Snack packs an artistic hit at St. William

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For 9-year-old Wantagh third-grader Molly Murray, the brown paper bag in which she carries a snack to school every day is more than just storage. “It makes me get out of bed sometimes,” Molly said of the special snack bags her father, Patrick Murray, decorates for her.

“It was never meant for something beyond our house,” said Patrick, who grew up in Seaford. “It was just for us.”

Murray said that interest in Molly’s snack bags has grown in the community. “We get stopped now walking around town,” he said. “Molly has become a little bit of a celebrity at her school. She’s known as the kid with the snack bags. Even the older kids know who she is, and that’s pretty fun.”

Murray started decorating his daughter’s snack bags when she was in preschool at St. William the Abbot School in Seaford. The students were told to bring daily snacks to eat around 10 a.m. “On the first day, I just drew a smiley face and wrote, ‘Love, Mom and Dad,’” Murray recalled.

On Molly’s second day, her father was drinking coffee at around 5 a.m. when he noticed a magnet on his kitchen refrigerator from the Broadway musical “Wicked.” “I looked at the picture, and I decided to draw the ‘Wicked’ picture on Molly’s snack bag,”

he said. “When

she came down from upstairs, she saw it, and she loved it.”

So Murray decided to draw a picture the next day as well. “It just started to grow from there,” he said. “I started to draw one each morning. It became a way to get Molly out of bed.”

As the school year progressed, Murray began to view the drawings as a challenge. He wanted to create a new one every day for the entire school year. “And I did it,” he said.

Once summer came, he figured the drawings had to come to an end. “Until the next year,” he said, “when Molly said, ‘Hey, Dad, are you going to draw snack bags again this year?’ So it started all over again.”

With the snack-bag total now well into the hundreds, Murray is now pondering hanging up his decorator’s hat. “Snack ends this year for her,” he said. “Next year she’s a big shot in the fourth grade, and fourth-graders don’t have snack time in the morning. So I guess this is the end of it this year, unless she starts bringing a brown paper bag to lunch.”

Molly said that her dad could also decorate snack bags for her to bring to Seaford Police Athletic League lacrosse practices. This is her second year of involvement in the sport.

Murray, 46, who earned an accounting degree from Fairfield University in Connecticut, is a headhunter for PJM Search, and works at home. His wife, Candice, is the head of global development for a technology company based in the Empire State Building in Manhattan.

While he doesn’t consider himself an artist, Murray described his snack bag drawings as a particular talent of his. “I just taught myself,” he said. “I liked comic books. I’d read them and try to draw what was in there.”

In the beginning, he drew Disney princesses. Now he draws “anything and everything,” including sports figures, college logos, cities and architecture. Last week, Candice was in London, and he decorated Molly’s snack bags with London themes, including the Coca-Cola London Eye Ferris Wheel and an English bulldog.

Candice travels a lot, and, Patrick said, “Molly will take a picture of [a bag] and send it to her mom. It’s a way to keep connected, and it’s something fun that Candice doesn’t feel so far away.”

It takes him 45 minutes to an hour and a half to create a drawing, he explained, after he makes himself the morning’s first cup of coffee. He uses a No. 2 pencil and Molly’s Crayola pencils, markers and crayons. Most of the time he has an idea in advance, but sometimes his inspiration is more spur-of-the-moment. Their favorite snack bag, drawn last Wednesday, March 27, depicts Freddie Mercury, of Queen, with one arm raised triumphantly.

“Most often than not, it’s easy,” Murray said. “I never stress about it. I actually look forward to it. It’s something that gets me out of bed in the morning.”

It’s probably no surprise that Molly, too, now enjoys drawing. “She started to fill up little notebooks,” her father said. “It’s something . . . to do that doesn’t involve an iPad.”

Molly’s used snack bags are stored in two large Tupperware bins. Friends and family members have offered suggestions on what to do with all of them — save them in binders, for instance, or put them on the walls of the house. “But I think I like the idea that maybe in 20 years, when Molly’s a mom and she has a son or daughter going off to school,” her father said, “I think it would be pretty neat if she was able to use these snack bags for them.”

He added that it would be even better if she did the decorating of her kids’ bags. “Or maybe,” her father concluded, “[I could] even be the old grandfather drawing them.”