MOUNT VERNON — There’s something different about Sarah Wirfs’ voice.
Absolutely, it’s a voice that you know has told a lot of people what to do. That’s maybe No. 1 in a single mother’s toolbox. Her voice has guided customers at Target on Blairs Ferry Road in Cedar Rapids for 28 years, a job she started when she was 16.
It’s told her children, Tristan and Kaylia, to do their chores, homework and all of that. Of course, she’s cheered her kids in sports, but she’s also pleaded cases in the principal’s office and made calls to fellow parents to check out the kids’ stories, making sure they’re actually sleeping where they said they were.
You know what else is in that voice? A lot of pride. Like a lot a lot. You know it when you hear it.
“She’s a strong woman, I must say,” said Jessica Wirfs, 40, Sarah’s sister. “You have to deal with a lot of things, you know. Not only is she a single mother, but she’s a single mother of biracial kids and that’s a whole other set of things that come up.
“I tell her all the time, ‘You’re amazing.’”
Gwen Klima is a family friend and has worked with Sarah for all 28 years at Target. She’s seen some life and times with the Wirfses, including playing host to the family up on Lake Delhi.
“She’d already had Tristan and was pregnant with Kaylia,” Klima said, “and she’d throw up in a trash can and kept working. She had some tough times, but she did what she had to do to get those kids raised and she did a great job.”
A lot of times, pride doesn’t allow you to accept help.
“We’re pretty proud folk,” Jessica said. “We don’t like asking for help unless it’s the last resort. We just had a different experience and you need someone to be there for you. As proud as we are, a lot of times, I just had to say ‘I don’t care if you want my help, you’re getting my help.’ It’s hard when you want to do it all on your own and you feel like you can, but sometimes you do need help.
“It takes a very strong person to recognize that and actually accept help.”
The Wirfses are from the area and, mostly, remain here, something Sarah absolutely appreciates.
“My family, we all live close,” Sarah said. “My mom lives here and my brother lives here. She lives in Lisbon now, but she lived here. My youngest sister lives in Cedar Rapids and my oldest sister lives in Iowa City. Other than one year, no one has lived anywhere else. They’ve always been close.”
Uncle Rich Wirfs, 50, dove in with rides. Aunt Julie, 52, was right there. Jessica did the best she could to clear off the calendar this year. Sarah’s mom and the kids’ grandmother, Sylvia, has been right there from day one.
Jessica didn’t start going to Iowa football games until she had a nephew on the team. Mom and aunt really do lose it when the son/nephew jogs out of the tunnel and onto the field.
“It’s a whole different experience when it’s someone you love out there,” Jessica said. “I cry and I just can’t stop it. I’m not a big crier, but you can’t help it when you see him. She’s right there, too. It’s an unbelievable experience.
“All of the emotions that are surging through me, Sarah’s are probably magnified by 1,000. That’s your son out there.”
You know how some parents brag? The Target crew didn’t mind. Still doesn’t.
“She tells us everything that’s going on,” Klima said. “It’s fun listening to her stories, because we all live vicariously through Sarah and her stories.”
Vacations weren’t exotic. Friends got to go to Cabo and skiing in Colorado. The Wirfses were good with Pikes Peak, Lake of the Ozarks or Lake Okoboji.
Life isn’t all rides to sports and doctors and school. Jessica said Sarah loves baking and is good at it. Maybe “business someday” good at it.
“She loves to bake, just loves it,” Jessica said.
Jessica and Sarah checked out Chris Stapleton at the Great Jones County Fair recently. She likes to get out with friends, as much as being a single parent and working in retail will allow.
Really, though, a lot of her life goes into Tristan and Kaylia.
“She loves being with her kids, she really does,” Jessica said. “That is her leisure, being there for them and doing for them.”