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The Trudeau Chronicles


Next to the door of my father’s studio stood a non-functioning lacquered mahogany grandfather clock, which faced down a hall that ran the length of our 10th-floor apartment. If the studio door was closed I would sometimes open the clock’s cabinet and set its brass pendulum swinging to produce a resonant tick-tock that softened over the course of a minute or so as gravity took its course.

“Tick-tock, knock-knock.”

“Just a minute, Rossy.”

Dad only ever seemed to shut the studio door on Fridays. His slate of five dailies and one nine-panel Sunday strip were due to the inker by Saturday morning, and he rarely finished before midnight the night before. And just as his professional anxiety reached its weekly zenith, we three children would burst back into the pre-war Central Park West co-op with typical weekend-anticipatory zeal. The few times my father could have been said to have snapped at me unfairly occurred at the threshold of his studio, in mid-afternoon on a Friday: deadline day.



Ross Trudeau writes about his father, cartoonist G. B. Trudeau, and the family stock.


If I ever made a serious mistake — lied, or failed to keep my word — I might hear my mother say, “Your father would like to see you in his studio.” Punishment for fighting with my little brother or kicking my twin sister could be meted out on the spot. But lessons of character were taught in the studio.

When I was 10, Dad called me into his office after I had been caught in a lie about an antique teacup I had broken and then hidden. I sat in his artist’s chair, teary and chastened and swiveling, staring at the indentations in the carpet where the wheels usually came to rest under his drawing board. “Things can be replaced, Ross. Hey — look at me.” My father fixed me with the same eyes that I have and that his father had before him: downward sloping at the temples, slightly hooded, suggesting melancholy or weariness. “We can glue this cup back together. But your reputation is more fragile and harder to fix. You only get one reputation.”





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