Decades before the advent of “Take Our Daughters to Work Day,” my father would take the little-girl me to work with him on occasion. And what occasions they were. This was back in the 1960s, and my dad was a film editor working at a post-production company and editing TV commercials. These were the Mad Men days, and I was so enchanted with his work that advertising and I have had an ongoing love affair all this time.
Having the chance to go to work with my father was so exciting that I could barely sleep the night before. He caught a 7 a.m. commuter train each morning into New York City, so I had to wake up super early, after picking out my outfit the night before. I loved riding the train, sitting next to the window and watching the station signs go by. My dad would read The New York Times commuter-style; that is, he would fold the paper in half the long way and read each page one half at a time (turning the pages in this folded mode is an acquired art form – trust me).
Once we got into the city, I wouldn’t let go of his hand for anything, as the crowds in Penn Station swirled around me. Riding the subway was an adventure — how did he know which train to get on, I wondered, and more important, how could a train travel underground (the cute but neurotic little-girl me tried not to focus on that one for too long).
And then finally, there we were, in his office. The best part was getting to get sit alongside him while he worked in his editing room, seated at his Movieola and viewing and splicing film footage to create a story.
That’s the part that has stayed with me over all these years – his ability to create by being a storyteller. And that’s also the gift he passed down to me. As he created with images – sketching out storyboards, choosing his takes, and creating his final sequences to turn pieces of film into a final story – he taught me the beauty of creating through imagining. For me, creating has come through my writing, and I like to believe it started by watching him love his work.
The other highlights of the day? Getting to sit at my dad’s desk when he was out of his office at meetings down the hall, pretending to field calls and draw my own make-believe commercial storyboards. Being the center of attention when secretaries would poke their heads in and ooh and ahh over me (as I said, this was the 1960s, and secretarial pools were commonplace). Going out to lunch, not at a fancy expense-account restaurant, but at one of New York’s famous coffeeshops where I got to order whatever I wanted (burger, fries, and Daddy, could you please ask for more ketchup?).
I remember barely being able to keep my eyes open on the train trip home. Almost as soon as my father would put his briefcase and our coats up on the overhead rack I’d be halfway to dreamland, exhausted by the excitement of the trip, the energy of the city, and the sheer fun of watching my dad do what he loved – and my learning by example.
While going to work with my dad happened way, way before Take Our Daughters to Work Day became a calendar event, it impressed on me the importance of doing something productive and challenging and creative with my life just as much as it would impress a young girl going to work with her mother (or father) today. It fueled my passion for writing and my love of New York City. It showed me how loving what you do and doing what you love involves skill, talent, and hard work, and that, when it happens, it’s magic. It taught me to imagine and to dream.
And it allowed me to see my father in another dimension. He was a terrific teacher, without ever knowing it, and I was the perfect student, hungry to learn. I only wish he could have seen what I’ve become and could have read the story I continue to tell.
Sugar and splice.
©2021 Claudia Grossman