At a Time & Space event, participants are asked to bring along a ‘treasure’, a memento that symbolises something special in the relationship between the young person and their parent or mentor. They keep it wrapped up as a surprise from each other.

In 2019, 81 Time & Space sessions are scheduled. These are Mother-Daughter, Father-Daughter, Mother-Son and Father-Son experiences in schools around Australia and the United Kingdom.

The first Father-Son night for the year was held in Brisbane at St Joseph’s College, Gregory Terrace – affectionately known as Terrace. The Terrace families roll up to Time & Space events in huge numbers.  On a sultry February evening, we counted 115 Year 8 boys who came along with their dad or mentor.

At the close of the night, all of the treasures are temporarily put on display tables. They become the focal point of the Words of Encouragement moment. One dad and his son read some words to offer encouragement to the other generation – for the young people to make a safe passage towards adulthood and, for the dads and mentors, in their vital role of being the best person they can be in showing their boys who a good man is.

The boys are sitting next to their dads, the hall lights are turned off and all we can see are tea-lights flickering amongst the treasures. As the words of encouragement are read from one generation to the other, those doing the ‘encouraging’ are asked to place a hand on their other person’s shoulder or even put their arm around them. The dads go first and then the boys are invited to return the favour – some of them wrap their dad up in a big bear hug.

The words the Year 8 boys read begin this way…

Here are our dads, our mentors alongside us.  We are thankful for the way they have guided us through the years.

We wish them encouragement in their important responsibility of being the person who shows us so much about how to be a man, a good man.

It is a tender moment.

We consider all of the stories that are attached to the treasures in front of the audience.

Then the lights go back up. The audience is farewelled and the night is over. In just over two hours, special conversations and treasures have been shared in ways unique to each pair who have attended.

There are some dads who stay on for a few minutes happily chatting away in the hall as most of the crowd dissipates. That’s always a good sign that the session has gone well. My bag is packed up and I make my way out to the car park. There are a couple of dads out there chatting with their boys alongside them. There are just three vehicles left in the car park. One of them is blocking my hire car from view and is distinctly different from mine and the other dad’s car.

The care taker of the vehicle is Rob McIntyre.

With understated humour, Rob quips, “I couldn’t fit the treasure I brought along into the hall. It’s the first time he will have ridden in it.”

He is referring to his son Jack who has come along to the event before his dad arrived at school with his late father’s Peterbilt Prime Mover. I ask to take a photo and think to myself “what a thoughtful treasure… what a great memory for Jack.”

Seeing a treasure of this size makes me think about all the thought that goes into what to bring to a Time & Space session. I say my farewells to Rob and Jack and the other pair and drive back to where I am staying.

The next day, I am still thinking about Rob’s treasure for Jack. I am keen to know more about the truck so I give Rob a call. I get to understand that this Peterbilt truck is two generations old. Rob’s father started the McIntyre Freight Lines transport company and they were the first group to make regular runs between Brisbane  and Darwin, despite the grandfather warning Rob’s dad when he was young not to go into the transport business. Rob spent ten years in the company before he started his own business that manufactures marine diesel engines.

As we chat, I understand that the Peterbilt has been on loan to the Gatton transport museum for the last two years. Rob went to the effort to go and collect it so that he could bring it to the Time & Space night as his treasure to share with Jack. It is over an hour’s drive from Gatton to Brisbane. I explain to Rob that his story triggered a memory and belief I hold about what kids remember about their parents.

“Rob, I reckon that what you did last night is something Jack will remember for all of his life. I know you aren’t working with these trucks anymore, but you did once, and there is something special about kids going to their parents’ work places… being alongside their parents’ in their world of work”.

