NEW YORK — Every morning before Molly Murray, 9, leaves for school, her dad, Patrick, draws her an elaborate picture on her brown paper snack bag. He’s been doing it since his daughter’s first day of kindergarten at St. William the Abbot Catholic School in Seaford, and now that Molly is in third grade, they have more than 200 bags featuring Disney or Dr. Seuss characters, Broadway musicals, famous buildings and more.
Each bag has a red heart at the bottom corner and is signed “dad.”
Molly loves what the Murrays have dubbed the “snack-bag-of-the-day,” and so do her classmates, says the Wantagh girl. “They always say to me, ‘What’s the snack bag today?’ It’s just nice waking up in the morning knowing my dad will draw one for me.”
STARTED WITH A SMILE
The tradition started with a simple smiley face that Murray drew on his only child’s snack bag on her first day of kindergarten in 2015. The next day, “I got a little fancy,” says Murray, 46, who works from home running his own headhunting business. A kitchen magnet in their house was a replica of a poster for the Broadway show “Wicked,” and he copied the image using colored pencils and crayons.
Later came Woody from “Toy Story,” Harry Potter, Princess Leia from “Star Wars.” The Empire State Building, London’s Big Ben. A cartoon of Patrick and Molly going to a daddy-daughter dance. Molly playing lacrosse. One of Snow White’s seven dwarves. Snoopy. A Power Ranger. An American flag. A dog — the Murrays have two, a yellow Lab named Murphy and a Cava-Tzu named Finn.
In the beginning, the surprise of the pictures helped get a sleepy kindergartner up for school, Murray says. “It was a way to get her out of bed. ‘Hey Molly, you want to see the new snack-bag-of-the-day?’ That worked for a while. It doesn’t work that well anymore,” he jokes.
After weeks of pictures, “It just became a thing,” Murray says.
CREATING AT CRACK OF DAWN
“I do them every morning at 5 in the morning. Thank God for coffee,” Murray says. Each picture takes 30 minutes to an hour to complete, he says. “I kind of created a monster with this. I was pretty happy when summer rolled around.”
Murray isn’t an artist — he says he filled up notebooks with cartoons when he was a kid, but “before I started doing this, I don’t think I drew in 20 years.”
He says he doesn’t plan the drawings in advance. “Anything is fair game,” Murray says. Sometimes he’s stuck for an idea — that was the case, for instance, when one day he resorted to drawing the box of Crayola pencils he uses to create the artwork. Whenever Molly’s mom, Candice, 44, who works in global business development for a photo agency, travels for work, the bags that week will revolve around wherever she is.
“My favorite one he just drew yesterday,” Molly says. It’s of a van with a surfboard on top and palm trees behind. “My mom, she’s away in California on a business trip, and he did all sorts of things about California and Hollywood. Anytime she’s away, we’ll send her a picture of me and the snack bag of the day.”
Says Candice: “I love it. It just keeps us close as a family.”
‘AMAZING WHAT HE DOES’
Inside the brown paper snack bags are pretzels or Goldfish or a Rice Krispies treat. Molly’s actual lunch is in a lunchbox. Each morning at school, the kids put their snack bags into a bin and retrieve them later, says Molly’s third-grade teacher, Geri Acovino. “Everyone really looks forward to it. It’s amazing what he does on those bags,” says Acovino, who has been teaching 27 years. “All the years I’ve been teaching, I’ve never seen this before.”
The snack-bag-of-the-day tradition may organically come to an end next school year, because once the pupils at St. William the Abbot reach fourth grade, there’s no longer snack time during the school day, Murray says.
“People ask me what I am going to do with these things,” says Murray, who keeps the bags in two plastic bins. “Here’s what I think would be a cool idea.” In a couple of decades, when Molly has a son or daughter, her children can reuse the bags made by Grandpa.