A-n-t-i-c-i-p-a-t-i-o-n can be a wonderful thing! The months and weeks leading up to the big day were filled with excitement and making plans. When September finally arrived, it was time to prepare a cozy, welcoming guest room for our very special friend.
Let’s start at the very beginning of this story…
The seeds of our very special friendship were sown 39 years ago. My Uncle Bill (who had moved to Germany, after serving in Vietnam) knew that his co-worker and friend would be passing through Chicago on a tour with her parents. He asked Iris to bring a packet of photos for us. We were so grateful for her kindness! So, my mother, my brother, and I met Iris and her parents at the Blackstone Hotel on a Sunday afternoon, in March. It was a day that would change lives forever!
Our families felt a friendship begin to sprout that afternoon, as Iris translated for all of us. There was so much to talk about as we got to know one another. Iris and I both felt a warm connection beginning to take root that day. We were both the same age and curious about the world. We promised to write letters to one another. As we parted ways, I told her, “If you’d ever like to come visit again, you are always welcome to stay with us!”
Just a few months later, Iris came back for an extended visit! 🙂 🙂
Our friendship began to blossom as Iris became a special part of our family and my circle of friends. My teaching career was just beginning and my dreams were just beginning to come true! The following summer, I went to visit Iris for several weeks. She lives in a beautiful city in southwest Germany, near the Black Forest. I felt so blessed to be welcomed into her family and her circle of friends during that wonderful summer in 1979.
Our special friendship has flourished as three decades have passed. Since we were both single, footloose, and fancy-free, we were so fortunate to share our travel dreams together. Iris often came to visit me (during the even-numbered years) and I often visited her (during the odd-numbered years). Oh, the exciting adventures we have had together!!
(Full disclosure: In the Munich beer garden, I just was holding the huge beer for a photo op! Beer has never been my ‘cup of tea.’ 🙂 )
Cars, buses, boats, trains, and planes have helped us to explore America and Europe together. In between our visits, letters, postcards, and phone calls were the water and sunshine that kept us close. I will always remember writing a letter and waiting weeks for a reply via overseas airmail. How fortunate we are to stay close so easily now, via email and occasional Skype visits! 🙂
Both of our lives have grown busier over the past several years. Yet, Iris and I have always kept one another very close at heart. I was so excited to introduce my husband to Iris (and all of my German family and friends), when we visited Germany five years ago to celebrate my Renaissance (the ‘R’ word that I use for Retirement)! True friends, together again!
Over the years, I have always grown Irises in my Friendship Garden, as I dreamed of another visit with my perennial friend. I carefully tended the yellow and purple blossoms as our friendship continued to grow and blossom.
Can you imagine the happiness that we all felt as we awaited a mid-September visit from our dear friend, Iris?
We filled our precious days together with some of our very favorite activities. We enjoyed a family gathering for our traditional Pumpkin Soup dinner. My parents and Iris enjoyed a nice Skype visit across the miles. We truly relished all of our relaxing evenings spent talking and laughing on the front porch, while the cicadas and the crickets serenaded us. Dear friends, together again! 🙂 🙂
We welcomed Autumn with a visit to Amish country in Northern Indiana. Iris and I have always loved exploring the peaceful countryside near Shipshewana and Middlebury and the clip-clop sounds of the Amish horse and buggies. My husband was fascinated by his first visit to Amish country.
Signs of Autumn were everywhere, while Summer-like temperatures soared to the mid-90s (twenty-five degrees above normal!). We admired beautiful Amish quilts and handmade furniture and were tempted by yummy baked goods and preserves. We learned a great deal about the history of the Amish and Mennonite people from the interesting tour guides and multi-media presentations at the Menno-Hof . Everywhere we went, the Amish people were eager to speak German (their first language) with Iris.
We spent our second day exploring the small town of Middlebury, Indiana. We enjoyed a colorful quilt shop and a beautiful Quilt Garden. Iris visited her first covered bridge. I will always remember our visits to an Amish home and farmstead to admire their handmade quilts.
My husband and I look forward to visiting other Amish communities in the future. Iris and I promised to carry the tranquil clip-clop sound of the horse and buggies with us when life returns to its usual busyness.
We all enjoyed spending a day at a Native American Harvest Pow-Wow. Dancers and drum circles from Indian Nations across the Midwest gathered for the weekend to share their traditional dancing, drumming, music, arts, and foods. It was a nice opportunity to talk with several Native Americans. It was fascinating to learn more about their traditions and the ceremonial herbs used in their sacred fire circle. The dancers and drummers endured two days of unseasonably hot, humid weather to share their traditions and we felt so grateful for the opportunity to experience another Pow-Wow. (You might like to visit the large Red Mountain Eagle Pow-Wow with us on the Pima-Maricopa Reservation last Fall, in Arizona, here.)
The next day, we cooled off with a peaceful walk along the beaches of Lake Michigan, at Illinois Beach State Park. Lake Michigan is one of the five Great Lakes. Its name comes from the Ojibwe word “michi-gami” (meaning ‘great water’). During past visits, we have enjoyed sailing on Lake Michigan with dear friends!
Then it was time to share some of my favorite places closer to home. Iris and I enjoyed lovely walks in nature at a nearby Arboretum and along our native prairie. We visited nearby greenhouses to admire their expansive collection of beautiful orchids. We visited my favorite library and two favorite shopping malls. (Her suitcase was extra-full on her trip home!)
We thrive on new experiences! So, Iris sat in a sporty, red Tesla and learned all about it. She always dreamed of sitting on a Harley. So, we wandered through the Harley-Davidson dealership as a friendly salesperson answered all of our questions. For a new taste treat, Iris enjoyed her first burrito!
We squeezed many new adventures into our time together. I will always cherish our times reminiscing (and laughing) about our adventures over the past 39 years. What fun to look through photo albums filled with happy memories of our times together in Germany (and so many places in Europe) and America!
When I look back on our 2017 visit, I will always remember three special sounds: the clip-clop of the Amish horse and buggies, the call of the drums at the Harvest Pow-Wow, and laughter… so much laughter! Our time together just overflowed with happiness and hugs!
As always, our visit flew by much too quickly. Of course, we didn’t say, “Goodbye.” Instead I promised, “Bis bald.” (“See you soon!”) Our next adventure might happen here, there, or somewhere in between. 🙂 🙂 Dear friends, together again!
Heartfelt thanks for taking the time to visit today! It has been very quiet here on our blog for several weeks now. With everything happening in America and beyond, it felt kind of trivial to share my words. Unbelievable wildfires, the destruction caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, Maria, and now Nate, a devastating earthquake in Mexico,… and then the heartbreaking gun violence in Las Vegas.
Long ago, I experienced the dangers of Nature’s fury. I do know how it feels to have one’s life unexpectedly turned upside down. The effects last long after the clean-up. We cannot forget the people in Texas, Florida, and the islands. They will need our help for a long time as they put their lives back together. If you have been affected by recent storms or are one of the brave first responders, please let us know how you are doing.
Blogging has become such an important part of my creative journey. I have been giving it a great deal of thought over the past weeks. Perhaps when times are difficult in our world, it is important to share my voice… and a little dose of sunshine! ♥♥
I’m looking forward to visiting all of my blog friends in the coming days, too. 🙂
P.S. This weekend we will celebrate World Cardmaking Day! I’ll be back very soon to share!