Deep in the core of my early memories is a day when my dad took me along to his work. My dad worked for years as a Customs Officer and his office was in the building, now long gone, on the corner of Flinders and William Streets in Melbourne’s CBD. I remember looking out his window across the elevated railway track that ran between Flinders and Spencer Street Stations. I remember seeing the big phone with cool looking extra buttons that had lights in them (not like our home phone that just had a dial). It sat on the top corner of a neat desk alongside papers that looked important. I remember being introduced to dad’s colleagues, some of them tussling my mop of red hair and saying “welcome to dad’s work young Billy!”

What is it? Why is it that the memory of going to our parents’ work is, as I have anecdotally observed, such a strong memory that remains long into our adult life? It must have something to do with us being judged to be old enough to come into that world. They must feel proud to be around us. And I remember feeling so grown up that dad had brought me into Customs House.

Since his run of 236 shows concluded at the Walter Kerr Theatre, New York, Springsteen on Broadway is now on Netflix. It is a beautiful show containing artful story telling in which Bruce Springsteen weaves a handful of his songs into the story of his life. He talks about visiting his mum at her work, Lawyer’s Title Insurance Company in Freehold, their hometown in New Jersey.

Bruce masterfully paints a picture of his mum as a worker and how he got to visit her there some days…

“She was a legal secretary, that was a job she did the day she got out of high school for the fifty years that followed.  Doesn’t miss a day, never sick, never down, never complains, work doesn’t appear to be a burden for her but it is a source of energy and social pleasure.

Now some evenings I would meet my mother at closing time and we would be the last to leave the office and this was always a great privilege to me. I would have my mother all to myself and with the building empty her high heels would echo down the long linoleum hallway and with the florescent lights out, lawyers’ cubicles empty, secretaries’ desks empty, typewriters covered, silent… the building was so still, after all the noise of the day, you know, it got so quiet it was as if… the building itself was resting after a long day of service in the interests of our town.

And then suddenly we’d be through the front door and out on Main Street and Five O’clock rush hour and she would stride along, statuesque, and I’d be running alongside her just trying to keep up and I’d be, you know, looking up at her and it’s a sight I’ve never forgotten… my mother walking home from work, had some… just some eternal impact on me…

Springsteen will turn 70 years old on the 23rd of September this year. The memory of being part of his mum’s world of work, as a child, is still vivid.

It is there in my dad too. I never got to meet my dad’s dad. His name was Bill Jennings as well. He came back from the Second World War an unwell man, physically and psychologically. My grandfather who I never met has been a source of fascination throughout my life. I have always been hungry for stories about him from my dad.

Do you know the memories my dad cherishes the most? Jumping up into the passenger seat of the delivery truck that Bill Jennings drove, early in the morning. My dad, as a little boy, would ride along with his dad – delivering wood in the winter and in the summer, collecting ice from the ice works in Malvern Road for deliveries to local homes and businesses. It is the happiest memory dad has of my grandfather, sitting alongside him in the truck, drinking in the early morning world of his dad’s work.

My dad has just turned 80 last December. That memory – vivid, must be over 70 years ago.

Amongst all of things I’ve forgotten from my childhood, I can still see dad’s office and remember feeling proud to be there and be with him. I am now 52. That visit I made to dad’s work at Customs House has to have been over 40 years ago.

It is on that basis that I suspect that Jack McIntyre will never forget that his dad brought his grandfather’s Peterbilt Prime Mover down from the museum as his treasure and parked it in the Gregory Terrace Car Park. I imagine they might have been smiling as the final reflection took place with all of the treasures within the tea-lights sitting there… the treasures that could fit into the big hall there at Terrace, The Campbell Centre.

Rob McIntyre’s sister had never ridden in the Peterbilt. The morning after the Time & Space session, he took his sister, Ann-Louise, and his two nieces, Emily and Ella, to school in it. There they were delivered to the front gate at St Margaret’s Anglican school.

Do you reckon that the Emily and Ella might remember, 60 years from now, the morning their Uncle Rob drove them to school in their Grandfather’s Peterbilt Prime Mover?

Good chance I reckon.

Feel free to write in the space below – what are your memories of going to your parents’ work?

And here is a snapshot of Springsteen on Broadway