If you get a Chance to Spend Black Friday with a Toucan … Take it

toucan1 crop

Ever spent Black Friday with a toucan?

I have. I thought the toucan was a parrot. Toucans probably get ticked when you make that assumption. I should also mention this was not the wee hours of Black Friday when folks in Walmart are tossing roundhouses and uppercuts over flatscreens and Xboxes.

This was Black Friday afternoon – in the relative aftermath of such American doltery.

It wasn’t your average toucan. It was Camdyn, in a full-body toucan costume. We’d envisioned – when we both thought the costume was a parrot – we’d walk around the mall someday, I dressed as a pirate, she as a parrot.

On Black Friday, on a trip to pick up gifts, Camdyn declared this the day.

‘I’ll probably be on the news!’


Just to make people smile,” she said. Grace’s “spread the love” initiative turned a little glory-seeking on the ride to Southpark Mall.

“People are probably going to want to take their picture with me,” she said.

“I’ll probably be on the news!” “I’m going to be famous!” You might remember visions of grandeur emerged when she wanted to march in the Pride parade in Charlotte over the summer. “You never know, honey,” I said. I didn’t want to dash visions, or make promises. “All that might happen, or nothing might happen. Or something in between.”

No dad wants to see dreams dashed, big or small.

I’m about to knock Madison out of the fantasy football playoff picture. What should be fist pumps for making the playoffs seems more like a shoulder shrug. I was rooting for her, against myself.

Recently, Camdyn tried out for a singing part in “Schoolhouse Rock Jr.”

So did the entire third, fourth and fifth grades. Including kids whose parents write checks for voice lessons. Here comes Camdyn, stellar shower, and car-ride singer, to beat those kids out. I knew she’d feel crushed if she didn’t get a part.

Would it be enough?

I also knew all I could do was encourage her to give her best, and cross my fingers.

Hope it was enough. Because it might not be. Or it might. She got a part and cranked out a sassy duet with her best friend in “Conjunction Junction. No dad wants to see dreams dashed, big or small.


A family in a car at a stoplight spotted the rogue toucan.

They were the first four smiles she got. Or, as she put it, “sweets.” “That’s four sweets, and only one sour,” Camdyn said. A guy in a work truck was sour.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this!” Camdyn said. She took a flight out in the Macy’s parking lot. I can, honey. It’s in your blood. My dad, in the midst of chemotherapy that robbed him of hair and forced him to walk around with a mask and IV stand, once did this.

The hospital staff brought around a cart of joke books, clown noses, and pranks for patients in the cancer ward to lift spirits one dreary day.

Dad, hurting particularly that day, put on his Broncos cap, a blue robe, and a red nose, and walked around to visit his neighbors that day. He didn’t feel like it at first, but just seeing the smiles on people’s faces … it was so worth it.

A teenager dealing with heavy chemo three doors down. A family who visited their mother across the hall. A nursing staff that worked around the clock to take care of everyone. They all smiled.

Now, his little legacy was off to take on holiday shoppers.

Lots of smiles

There were no news cameras. No lines of shoppers vying for a photo. But, there were smiles. Lots of them. Some of the “was that just a kid dressed as a toucan?” variety. When Camdyn saw someone – young or old – look at her, she’d wave. And they’d smile.

Store clerks, counting down minutes to the end of hellacious shifts smiled.

Kids in strollers … well, often they didn’t smile, but they didn’t blink. Even Santa Claus called Camdyn over for a high-five. “What are you dressed up for, little girl?” he asked. “I don’t know,” she said. “Just to make people smile.”

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“Me too,” Santa said with a laugh.

Camdyn had no idea what love she spread. I walked behind her and could see the smiles she didn’t see. The kiosk shoppers who turned to see Camdyn’s tail feathers. The young woman, by herself in a chair, deep in thought, who looked up and seemed to snicker. Who knows where her thoughts had been?

Was the smile just what someone needed?

Some people didn’t even notice. So wrapped up in their smartphones and holiday lists and own little worlds, they didn’t even notice the 4-foot birdie.

They missed out. I mean, your smartphone and Snapchats and text messages will come and go.

But a toucan doling out the sweets?

That’s a rare bird, indeed.

kalwar quote smile


  1. ksbeth says:

    wonderful eli )

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Not too bad for a third-grade toucan, right?

      1. ksbeth says:

        absolutely eli )

  2. You can tell Grace to add another ‘sweet’ to her tally because I’m still smiling after reading this! So much to love. A little girl who is confident enough to try out for a singing solo AND to dress up as a toucan to spread a little holiday cheer. A dad who’s willing to encourage that confidence & go along for the ride. A memory of your father setting aside his own suffering to help others forget their pain for a moment. Wow! The world needs more moments & love like this. Thanks for sharing. My only question: why didn’t you sport the pirate threads?

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Score! She’ll love that. I learn so much from that child. Who wouldn’t want to just be a part of it? She definitely reminded me of my dad that day, as I just walked behind her in the crowded mall and watched the magic unfold.

      I hope at least one person got a little lift from her that day. I know I did.

      Well, I would have done the pirate thing (I’m more scallywag than Blackbeard), but because it was a toucan, it just wouldn’t do.

      I guess I could have done the straw hat and Hawaiian shirt …

      1. Throw on some flip flops and belt out some Buffet tunes, and you’re golden!

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        Buffet’s so white – am I allowed to do that?

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I’ll chalk up another sweet!

  3. Totally smiled here and seriously this was one of the sweetest, nicest things I have read in a long time. My hat is off to Grace and I really needed this smile this morning. Thanks Grace!! 🙂

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Glad to hear hit, Janine! She’ll be happy the sweets keep coming.

