Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Celebrating Charlie: Part One

As you all know, yesterday was my dad's 65th birthday so we got together as a family to celebrate it in true Palmore style. Let me tell you about it . . .

After my dad died, we wanted to celebrate his birthday in a meaningful way that would help his memory live on. So we decided that we would go to the mall and look for people who did nice things that reminded us of things he would do: opening doors for people, letting people go in front of him on the escalator, picking something up that someone had dropped, things of this nature. Then we'd stop those people, tell them about my dad and all that he stood for, and give them a $20 bill as a reward for what they had done. It was such a success and so much fun that we've continued the tradition.

This is the fourth year that we've celebrated my dad's birthday this way and it's evolved a bit since then. Now we get together earlier in the day and write out a card to the person we're going to reward and we put the $20 bill in the card for them. The card tells them about what we're doing so that they have a memento and something with my dad's name on it. It makes us feel like, if they keep the card or show it to other people, more people will know the name "Charlie Palmore" and associate it with the qualities he epitomized. This year our card said:

"I lost my dad 3 years ago. He was thoughtful, kind, and always a gentleman. Every September 1st we celebrate his birthday by looking for people who appear to possess the very same qualities that made him so very special. I saw you doing something that reminded me of him so I wanted you to have this little treat so that you would know that I think you're special, too!"

We met up at Tammy's house and wrote out our cards. When it was time to go, we went out into Tammy's backyard to figure out which cars we were taking, who was riding with whom, etc. But before we could do that, the kids had to show us how well they do cartwheels. Unfortunately, they have yet to figure out just how competitive this family is. Before they knew it, they were having to clear the lawn so that Erin, Tammy, and I could do OUR cartwheels for them. I'm pretty sure they were impressed with our mad gymnastic skills. And I'm pretty sure that my right hamstring will never be the same.

After we had finished schooling the kids in the art of cartwheels and round-offs, we piled in the cars and headed to the mall to begin our search for people who did something worth rewarding. Now let me explain how this works. First, we've found that the key to this search is to split up so that we are more focused on our goal and less focused on chatting with each other. We take this VERY seriously, can you tell? :) Second, once we give our card away, we're not allowed to tell anyone about it until we get to dinner so that we can "regale" everyone (Nora's favorite word . . . and activity) over our meal. This is very strictly enforced . . . except for Erin and Matt who always seem to spill the beans to each other before dinner. Rebels. Third, after we've given our card away we head back to our pre-determined meeting spot and then we all head to dinner for the big regaling.

So we got to the mall and split up. The kids all decided they wanted to walk with me to help me look for my special person. Why did they want to go with me? Because I'm their favorite aunt, that's why . . . did you really have to ask? ANYWAY, so the kids and I were walking up and down the mall keeping our eyes open for good deeds and we were not having any luck. Emma gathered quarters from her purse to give her own reward to our special person but there just wasn't anybody doing anything even remotely nice. At one point, we saw a girl and her boyfriend walk up to the sample plate at the Original Cookie Co. kiosk downstairs. She grabbed a sample and knocked about four other samples onto the floor. They slid in all directions across the slick mall tile and both the girl and the guy looked at them and then walked over to a nearby bench. They were probably both in their early twenties and old enough to know better than that. I pointed this out to the kids and said "See - they just dropped all those cookies on the ground and they didn't even pick them up. Grandpa would have picked them up. So they will NOT get our card. They made the mall dirty and they're not even fixing it." Savannah looks up and me and says "Should I pick the cookies up, Catchy?" and then I could see the wheels starting to turn in her head - she is SUCH a little analyzer. Then she says "I mean, they might be doing what we're doing." Then very quickly, she scrunched up her face and said "No, they're probably not. We invented this." Man, I love these kids.

My mom and my brother-in-law Matt were the only ones who were able to give their cards away at the mall. The rest of us found a whole bunch o' nothin' out there. So we decided to move our search to the restaurant where we'd be eating - maybe we'd have more luck there. On our way out, Brian saw someone he wanted to reward. I found mine on the way to the Cheesecake Factory. Tammy found hers at Barnes & Noble when she ran in to buy a book before dinner. And then Erin found hers at the Cheesecake Factory.

So who did we give our rewards to? And what did they do to deserve it? Well, friends, you'll have to tune in tomorrow for everyone's stories AND the pictures of each of the lucky recipients!!!

See you tomorrow! :)


Anonymous said...

That is the neatest thing that I have ever heard.

Unknown said...

Nice cliffhanger, Catch!! Even though I was there, I can't wait to "hear"!!

Unknown said...

That was Tammy, not Nora!!! Sorry!

The Leuenberger's said...

Catchy...I love that ya'll do that for your Dad. What a special family.

So...I was looking at your blog and decided you really need to update the look. Go to and you can pick out a background for free. They even tell you how to load it on your page. Just thought I'd help you out--great stories though!!!
Haha. Oh-i'm making Bryan that oriental chicken salad you introduced me to. He loves it!!

Deborah said...

awesome tradition - I can't wait to hear the stories!

Monica Ricci said...

Love it! I like to think I do all the nice things your dad did -- and yesterday two of them came back to me within the same half hour.

A man behind me in line at the grocery store lifted all five of my 12-packs of soda off the bottom of my cart and put them on the cashier's belt. I didn't ask him to, he just did it. So sweet.

Then as I was returning my empty shopping cart to the cart corral in the parking lot, a lady who was also taking hers offered to take mine there too.

It was lovely, and it made me realize why I do the same kind of things -- because it takes people by surprise in a good way. Bless your dad for doing kindnesses for strangers! Can't wait to read tomorrow's stories! :o)

Catherine said...

Monica, those are PERFECT examples of what we look for when we're celebrating my dad's birthday! You could have given away two cards without having to walk all over the mall for an hour!! :) Thanks for sharing those stories!