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.”
“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.