  4. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    “Grace” – She has earned her name. How very wonderful of her! She’s so young yet she truly knows the spirit of the season.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      She’s been in a bit of a growth spurt lately, so she’s been a little on the clumsy side – but this day, she was pure grace. Thank you! I think the more smiles she saw, the more she understood the good she did – and it made her feel good, too.

  5. tamaralikecamera says:

    Yeah, this is pretty much my favorite thing ever. It pales in comparison to one bored June night, when my sister and I dressed as SuperGirl and Wonder Woman and went to 7-11 to get slurpees.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Sweet! Although, I’m sure there’s a demographic that would prefer SuperGirl and Wonder Woman to a pint-sized toucan.

  6. She cracks me up. I love it! I can’t believe some people didn’t even notice. Are we so caught up in the season that we can’t have a little fun? Their loss.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Me too – this’ll be a good story for her to tell when she’s grown up! It’s their loss – they missed out on the biggest toucan in the Carolinas that day. And a free sweet.

  7. Oh, I love this! How sweet that is – and I am sure that the sight of her brightened the day of many. 🙂

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      It was so much fun, Kim. I was awfully proud of her.

  8. Mike says:

    This is absolutely priceless, Eli! What a wonderful spirtual gift your precious little soul of a daughter has and to be that enlightened that early on. This entire post made me smile from ear to ear more than you can imagine. High 5s and many sweets to Grace from Phoenix and I! 🙂

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      It was incredible to be part of it, Mike. I know she had visions of fame, too, but when it came down to it, she was just smiling and waving at anyone who saw her.

      Glad she got a smile out of you, too. I’ll let her know she got more sweets!

  9. laurie27wsmith says:

    How sweet is that? You must really be one proud Dad. Well done Eli, you’re bring up some caring little people there.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Pretty stinking sweet, if you ask me. I’m unbelievably proud. I think I’m just blessed to be present. Thanks, mate.

      1. laurie27wsmith says:

        You’re welcome Eli.

  10. I pity the shoppers who didn’t take time to spot the GraceToucan…a rare sight indeed. Bless Grace…she is the icing on the cake of life. I missed seeing the GraceToucan, but am smiling anyway….

    …sweet 🙂

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      The world definitely needs more bird watchers on Black Friday. She’ll love being called the icing on the cake – that’s the sweetest part.

      Thanks Cath!

  11. Rorybore says:

    She’s awesome.
    What a beautiful little spirit she has. Just imagine what she will accomplish when that grows into a great big spirit with a heart for people? I for one believe in her.
    here’s your “sweet” precious:


    (ok, that was supposed to kinda be a bird. I think I nailed it?)

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks, Rory.

      I do love her spirit, and I hope some of her is in me, too. I hope that her spirit keeps shining through – I know as we get older, we don’t see the world in quite the same light.

      Your belief in her will make her smile, for sure.

      You did nail it – I think that’s a Toronto Blue Jay, no?

  12. What a sweet little bird! Malone would probably be up for something very similar, if given the chance!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I loved the idea from the start. Kids come up with the coolest ideas, don’t they? Maybe Malone could take the next leg of the flight.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Especially the tail feathers.

  13. Reblogged this on jennsmidlifecrisis and commented:
    One piece of advice I recently heard to “help you survive the holidays” was to act like a kid again…so this week Little Guy and I spun in our seats in the mall food court and played a few games of bumper knees. No one seemed to notice but we were certainly smiling. My friend, Coach Daddy, recently did something pretty amazing with his daughter and brought smiles to the faces of a lot of people trying to survive the holidays. Check it out: If you get a Chance to Spend Black Friday with a Toucan…Take it!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      So sweet of you to share it up there north of the border!

      1. Your black Friday has become our black Friday…even though we celebrate Thanksgiving in October.But I reaped the benefit in jewels this year! 🙂

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        Did you find a treasure chest?

  14. Catchy title — cute story!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks Marian – if a title makes you say, “what the … ” and click, it’s mission accomplished.

  15. Ginny Marie says:

    I can’t even stand the cuteness of this post! I want to pinch Grace’s cheeks right now! Such sweetness in one toucan. I especially love the part about your dad, though. I’ve been through chemo and it sucks. He sounds like an amazing man!

    Perfect post for this week’s Spin Cycle. Thanks for linking up!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Glad you liked it, Ginny. Sometimes, you sit back in awe at the things your kids do. You can imagine the spirit of my father I saw in my daughter that day.

      When you’ve had chemo, the last thing you feel like doing is being a clown, right? He taught me so much with his battle. Thanks for the opportunity to link up.

      Look forward to reading more in the group!

  16. Add another “sweet.” You are raising one amazing kid. Santa at the mall already? Wow. That just seemed way to early.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Duly marked! I learned a lot from that kid that day. And that post went up last year, later in the year than now. Although, if I saw Santa in the stores already, it wouldn’t surprise me.

  17. melissassk says:

    As a Mom the toucan story makes me smile inside and out. My oldest son at 3 went through a stage where he thought it was cool to wear sunglasses inside and outside. Even when eating in a restaurant or taking his bath. It always brought humor to everyone around us. Children have such sweet innocent hearts. So sorry about your Dad, too but, so touched that while going through a difficult and painful illness he still knew the value of humor and wanted to brighten someone else’s day. What an amazing man he must have been.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Don’t you love seeing our kids do good stuff, Melissa? I had one kid who wanted to wear a dress and tiara everywhere when she was little! You just kind of let them go with it.

      Dad was pretty amazing. I love seeing that in my kids, too.

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