A dear and long-time friend of mine had a birthday yesterday. She turned 104 yrs young. Happy Birthday Iris!
I first met Iris when I was 7 yrs old. She and her husband and daughter bought and moved into the house next door to my family home... I didn't like her. In my child's mind, she and her family were the reason my playmates (3 girls and a boy) went away, and I held it against her for a very long time - well at least until she started passing her yummy ginger crumbles across the fence at us. Then she became the nice old lady who lived next door. That was 50 yrs ago so that would have made her 54 - younger than I am now! Amazing!
Iris was a great neighbour to all her neighbours, but she became particularly close to my family. When my mother passed away, she became my mother-figure. When my son was born, she became his Grandmother. She celebrated birthdays, holidays, special occasions, and attended school plays, choir recitals, choir festivals, grandma-teacher days... she was always there. When I moved into my first home, she was the girlfriend who helped me unpack my china - she was 90 by then!
Iris was always full of humor, whit, knowledge. She traveled the world and had wonderful stories to tell of her travels and the people she met on them.
She was an awesome story teller. We spent many evenings hearing stories of our young city's growth. Being born in 1909 - she witnessed most of it. She watched the Hudson's Bay Store being built, as well as many other city landmarks.
My favorite story is one she told me several times. She knew I loved hearing stories of the early 1900's so she often led me down the path to that era with her charming tales of days gone by.
One of the rites of passage into womanhood in her era, was the fitting and purchase of one's first pair of kid gloves. This happened around age 13 or so. Gloves weren't sold off the rack back then, they were displayed in a glass showcase. You choose the particular style of glove you wanted and then you entered the "GLOVE SALON" to have them fitted.
Iris would demonstrate this as she told the story.
The Glove Salon was an actual salon located in The Hudson's Bay Store. It was very elegant - Victorian... lots of velvet and brocades. You were directed to a very high chair and told to sit. Beside the chair was a high narrow table with a plump red velvet pillow on it.
The glove attendant would enter the salon, with a gold-gilded glove box, that contained the pair of gloves you had chosen. She would bring the table close to the chair and position your elbow on the pillow - with your forearm vertical and your hand pointing to the ceiling.
She would carefully unwrap the first glove from it's delicate tissue in the box and line it up to your hand - fingers first. Then she would gently insert your fingers in the gloves fingers, and one by one work your fingers in to the gloves.
Gloves were not meant to be too tight, and certainly not too loose. The perfect pair fit was well - "Like a Glove"! According to Iris the glove was only perfect if the fingers had to be "worked" on, both in putting on and taking off the glove.
If you ever watch old 1940's movies, you will notice women doing this very action with their gloves as they put them on and take them off.
Once the gloves were fitted on to the wearer's hand she was instructed to flex her fingers and hands to make sure the gloves felt fine.
The gloves were re-wrapped into the tissue, put back into the gold box and tied with a fancy ribbon - and so you had performed your first rite of passage.
For Iris this would have been in the mid-1920's. I just love the story, and I will never forget the image of her showing me how this was done.
Iris is still my neighbour - she now lives in the nursing home across the street from us. She still knows who we all are and she still loves to visit - although her short-term memory is not great, she still can get the room in stitches in a few short minutes.
Happy Birthday, my dear friend... you are so loved!