Sometimes over the course of your typical days of being a dad, it’s the smallest gestures that can make the biggest impact — and not just for the child.
David Laferriere is a dad of two sons south of Boston, Massachusetts. On Cinco de Mayo of 2008, David had an inspiration, grabbed a Sharpie and doodled on his sons’ school lunch sandwich bags. He says it was his version of writing them a note to let them know he was thinking of them, and being a graphic designer, it makes sense that his “note” came in the form of a quick conceptual drawing.
The clever fun around sandwiches, however, began when David’s sons were even younger.
“When the kids were really little,” says David, “I would make moldy’ grilled cheese sandwiches. They loved that. Basically, when you butter the bread, you mix it with food coloring, then you make the grilled cheese as you normally would.”
Always the one to make the boys’ school lunches, David first started experimenting with drawing on the bread with food coloring. He admits that this had pretty bad results. Then he realized that Sharpie worked well on the plastic bags and didn’t rub off.
It’s a small thing, but when repeated day after day, the bag drawings grew into a channel of communication and a meaningful point of connection. “They were both in elementary school when this began with the bags,” David continues. “It became a way of communicating back and forth. For example, if we went to a show over the weekend, then maybe I’d make a reference to it on the bag. Or there was one morning when it was particularly hard to wake them up, and I drew an alarm clock on the bag.”
Sometimes the bags point to subjects even deeper, more profound; painful. “My dad passed away this past February,” says David. “The bags I did for the boys the next morning had deep meaning.” One of these pictured a kite whose string had broken and was flying up to the heavens. The other was of a model rocket blasting off into the sky. Both of these represent iconic memories of his father from childhood.
One of eight children growing up, David says his father was “his inspiration” in the way he parents. “Even with eight children, my father was always there doing stuff with us, spending time with us.” On the morning he drew those two particular bags, David says “I was just beside myself.” Getting choked up, David goes on to recall all the kites and model rockets that were flown and launched in his childhood backyard. “The drawing of the kite flying up to the sky was like sending my dad off.”
Looking through the bags on Flickr, one sees dozens of kites and model rockets throughout. His father and his own childhood clearly have a strong presence.
“The daily bag drawings have been going on for [over] five years and so now we’re talking about over 1100 bags. I started taking pictures of the bags and putting them on Flickr because, well, they weren’t in very pristine shape when they came home and ultimately, they’d get thrown away.”
It’s a gesture for his sons but it also gives David a creative jump-start at the beginning of each day, he says. He forces himself to spend no more than five minutes on them. “I’ll have my cup of coffee, and a bowl of cereal, and I just look at the blank sandwiches,” David says. “Sometimes the bread itself gives me the idea.” Some of the quick drawings from this ritualistic morning exercise have, in turn, shown up in David’s graphic design work.
What will he do when his now teenage sons go away to college? David seems perplexed. “I guess I’ll have to figure out something new to do to keep that little connection each day. Maybe one day in the distant future I’ll draw pictures on bags for my grandkids. But I’m in no hurry for that.”