When E was younger (I mean like 3 months - 1 1/2 years old, before she could talk to him on the phone) I would hang up photo's of D at her eye level when he was gone on tours. I plastered them everywhere: on the wall next to her changing table, on her highchair tray, down both sides of the hallway, in the car; everywhere. It was a way I could keep him close to her in those long drawn out weeks. I suppose it was a bit for me too, being a single parent for months at a time and on call 24/7 was hard. Keeping up appearances while holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries were repeatedly missed stung a little. Maybe in some ways it kept him close for me too, memories of the times we did have together. But, I'm straying from the point.
These photo's played a pretty important role here at home, and E talks about them from time to time. In particular she asks about the one I hung in the bathroom just above the tub. It's a shot I took while we were in Kauai for my sister's wedding. The day before we left the tropics my parents made reservations on a day-long sight seeing tour around the island. We all were plagued with a bit of seasickness but D jumped at the chance to do a bit of scuba diving and I grabbed a picture just before he splashed in.
E loves this picture, and until recently I didn't really understand why. I mean she wasn't there, it doesn't bring her back to that sunny afternoon in Hawaii 4 years past. Perhaps it was because he's playfully sticking out his tongue, or maybe it was the thrill of seeing her dad in this uncommon paraphernalia, or just plain excitement to see documentation of him enjoying life around the water. It was puzzling to me. She has taken to the water like a fish, already learning so much in the short time she's been enrolled in her weekly lessons. In this way, she and I are cut from the same cloth. But she really identifies with her dad in this picture. Her attitude is almost like: "Well duh Mom, you and me like swimming, but look, Dad does too."
She's seen the professional scuba divers down at the ferry docks slowly entering and retreating from the waters edge. She'll stand motionless with her mouth open every time, in total awe, not quite able to picture the real people underneath all the tubes, masks, flippers and tanks. Oftentimes we're at the aquarium during feeding times. She'll stand off to the side almost refusing to watch these folks in scuba gear. She's panicked somehow that she's witnessing something that isn't altogether OK, but not quite able to look away.
But safe at home in her warm 3 inches of bubbly water she happily recreates these underwater scenes. Nearly every bath time she requests goggles and does a little deep sea diving herself. Placing one end of her goggle elastic in her mouth like a snorkel she'll declare: "Mom! I'm a Scuba!"
Then it started making sense: She's been unable to wrap her mind around the fact that Daddy wore all that same stuff, and very likely the people under all that get-up are nice daddy's and mommies too. She's scared of these guys and her way of working through her fear is, and really always has been to become a little bit obsessed (i.e. Pirates). Owning it. She has to personalize it so it's not so scary anymore.