“What’s a Kringle?” Lydia asked.
“What’s a what?” I responded. We were standing in line at Trader Joe’s, gathering up a few extra goodies for the upcoming holiday.
“A Kringle,” she repeated and gestured toward a cart in the lane next to us. In its basket was a pile of three flat bakery packages, each labeled Danish Kringle.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Stay here and I’ll find out.” I walked over to the two women by the cart. They looked relaxed and happy, chatting together, and I was pretty sure they were mother and daughter.
“Excuse me,” I said, “What’s a Kringle?”
The younger of the two turned to me and smiled widely, “It’s the best thing you’ve ever eaten in your life!” she exclaimed.
Her words and her mother’s spilled out, tumbling over each other and filling me in on the wonders of the Kringle.
“It’s a Danish pastry.”
“It’s ring-shaped and it’s super moist with a glaze on top.”
“It should come with a warning label! I start with just a small wedge and soon I’ve eaten my way around the whole circle!”
“It’s filled with a layer of marzipan.”
“Oh, they sound amazing! ” I exclaimed, as they wound down. “And marzipan! I love marzipan! Where did you find them?”
They looked at each other quickly.
“W-e-l-l, right over there,” the mother said, pointing to a holiday display on a nearby table. “But we took the last three,” she continued, sheepishly.
“But there must be more! I’m sure there are,” the younger woman burst in, enthusiastically. “Just find someone and ask them to check for you.”
“I will!” I said, and headed off in the direction they had indicated. Pastry! Marzipan! There was no time to lose!
I quickly located a helpful employee. She was doubtful, but willingly searched the back room. After a minute or two she returned.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “There aren’t any more back there. We ordered 7 cases this year, which is way more than usual, but it’s just been flying out the door!” How had I never heard of these before?
Disappointed, I headed back to Lydia and our waiting cart. I filled her in on the wonders of Kringles and the disappointing fact that they were all gone. The two women were ahead of us and finished checking out. They saw that I had returned and called out, “Oh, did you find any?”
“No,” I replied, “they’re all sold out.”
“Oh, no!” they chorused, and their faces fell.
“That’s okay. It’s probably for the best,” I laughed. “Thanks for telling me about them.”
Lydia and I finished checking out, but somehow our dried coconut strips and mango leather didn’t look quite as exciting as they had moments before.
As we exited our line, the two women were still by the windows at the front of the store. The younger blond woman walked up to me, smiling.
“Here,” she said, “We want you to have this.”
“What?” I responded, confused.
“This Kringle,” she said, holding out a Kringle package.
“Oh my gosh! Are you sure? ” I asked.
“Yes, we really don’t need three of them, and we’d like to give this one to you.”
“Wow! That’s so nice of you!” I gushed. “Can I at least pay you for it?”
“No,” she said, shaking her head, and placing the Kringle in my hands, “just think of it as Kringle love.”
We exchanged goodbyes, more thanks and holiday good wishes. Then, Lydia and I walked out of the store together, feeling warmed by this interaction and the random act of kindness and generosity. It was such a lovely beginning to our Thanksgiving weekend.
It’s all too easy to become pessimistic about the state of the world these days. Far too frequently, I find myself asking, “Who are these people?” when trying to make sense out of something going on in our country. I forget that there are many kind, generous people out there as well. This moment at Trader Joe’s was an important reminder of that. I loved the Kringle (I mean, I really loved the Kringle!), but even better than the sugar rush, is the surge of optimism that has lingered. This moment left me feeling connected rather than alienated. These two women are people I can understand and appreciate. Now, inspired by them, I’m going to see if I can figure out a way to sprinkle some Kringle love into someone else’s day.