THE BLOG
06/18/2012 11:31 am ET | Updated Aug 16, 2012

Family Business: A Series

I don't know what happened to the briefcase, quite ragged by the time he died, that my father carried home each night by its leather handles. It was always filled to the brim with papers and stock sheets on which to hand-write the money he was saving in each of our names -- me, my brother, my mother, his mother. But it was the scraps of paper he would bring that I loved.

He was in the printing business -- well, kind of -- he was in the business of creating forms.
Forms meant there was a need for carbon copying, but just in spots. So naturally, the logo for the business was a leopard with spots. Airline tickets in those days, for example, were forms with spot carbon areas on the backside of the ticket so that a copy could be made only where necessary. Dad had a patent on a process which had a tiny thin layer of wax over the carbon ink so it wouldn't smudge.

That was the keyword.

Smudge.

On every family vacation, he would seek out local potential customers and take me along to watch the way he lit a match and whoosh -- magically -- the wax melted away from the ink. With a twinkle in his eye and the honesty of his face, he'd make a new sale.

The printing plant on the top floors of the building at Broadway and 4th street in New York City used many different colors, weights and styles of paper. Dad would bring home the cut-up pieces which I could use for notes, phone messages and secret messages to myself. I remember the blues and pinks and yellows and greens -- all pale museum colors in small piles of mixed sizes -- home-for-supper treats in his briefcase. Leftovers!

I found and saved some when I cleaned out my parents' 6,000 square foot house in 2009 when my mother died.

They are now ready for collage.