When I sit at the table in the morning I eat my toast and drink my coffee and I wait for the sound of Eleanor opening her bedroom door. She pads down the hall and I get up and go to meet her. I do it greedily, hoping for and almost always receiving a shy “you caught me sneaking up the hall to surprise you” smile and a hug still full of the warmth of bed. This morning she gives me both and shows me the toy cellphone I bought her yesterday. It is a flip top Power Rangers phone with flashing lights and realistic sound effects. She is in love with it and constantly making calls. If you push the big round button at the centre it makes a sound like a photo being taken.
“I’ll take your photo, Daddy.”
I step back a little and she aims.
I smile and she pushes the button, then shows me the “picture” on the screen. In the picture I look a lot like a staunch Power Ranger and not so much like a sad-feeling man with a sad-feeling smile.
It’s Eleanor’s last day at creche today. She started there when she was about 18 months old and now she is a little over four. Next year she will go to kindergarten and then, in November, to school, but today is the end of the first part of her journey and I can’t help feeling sad.
After breakfast Eleanor picks her favourite party dress and her latest, favourite cardigan and poses for me in front on the French doors. Outside the wind is blowing the trees around, angrily, and a misty rain is swirling about. For me the photos are another attempt to stick a pin in time, and stick a moment down, for Eleanor it is a chance to show off her new cellphone. For her time is still loose and fluid, and she uses words like today and tomorrow almost interchangeably. She seems to have no grasp of yesterday. The bliss of not knowing yesterday.
In the car I think of all the mornings that I have gotten Eleanor ready and taken her across town to creche. I can think of lovely mornings full of hugs and jokes, and I can think of terrible mornings full of cross words and tantrums. Eleanor at two, three and four has been an indomitable little girl. And I love her so. I love her as she hurtles through her days in a whirl, heady with the excitement of an endless now. But I worry. I worry that I will be less involved. The run to creche in the morning has been convenient for me to do, but what about the morning walk to kindy, or to school? So I worry and fret at the way life works, and the traffic through town crawls, and Eleanor takes imaginary photos of the cars and the people on Willis Street, and soon I am pulling to a stop outside creche for the last time.
When Eleanor runs through the door to her locker I can almost see her running away from me through time and into her life. Well, it is the sadness and the great joy of my life to watch her life unfold, to witness it, for Cathy and I to be the foundation of it, for me to listen for her bedroom door in the morning and to walk out to meet her for a smile and a cuddle.
I sit in the car afterwards and think about the imaginary photos she has taken on her cellphone. I scroll back through them in my mind: her friend at creche pointing at the cake she brought, a car on Willis street, a businessman standing waiting for the lights to change on Karo Drive, the front door of her house with the Christmas wreath on it, and a picture of Daddy standing in the kitchen in the morning smiling.
Have a lovely day, Eleanor.