ve often marveled at the powerful memories attached to a particular smell or an object from long ago. With no warning, you are suddenly transported to another time (and not necessary a happy one) and forced to relive a snapshot of your life. We were often driven to our knees with gut splitting laughter or convulsive bouts of tears within an hour’s time.

The basement in our childhood home took the longest to clean out and it had nothing to do with the dusty, heavy furniture. It’s interesting how the past and present can co-exist in the same dimly lit room. There we found the seat cushions for the outdoor swing sitting on top of the old dresser that belonged to Grammy Byberg. Atop the boxes of Daddy's 78's from the 1950's was the roasting pan Mom used every year at Thanksgiving. The top drawer of a dresser contained photographs of family gatherings from the 1910's through 2002.

I remember moving the Christmas tree stand that Daddy had attached to a square piece of plywood that he had painted with white enamel. As a baby, I was fascinated with the Christmas tree. I would crawl under the tree and made a career of knocking it over. The tree crashing to the floor shook the whole house and scared the daylights out of Daddy. He made the stand that afternoon (and we used the tree stand every Christmas until his death).

Behind the tree stand was Mr. Kenmore, the sewing machine and cabinet that Daddy bought for Mom on her birthday in 1973, just in time for her to start creating Debbie’s wedding dress. Mom made so many of our school clothes on that machine. I can still picture her sitting at Mr. Kenmore and trying to talk to us with a mouthful of straight pins.

When Mom and Dad married, she had an old Morse sewing machine. In the “old house on Newland”, the Morse (my sisters and I nicknamed it Morsey the Horsey because it weighed a ton) lived in my parent’s bedroom. Many a night we would drift off to sleep listening to the hum of that old friend. Mom gave Dawn and me old Morsey when the Mr. Kenmore came to live with us. I remember sewing on Morse the Horse. I made gobs of goodies for Barbie from Mom’s scrap bag but I had to put the power unit on top of a stack of Collier’s Encyclopedias so my foot could reach the pedal. My sisters and I all learned how to sew on Morsey the Horsey.

Mr. Kenmore moved to the basement when I was in college after Daddy bought Mom Miss Bernina for yet another birthday. This was the sewing machine of Mom’s dreams! It had all the bells and whistles she could imagine! She sewed Dawn’s prom dress on Miss Bernina and lots of other beautiful things. In many ways, Miss Bernina comforted Mom’s feeling of emptiness after I married and moved to Lubbock, Texas in much the same way the Mr. Kenmore comforted her after Debbie married and moved away.

Miss Bernina . . . Miss Bernina resided idle and dusty upstairs in my old bedroom that overlooked the now overgrown Japanese garden Daddy used to tend so lovingly. I used to tease Mom that before I had even left the city limits of Arvada (after marrying Rob), she had already moved Miss Bernina into my old bedroom.

MS is a cruel disease. It has robbed my mother’s ability to sew, one of her greatest passions. We moved Miss Bernina to Mom’s new apartment knowing that it would never again hum under the care of my mother’s expert hands. Mom had to let go of so many things when she moved, but she insisted that her old friend, Miss Bernina, be with her in her new place.

The sewing machines we grew up with were like members of the family. So much of our childhood revolved around them. As toddlers, we played at Mom’s feet while the Morsey the Horsey hummed its happy tune. As teenagers, we watched Mom and Miss Bernina create our prom dresses. We watched in amazement as she and Mr. Kenmore created Debbie’s wedding dress. When Dawn married, in 1991, Debbie made Mom’s dress on her own machine because Mom could no longer sew. Life is a circle and in our family, a sewing circle.

I was moving a box of old Christmas decorations in the basement, when I saw my old friend. I dropped to my knees in yet another round of tears as I hugged Morsey the Horsey and yes, he still weighs a ton.