Monday, April 30, 2012

Cristina Alger on her Father's Office . . .

I've not read Cristina Alger's fiction, but I read a touching column that she published in this weekend's International Herald Tribune, but earlier online at the New York Times, where it appeared under the same title, "For One More Day at the Office" (April 26, 2012). Ms. Alger wrote of her early years as a very happy only child who enjoyed playing 'office' to be like her father, who worked as "a mutual fund manager," which I suppose was what she pretended to be in her office games at home. She also loved visiting his real office:
My dad's office, in those years on Maiden Lane in the Financial District, felt like Cheers: it was a place where I could relax after a long day, where everyone knew my name. The car ride downtown was part of the thrill: dad's driver, Angel, would sneak me contraband gum or Life Savers, and gossip with me about his latest crisis with his latest girlfriend. Going through building security never got old, either. I liked signing in and getting a sticker with my name on it. It made me feel like part of the team.

Upstairs I could go to the trading floor, where the traders would high-five me and teach me the occasional curse word. Dad's secretary, Louise, always seemed happy to see me. She would let me sit at her desk and color while I waited for Dad to get off a call. The walls of Dad's office were adorned with my artwork (his favorite, later a source of deep humiliation for me, was a pink stick figure holding a fish, which I had provocatively titled "Naked Girl With Fish"). Dad was always willing to give me tasks that made me feel important. I would help color in stock charts ("This makes it easier for me to read," he would say, nodding approvingly). Sometimes, I was allowed to answer his phone.

Ms. Alger's father apparently also liked his office, for she tells us that her "dad was then, and remains to this day, one of the few grown-ups I have come across who truly loved his job . . . [and] would come home filled with stories about Wall Street . . . [and an] enthusiasm for work [that] was infectious." Reading her words, I imagined him not yet retired since Ms. Alger is yet young, so I was not prepared for this:
Some days I wish I had Dad's supply closet to raid, or Dad's colleagues to joke around with. More often, I just wish I had Dad, so we could chat about how much we love our work. He died far too young, and far too suddenly, on Sept. 11, 2001, in the office that he loved.

I see from the biographical note at her website that she graduated from Harvard in 2002, so I suppose her senior year began with her father's death in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, and I cannot imagine how devastating that must have been for her. But she tells us that a "small measure of comfort . . . is . . . [the] firm belief that he would not have lived his life any differently if he had known" that he would die doing the job he loved.

That must provide a degree of comfort, though I cannot dwell on the manner in which he might have died without an equal measure of despair, for there are ways people died that day that go beyond words, but perhaps that's the reason Ms. Alger yearns for one more day at the office, for if she could now have at least one more, that terrible day could not have happened . . .

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At 3:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coincidental post? One of the lead stories in the morning news I watch, was the new One Trade Center officially topping the Empire State Building today, 4/30/2012. It is slated to be almost 1,800 feet tall including a 400+ foot antenna. I tend to not dwell on the past too much, however; the images from that day have not dimmed over the years.


At 4:09 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I noticed a headline about whether or not the new WTC would be the world's tallest building when finished. I didn't read the article, but I presume the uncertainty depends on the date of its completion, for other really tall structures currently under construction are in competition for the title.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The article I read said it would wind up being the 2nd tallest building in the US, behind the Willis Building in Chicago. Well short of any world record.


At 6:47 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

My error, then. I must have seen a misleading headline that would have been corrected if I'd bothered to read the article.

Imagine how much else I have wrong about the world!

Jeffery Hodges

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