Love Notes with Dead Presidents


Published:

My 10-year-old self was shopping at a strip mall while my mom was buying groceries. I had no money, so technically I was just loitering.

In the window of an art supply store was a $2 book on how to draw animals, a skill I desperately needed. While I was yearning for the book, two boys wandered up — my classmate Joe Prince and another boy I didn't know. Trying to follow my gaze, Joe yelled, "Wooohooo!" and pointed to a bendable, wood-and-wire human figure that looked like a foot-tall crash dummy. It was sex-neutral, but it was naked.

"Calm down," I said, "I'm looking at that book," and explained my situation. Then Joe's friend casually handed me two $1 bills. "Here you go," said this kid I'd never seen before. "Live it up."

That young philanthropist's donation made such a vivid impression on me that decades later I tried to re-create that impact to please and motivate my children.

Over the years I've given out small cash gifts to endorse a good choice of friends ($1), to cheer up a sick child ($2), to celebrate a good report card ($5), to reward a daughter who protected a classmate from bullies ($10), and to keep a teenager from cursing around her father ($3 a week). Whenever a daughter was heading back to college, instead of weeping tears of farewell, I'd lay a couple of extra twenties on her.

It's risky, expressing approval and love with money. But my practices have a sober side, too. I've always kept the girls' allowances low. That's so I wouldn't mind them squandering it, but also to help them understand that the real money would not come from Dad. It is "out there" — in the pockets of babysitting clients and other potential employers.

When they wanted something expensive but worthwhile, I told them, "I'll pay half if you pay half." A whole summer at camp? Yes! A really fancy computer? OK!

But when that system failed, the results were bad debts that lingered until forgiven (if not forgotten).

So where is my wife while I am doing all this? Betsy is busily dispensing the coin of human emotion — love, approval, disapproval, exhortation and sympathy — paid out along with hugs and kisses. That's what really runs the family. (Anyone remember the flimsy children's car seats of the 1950s? Each one had a little plastic steering wheel so the tot could imagine he is driving the car. As far as Betsy is concerned, that's me, although she never rubs it in.)

A few months ago, when our youngest daughter, Wendy, turned 18, she asked us, "What would you do if I got a tattoo?"

My wife voiced her expectations and spoke of what a loving daughter owes to her loving parents. She also touched on decisions that a teenager would regret later. I just said, "I'd stop paying your allowance." Fifteen bucks a week isn't much, but it's something.

Surprise! A week later, Wendy was tearfully showing us a blue butterfly engraved just southeast of her navel. Her mother felt worse than I did because she had put some personal oomph into the issue. I'm not a big punisher, but I cut off Wendy's allowance for six months just to maintain credibility for future threats.

Last week a mother, known to local babysitters as an iffy payer, asked Wendy if she would watch her 6-year-old. "I'll do it," Wendy told us. "She might not pay me, but I could use the good karma."

I am proud of her. So proud, in fact, that when the mom ended up giving her excuses instead of money, I gave Wendy $20 to show her that a good deed is its own reward. Even I can see the irony in that.

So what did she learn? Who knows? I wonder if any of my attempts at using money to manipulate or improve my children have any effect beyond expressing my feelings. It could be that giving money to kids has no more educational value than feeding lumps of sugar to horses. But is that so wrong? For me, hearing a child whinny with delight is worth a few dollars.

You can contact Rick Epstein at rickepstein@yahoo.com.

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June 2020

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More information

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Cost: $70/month

Where:
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2080 E Williams St
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Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

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Cost: Free

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View map »


Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
Website »

More information

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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
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View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Triangle Restaurant Week (January 20-26, 2020) is a week-long celebration of culinary excellence designed to incorporate the premier Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding area restaurants....

Cost: $15-$35

Where:
Participating Restaurants
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Sponsor: Triangle Blvd
Telephone: 919-673-5784
Website »

More information

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Cost: $35 per Student

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820 E. Williams St.
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Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
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View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
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265 Cambridge Ave #60923
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Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
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More information

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Cost: $70/month

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Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
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More information

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Cost: 125

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Sponsor: Mighty Me
Telephone: 919-397-2475
Contact Name: Karin Cross
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More information

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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
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View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

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Cost: 12/class

Where:
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Telephone: 919-271-0710
Contact Name: Chen Jiang
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More information

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Cost: $15-$35

Where:
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Telephone: 919-673-5784
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More information

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Where:
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Where:
500 S Salisbury St
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View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

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Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
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View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

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Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
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View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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Online at your Home
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View map »


Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
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More information

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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

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Cost: $15-$35

Where:
Participating Restaurants
, NC


Sponsor: Triangle Blvd
Telephone: 919-673-5784
Website »

More information

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Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
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820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
Website »

More information

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More information

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Cost: $6

Where:
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5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
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View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

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Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

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Cost: $11

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500 S Salisbury St
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View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

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Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
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Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
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Live online classes for kids - FREE! Kids and families can join our online classes from home while school is out. Our special guests teach kids about art, medicine, music, cooking, science and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online at your Home
265 Cambridge Ave #60923
Palo Alto, NC  94306
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Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
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Taco ’Bout Good Food! Zambrero Opens in Durham Get ready to have your world guac’ed! Zambrero, Australia’s largest Mexican franchise, is opening its first Durham location on June 13! ...

Cost: Varies

Where:
University Hill, Durham NC
3109 Shannon Road, #102
Durham, NC  27707
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Telephone: 910-239-2316
Contact Name: Susie Deatherage
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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The 16th Annual (Virtual) Beaver Queen Pageant, Beavers in the Stream! The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-423-1502
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
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Triangle Restaurant Week (January 20-26, 2020) is a week-long celebration of culinary excellence designed to incorporate the premier Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding area restaurants....

Cost: $15-$35

Where:
Participating Restaurants
, NC


Sponsor: Triangle Blvd
Telephone: 919-673-5784
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We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
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The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver personalities and compete for the title of Beaver Queen with their fashion,...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-698-9729
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
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River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
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