“Happy Birthday to you! Happy birthday Charlie and Donna; happy birthday to you!”
The diner was filled with voices of joy and love; sounds that resonated “family.” Following the year Donna fostered Charlie, she celebrated their birthdays together at Donna’s. She gave her staff the day off, their whole meal was catered, and the restaurant was still open to the public. Anyone who wanted to be there showed up with gifts and even brought food of their own. Surprisingly enough there was always food left over for people to take home. The diner party had seemed to become a Magnolia Springs tradition. It was a day that meant a lot to Donna as it brought her great peace in being celebrated while sort of giving back to the community. She was a firm believer that when you take care of the people, the people will take care of you.
“Bix, this stuff right here is magical man!” Charlie exclaimed. Bix came through with his famous brownies for the party. He crafted a huge sheet like brownie pecan cake; drizzled with caramel sauce and extra nuts. “Thanks Chuck, glad you like it,” Bix answered. “Like it? I love it man! This cake is crazy good!” Charlie responded. “Yeah Mr. Bix. You out did yourself on this one for sure,” David concurred. “I appreciate it guys, for real,” Bix told them.
Charlie smiled. He walked around their table to Bix and put his hand on his shoulder. He leaned down and whispered, “Hey man. If that architect thing don’t work out, you can always come here and work for Mama. It’s easier to keep your vows when you ain’t broke. We both know how she gets sometimes. It would be an “upgrade ya” in reverse. You know; like from a Hov perspective.” Bix almost choked on his cake laughing at Charlie. “See man, there you go!” “I’m just looking out for family man; something to keep on the back burner just in case,” Charlie teased. Unfortunately Charlie wasn’t as good a whisperer as he’d thought. The whole table had heard his advice to Bix. “Boy, come sit down and leave grown folks alone,” Donna said; laughing and rolling her eyes. “How bout you tell us how stuff at school is going since you want to be in other people’s business.”
“Well, since I’m 16 now, I can say I’m gonna be a pretty cool kid,” Charlie stated as he walked over to a picture hanging above their table. He took the frame down off its hook, and displayed it to the guests like he was up in front of a class doing “Show-N-Tell.” “Why?” he continued, “because I keep my eyes to the sky just like this man right here.” The picture Charlie held was a high school shot of Donna’s father in the midst of his 1,2 step to the backboard. “I’m going to keep going to class, and working on my moves, so I can be a legend just like him,” Charlie stated. Everyone began to laugh and clap. Charlie took a bow and put the picture back on the wall. “Mama I forgot to tell you; they named the gym after Pop Warner the other day. One of my teachers said he recently gave money to remodel it, and put in a new floor,” Charlie said to Donna as he sat back down. “Yeah I read about it in the Hearld. That was real nice of him,” Donna replied. “Oh my Lord!” gasped one of the guests. “Speak of the devil, and he shall appear!”
Everyone turned to see who’d made the doorbell ring as if Jesus might be entering. In the doorway of Donna’s stood a man everyone seemed to recognize but Charlie. His polo shirt and dress slacks were extra clean and pressed. His shoes shined; his beard freshly shaped, and his hair was neatly combed back. He entered the diner and walked straight up to Charlie. “You save me a seat Buck?” It was Mr. Charles! “Man! I didn’t know when I was going to see you again! What are you doing here?!” Charlie said in excitement. “I came to surprise my beautiful daughter on her birthday. I just didn’t realize my beautiful grandson would be here too,” Charles explained. Charlie stared at Charles in shock. The whole room had fallen silent, and all Charlie could hear was the beat of his racing heart. Donna got up and walked around the table. She threw her arms around her father, and he embraced her too. “Hi Daddy!” She exclaimed. Charlie watched them with tears running down his cheeks.
He was suddenly connecting the dots, and happy life turned out to be in his favor. “Pop is my pop! Oh my god! This is crazy!” Charlie shouted. The room filled with clapping and laughter again. Charles grabbed Charlie and hugged him too. “I’m telling you what Buck, you really are a little rascal, and now I see where you get it from. I got some news for you though; in fact I got some news for all of you,” Charles stated as he opened up his conversation to the rest of the room. “I know most of you probably saw that Hearld article about the school gym and all, but what you don’t know is; after turning away from years of stubborn ways, I decided to accept the district’s offer as Superintendent.” The room filled again, but with cheering this time. Charles put his hand on Charlie’s shoulder and said, “you don’t have to worry about no one messing with you at school ever again. From now on, everyone at your school down to the mop in the janitor’s closet will be answering to me.”
“Wow. Thanks Pop!” was mostly all Charlie could think of to say. “I just can’t believe it was you with me at the park all those days,” he continued. “Well here’s the secret,” Charles began. “I let life escape me after your grandma Donada died. I brought a basketball to the park every day and left it on the court hoping I’d get a reason to pick it up again. Then one day I heard you walking by. Anyone can be taught, but in order to learn, you need the will to change and the desire to do so. And I’m proud to say you taught me that. I asked you that one time if your story was the indeed truth because deep down I already knew. What I didn’t know was that Donna was the family you were talking about.” “This is so cool,” Charlie replied. “Indeed it is baby,” Donna agreed. Then the “church” proceeded with, “cooler than all the fireworks on the fourth of July!”
The diner party turned out to be a lot sweeter than Charlie and Donna could’ve hoped. Through all the trouble their pasts had seemed to cause them, now they felt safer than ever. Their hearts were full, but allowed the present to make room for their futures. Just when Charlie and Donna were about to give up, Love showed up; telling them now was the time to give love every day. Charlie decided from that day on he’d not only give more love to himself, but to everything that made life worth living. The Warner family reunion was better than any physical gift he’d ever received.
This story is filled lots of love, tears, and laughter.
I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
I encourage you to share this story with anyone who might enjoy it too.
Always remember a simple message can change a mind, heal a heart, and change a life.
I’m eager to hear your feedback in the comments below!