You may be surprised to hear that it’s been cold of late. How cold? Well, our friend’s oldest son was out on his backyard rink and shot a puck that went clean through his elderly neighbors’ brand-new fence. Money in hand, the boy went over to apologize and pay for the damage. The sweet homeowner waved him off, and said, “We saw that a family of boys had moved in, so my husband bought extra fence panels, just in case.”
This story reminded me of my own friendly “neighborhood” senior from my childhood – a quiet German widower named Dina.
Dina was a member of my family’s synagogue, where she attended every Shabbat service, volunteered in the women’s group, and single-handedly kept Andes Mints in production for the better part of half a century. Dina would sit in the back pew with her gentle, stuffed animal-loving, developmentally-disabled son, Eric. As soon as services were over, all of us kids would wander back under the guise of “saying hello to Dina and Eric” so as to pick up an Andes Mint and a compliment.
“Such a beautiful girl, such a goot boy,” Dina would murmur in a thick accent to each of us, producing a chocolate from her seemingly-bottomless handbag. No matter how many children showed up to services, be it five or 500, Dina had enough mints for all. If you were especially well- or poorly-behaved or Dina had recently filled up her coffers, you would be palmed two Mints.
Once a year, Dina and Eric would host the congregation’s Sukkah at their home. A Sukkah, for lack of a more intellectual description, is a little tent that Jewish families put up in their backyards in order to celebrate the harvest holiday of Sukkot. It was the job of the Sunday School to decorate the Sukkah with homemade art (as an aside, in addition to being a beautiful and goot girl, I am really, really good at making paper chains).
The Sunday School classes would go over to Dina and Eric’s house before the annual Sukkot celebration and gussy it up. And, of course, Dina would thank us in Mints. One year she gave us each five Andes Mints for decorating, and even more during the actual Sukkot party. By the time I went off to college, I had eaten roughly 100,000,000 chocolates and been told I was a “smart, pretty, wonderful girl” about the same amount.
I came home for Winter break during my junior year, just in time for the synagogue’s Hanukkah party. Dina and Eric had moved into an assisted living facility together by that point, and were both looking a little more frail than when I had left. I shook Dina’s hand, as always, and she slipped me an Andes Mint. “Such a beautiful girl,” she said, shaking my hand again.
Dina passed away at 94. Eric followed a few years later. In addition to the Mints, here are two more things about Dina: 1) She escaped Nazi Germany in 1938 after her brother and father were killed in the streets; and 2) outside of the occasional Andes Mint and/or stuffed animal splurge, she and Eric lived quite modestly; and so it was a bit surprising to hear that she had bequeathed the synagogue and the Grand Forks YMCA nearly a million dollars each after her passing.
I actually can’t remember the last time I ate an Andes Mint, and since I couldn’t think of a good photo for this story Kyle picked up a pack of ‘em and we set up a pretty artsy-fartsy model shoot. Turns out Andes Mints are still as delicious as they were when I was a kid.
This week’s news has a lot of LEGOs, volunteer grandparents, and barn gnomes. Read on.
The Bismarck Public Library has put together 250 LEGO kits – with 117 LEGO bricks each, courtesy of the Friends of the Bismarck Public Library – for kids to stretch their minds and their fingers. And a bonus: they have put the kits with several non-profits that support low-income families, including The Banquet, Heaven’s Helpers Closet 701, and the Abused Adult Resource Center, as well as Little Free Pantries and Libraries around town. (KX Net)
Eastern North Dakota’s Foster Grandparent Program – which apparently secretly never actually went away – is officially back up and running and spreading “Grandma Magic” all over the area. (Fargo Forum)
A whole family of little gnomes are now keeping barn animals company, and the proceeds from their sale has gone to help at-risk teenagers. (KFYR TV)
Fort Stevenson is hosting a chilly but probably beautiful full moon candlelit hike on February 27. (Devils Lake Journal)
Want to take a glamour selfie and help a Fargo boy in his cancer fight? Well, put on your party dress because the time is now. (KVRR)
Some of the longtime romantics at Baptist Health Care Center have offered up their “love advice” on the organization’s Facebook page. (KFYR TV)
Children and families in Dickinson are invited to come Skate with a Cop at the end of the month. (Dickinson Press)
Grafton’s Ty Olson is skiing 250 miles to raise money for the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation, noted in the article as “one of the poorest places in America.” (Grand Forks Herald)
Hillsboro’s Jeannine Bryant has published a book about losing her mom and her childhood home entitled, “Keep the Memories, Not the Stuff.” (Hillsboro Banner)
Jamestown’s Jamie Stoudt has written his first book, “Back Again,” about a woman who dies, but returns a few years later. Creepy! (News Dakota)
And speaking of Jamestown – as you may recall, two women in Jamestown sent out a request for Valentine’s Day cards for a two-year-old boy battling cancer. Unsurprisingly, thousands of people took to the post office. (KFYR TV)