Wednesday, December 14, 2016

An Unconventional Friendship

Iris Brown
An Unconventional Friendship.  That may be what you call it.  Of course, when a tipsy 16 year old girl at a party meets a woman in her fifties, who had probably been “tipping a few” as well, it’s going to be an interesting friendship.  And that, it was.

As a youngster, I could never really understand why Iris took note of me or even remembered my name for that matter.  But after knowing Iris for a while, I came to understand that Iris didn't just meet people, she made lifelong friends.  There was something about her that made it easy to talk to her – she showed deep interest in other people and freely talked about her own life and circumstances as well.

When I was in my late teens or early twenties, I was hired at J. C. Penney in the catalog department, which was side by side with the credit department, where Iris worked at the time.  We were scheduled together frequently.  One particular night, when a blizzard raged all around us, we stood at the catalog counter and gazed out the side door at the white flakes swirling around in the darkness.  It had been hours since we’d seen a customer.  Out of desperation for something to do, we made a huge dot game – you know, the whole page is filled with dots, and you try to connect them together into boxes, filling them in with your initial.  Whoever gets the most boxes wins.  We entertained ourselves for a while with that, and when our shifts ended we shoved it under the cash register for safe keeping until next time.  Well, when “next time” rolled around, we discovered our game was missing – apparently someone had found it – hopefully not our supervisor - with all the “K’s” and “I’s” written all over it, there was no way we could plead innocence!

No matter how mundane the situation, experiencing it with Iris took it to a whole new level.  One day as I was just getting home from class at Huron College, I got a phone call from Iris.  She was stranded by the mall, her car having run out of gas and was stalled on the street.  I drove over there and picked her up, and we laughed about it all the way to the gas station, where we realized neither of us had a gas can!  So we laughed all the way to the store to purchase one, then back to the gas station.  Everyone we encountered along the way probably thought we’d been drinking!  We continued to laugh about the whole situation for quite some time afterward.

Years later, after my family and I moved to Minnesota, I got a call from Iris saying she’d be coming through my town and did I have a bed available for her for a couple of nights.  Well, of course I did!  One of the days during her visit I was supposed to meet with a small sewing group at our church, and Iris joined us.  We worked together on my quilting project, and had a great time.  She fit in just perfectly with our tiny group.  As we were working, a couple of bridesmaids who were there for a wedding came into our meeting room, nearly in tears.  The one bridesmaid had come in from out of town and was just trying on her dress for the first time, and could not get it closed in the back.  It wasn’t even close!  Thank goodness the dress also had a silk shawl, so Iris got busy and sewed that dress around the girl with heavy thread, and then sewed the shawl to the dress, so it looked just perfect.  She single-handedly saved the day – and the wedding.  And of course, we all laughed through it, even the flustered bridesmaid!

Iris was there to help celebrate every big event in my life – my high school graduation, my college graduation, my wedding, and the births of my children, even if that meant she had to do a little driving.  It seemed she was always traveling somewhere.  When I remarked about her busy itinerary, she told me “A moving target is hard to hit!”  And that was Iris.  A Moving Target of love and caring for others.  She was involved in so many lives, and was such a part of us all.  Godspeed, Iris.