We had barely introduced ourselves when the newspaper editor held up our book, gesturing to our "two-faced" logo on the front cover and said something along the lines of …
Ok, off the record, admit it, you embellished the characters in the book to be more entertaining.
When we finished laughing, we explained …
that actually we had toned it down, feeling that no one would believe what we're really like, especially Black. With a journalist's healthy degree of skepticism, he politely smiled, put down the book beside him and we proceeded to do what's most important when you're at Kenny & Ziggy's Delicatessen, deciding what to eat.
And then, what else would two Jewish women (sisters, no less) meeting with Michael Duke, editor of the Jewish Herald-Voice, one of the Gulf Coast's oldest Jewish newspapers, do? We talked. And talked, and talked. About how we grew up in New York. About how we took very different roads in life, yet both ended up in Houston (Black as a career choice, Red because it's where her British husband had been transferred). And how Red had a crisis that Black turned into a book, a brand, and a business. One that was supposed to go to Hollywood but ended up in the world of education, having completed our first semester of teaching at KIPP Houston High School less than a year after Neiman Marcus had launched the book.
So, it began … a breakfast meeting that lasted until almost lunch. We had hoped for an article and ended up with a front-page cover story, with one of our favorite titles, "Raising Kids, Racing Cars." But we never expected that we'd soon begin writing a monthly column for the Jewish Herald-Voice. But now, over ten years and over 120 monthly columns later, here we are. Life has a funny way of taking you in directions you never expected.
Obviously, we didn't know any of that as we reluctantly got up from our table. As we started to walk towards the front cash register, Michael, who we now felt had become a friend in a mere few hours, paused, turned to us, and said:
You're right. You downplayed the characters.
Want to read our monthly column? Here's a list.
|Today's "Take Our Kids To Work Day," which made me think about how incredibly lucky we were that Daddy worked from home. Every day was take your kid to work day!|
|Yes, back then, many people had home offices, but they were typically separate from the house. For example, doctors and dentists whose practices were in extensions on their house. But, I also remember when Daddy worked in a "real" office.|
|Well, my memory is of Daddy working in his office in the basement. I'd come home from school, open the door to the basement, and shout down that I was home. Then, even before getting a snack, I'd go downstairs, plop down in the wooden chair in the corner of his workroom, and tell him all about my day.|
|Even when Daddy worked at a corporate office in New York City and commuted on the Long Island Rail Road, getting home just in time for dinner, that never stopped him from immediately asking about my day. No matter how tired he might be, he was always genuinely interested in everything and anything I wanted to discuss.|
|I never remember Daddy being tired, he was always present and engaged. I can remember asking him questions about his drafting table, the blueprints, and what he did, but it seemed based on math which was never my strong suit, so not much of it stuck with me.|
|He was a professional engineer (PE) specializing in HVAC (heating, venting, air-conditioning), and I can remember thinking that his blueprints looked like abstract artwork. They were so incredibly precise. Just like his handwriting.|
|That precision, along with his compassion, would've made him a great surgeon. I remember asking him why he never pursued that dream, and he explained that after serving in World War II he didn't want to put his life on hold to spend years becoming a doctor. But for purely selfish reasons, I'm glad he didn't because I loved growing up with him in the house.|
|I think he loved it, too. He quit his job in the City, which was a leap of faith because he gave up a steady income and job security, all for the sake of having quality time with his family. And, being his own boss, which meant a lot to him.|
|I think most people, if they could, would like to be their own boss. You still have to work incredibly hard, maybe even harder, but you do have more flexibility. I learned that from Red & Black, although I'd argue you're my boss.|
|Working for yourself or your own company is very different from working for others. Years later, I learned that Daddy went out on his own not just to have more time with us, although that was very important to him, but because he realized he was not a "company man". Making recommendations based on what was best for the company went against his "Honest Abe" approach of making recommendations based on what was best for the client, and then doing them the right way, not necessarily the most profitable way.|
|I never knew that! Although I'm not surprised. But regardless of his reasons, I'll always treasure my memories of the simple times of just chatting away with him while he worked. Can I remember what we said? No. But I can remember the feelings surrounding those conversations. Love, patience, interest, humor. Everything that made Daddy, well, Daddy.|
It's funny how one thing can remind you of another thing, sometimes in an obvious way, other times in a "train of thought" (or what Black calls "connect the dots") way. And in our case, that "train" has two passengers.
It began with Red reading a Texas Monthly article about younger tech-savvy people helping older lower-tech people schedule COVID-19 vaccines. Touched by the story, Red mentioned it to Black, who immediately thought of a recent email she'd received from Encore.org about a 31-year-old man living in Hawaii using technology during the isolation of the pandemic to befriend a 60-year-old woman living in Texas. We started talking about the power of one generation helping another, which led to our Banter Bite, Young + Old = Solutions.
Our conversation then detoured (as they often do), and we started reminiscing about the profile Encore published about us. It's not only one of our favorite pieces, but one we share with others as it explains, in an entertaining yet concise way, our highly improbable journey into the world of education (and criminal justice). A journey that we now looked at from a slightly different perspective, or at least Red did …
Looking back, the journey of Red & Black is proof that the experiences and lessons learned by one generation can be shared with others. When Black first created our business plan, she saw us as a "Disney for baby boomer women" because we're baby boomer women. The plan also included younger women (and men) as target audiences, but Black admits that was more "marketing" than actual expectations. Obviously, she was wrong. But there was no way to know we'd have such an unexpected impact (and ripple effect) on so many demographics, from middle school students to senior citizens.
And that's how one article led us to the memory of another article, with a few stops – and important lessons – along the way.
P.S. – For anyone "older" (that's a relative term, but we'll use 60-years-old as Red enjoys the fact she's "under" while her older sister is "over" that threshold), who's looking for a second-act (an "encore") with purpose we suggest you check out Encore.org.