Little Book – Big Keepsake

My cousin doesn’t remember giving it to me and I don’t remember receiving it. We were but pint-sized back then. But, we know it’s from her because written inside seemingly by someone fairly new to cursive is:  “Merry Christmas to Naomi from Lois.”

What we don’t know is the year Lois, the baby of our cousin clan, gave me this cream-colored, leather-bound, flower pedal embossed hardcover 5 x 3 ¾-inch Birthday Book. Of all the gifts I’ve ever received, this one gets a blue ribbon.

Not only have I documented the birthdays of relatives, friends and neighbors, this little jewel serves as a Reader’s Digest condensed version of a history book. Not one page is missing, torn or wrinkled and in a split second, I am reminded of happy things as well as some less so.

Compiled by a man named I.B. Stolee, this little book has a 1942 copyright and was published by Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis. I probably received it in the 1950s.

Every page contains snippets of prayers and Bible verses. There’s also a listing of birth stones and flowers of the month as well as what to give for an anniversary – from the first to the 60th.

My Birthday Book lies open on a curio cabinet in the hallway of our home and I pass by it many times a day.  At the beginning of each month, I turn the page to see who is embarking on another year. There’s a story behind every person whose name is written on these pages.

How about we hopscotch through a few months. Dates are birthdays unless otherwise noted.

Feb. 16 – Ranka Ivelja, foreign journalist from Slovenia, who lived with us for a month in 1991. She came back for a visit two years ago and we picked up where we left off.

Feb. 17 – Jacob Wetterling – My heart will always break for him. I once interviewed his mother.

March 17 – Gail Stewart Hand – Best boss in the world.

March 18 – Dorothy Ann Kirk who gifted me with homemade divinity for Christmas.

April 6 – My favorite nephew, Tom. The Bible verse for this day fits Tom to a T. Proverbs 2:6 says – “The Lord giveth wisdom.” Tom is one of the wisest young farmers I know. He’s also a pilot. He once rented a plane in Fargo and on a beautiful October Sunday, he and I flew across North Dakota to Minot to see my mom (his grandma) in the nursing home. We had a piece of apple pie with her then flew back.

April 9 – My good friend and former colleague, Jeff Tiedeman, shares this day with my late grandma Ida. That makes me happy.

April 23 – The death of close friend Willis Myers from Montana. Willis was a farmer who knew I was a farm girl. I drove truck for him during harvest in 1968 and “unloaded on the go.”

April 25 – The late Clint Harstad, one of the finest gentlemen I’ve ever known. Clint was a longtime Grand Forks teacher and I met him through the Widow Widower Support Group. Clint became a dear friend. We enjoyed ice cream with him at his kitchen table.

May 28 – In her own handwriting, Joanne Macho wrote her name on this page. She and her husband, Ron, were the finest of neighbors. Both passed away in their early 50s. Joanne borrowed my blue swimsuit for a trip to Hawaii. A house across the street will always be Ron and Joanne’s house.

June 2 – Geneva Frazier, our dearly beloved sister-in-law from Jackson, Tenn.

June 12 – The passing of Dale Greenlees, another dear young friend who lived in the Twin Cities with his wife, Kelly, and their children.

June 28 – Elvira Ruettell who came to our table at Thanksgiving.

July 1 – The birthday of my mother, Freda, and nephew Chuck. My favorite Chuck story happened when I was riding with him to the family farm near Newburg. We landed in the ditch by York, N.D., during a white out on a cold, snow swirling night. Snow angels rescued us.

July 10 – The death of Doug McDougall keyboardist in a band.  Doug’s brother, the Rev. Dan McDougall, is a great friend who lives in Arkansas. Once at Whitey’s restaurant, someone asked Doug if he was the minister brother. “No,” Doug replied. “He’s Sunday morning, I’m Saturday night.”

July 20 – The death of Carol Graham, friend and co-worker. Carol and I attended country concerts at the Chester Fritz Auditorium. She gave me Iris bulbs that bloomed deep purple.

August 4 – The wedding anniversary of my sister Lori and husband Bob. As they neared their 50th year together, a brain tumor claimed Lori’s life on September 28.

August 11 – Birthday of Sharon Weber Kersten, my Maxbass, N.D. record hop dancing friend. Those were the days, my friend.

August 16 – The sudden tragic death of Don Johnson choir director at my church. I think of him every Wednesday night.

September 30 – Birthday of a sweet young lady named Claire who loves my Italian Cream Cake. I like making it for her birthday.

October 27 – Baptism of my God-child, Marnita Hall Halstengard.

Nov. 5 – Ken Koehler, retired Director of Christian Education who let me drive his Sea-Doo on Lake Metigoshe. I gunned it and nearly threw him off the back.

November 7 – Billy Graham. So glad I sang in his 6,000 voice choir in Fargo.

November 11 – Dearest of friends, LaVonne Russell Hootman, Professor of Nursing at UND for more than four decades.

Nov. 16 – Mike Jacobs who gave me the opportunity to be journalist.

Nov 22 – The late Alma Gustafson who taught in East Grand Forks for 62 years. Alma was the very first person to receive my book after it was published.

Of course there are many more birthdays written in the book, among them Jim, our sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren.

My mom, my sister and I were all born in July so once upon a time we penned ourselves, “The Ruby Girls.” Turns out Lois, the gift giver, is a Ruby Girl as well. July 17 is her big day. Wonder if she still writes in cursive. Wonder if she has a Birthday Book.

Until Soon

2 Responses

  1. Sandra Bethke

    Loved reading about your friends in your birthday book. This article gets five stars in my book!

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