Jamie couldn't remember where the photograph came from.
She had found it again in the middle of the night, and now gazed upon it with tired eyes that quickly blurred at the sight. She stared down at the picture of herself, tired, tattered, and worn, holding a newborn baby in her arms. It was candid: a breathtaking view of a mother looking down at her child for the first time. There was a deep love in her eyes. An indescribable spark of existential joy.
Jamie didn’t remember how she had kept an old copy folded in her nightstand for safekeeping, or how she’d often given it a kiss before she went to bed at night.
Now, she let her tears fall onto the waxy paper, perplexed by their presence, misunderstanding her own reaction. She told herself it was her son she saw in the arms of her younger self. It must be, even though it didn’t look like him. But it wasn’t her son. And she knew that.
Delicately, she tucked it away for safe-keeping. Maybe if she returned to it in the morning, the mystery wouldn’t seem so dreadful.
She never went back for it.
Zack couldn’t remember where the hairbrush came from.
It was pink, with little sunflowers on the handle. Small enough for the hand of a girl who refused to hold it. Caught in the tines was long, silky black strands of hair - a trait that only Zack’s daughter Lydia possessed in the Taylor house.
Every day, Zack’s wife, Jamie, would leave extra early for work, leaving him the task of caring for his six-year-old daughter’s morning. He wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Zack had woken Lydia at 7:30, granted her sugary cereal request, let her wear whatever she wanted to school, and, most importantly, braided her hair.
“How do you want your hair today, baby girl?” he’d ask her each day.
“Can I have a braid, please, Daddy?”
“Again? The other kids are gonna start calling you ‘the girl with the braid.’”
“They can call me whatever they want as long as I can wear a braid.”
They sang loudly in the car on the way to Lydia’s school.
But Zack didn’t remember braiding her hair. He didn’t remember their morning routine, either. In fact, he didn’t remember Lydia at all.
The hairbrush sat, lonely, gathering dust in the bathroom cupboard, waiting to be found.
Ms. Hunt couldn’t remember where the holiday card came from.
She taught nineteen first-graders every day, and had received holiday cards from thirteen of them. They all looked the same: cursive writing, glitter, a generic message like “happy holidays” or “season’s greetings.” They congregated neatly on the edge of her desk, all standing on display, when she came back to work after the holidays. No one noticed one card that they couldn’t remember, because why would they remember every card?
“Thank you,” Lydia’s card read, “for helping our daughter gain confidence and treating her with kindness these past few months. We are so lucky that she has a teacher who is so supportive and encouraging.” It was signed by Zack, Jamie, and Lydia Taylor.
Ms. Hunt had been so happy to receive the card after months of caring for her. Lydia was a sweet girl, she had thought, who just needed a little push to have some confidence. She had encouraged her to read her writing aloud to the class, and watched the girl’s face light up every time. She only wished the other children had been friendlier to Lydia. But Ms. Hunt had been so proud that she’d made a difference that she’d planned on bringing the card home to show her family after the holidays. She never did.
Zack couldn’t remember where the sundress came from.
It had lilac flowers all over it, and matched Lydia’s bedroom walls. It had a little silver belt and a buttoned collar. He’d been shopping with Lydia that summer when she’d spotted it and quickly fallen in love with it. There was nothing he could do; he was never very good at resisting her will, and her heart was set. So he bought her the little lilac dress.
Lydia wore it her entire first week of the first grade. Her mother couldn’t convince her to wash it until the weekend. She wanted to wear it, and that was that. She would often tell her family about how pretty the little flowers were. Lydia, very simply, loved that dress.
She would, in fact, be quite sad to see it now, filthy from being buried in her backyard, and ruined beyond repair by a thick red stain.
Puck could remember where the stuffed panda came from.
Just as Lydia had grown up alongside her puppy, Puck, her stuffed panda had been her best friend all her life. It was originally a gift from her now-deceased grandmother. As soon as she could talk, she’d named the toy Pan the Panda. Her stuffed Pan was her safety blanket, of sorts, from the time Lydia was born. She brought it everywhere: the mall, Kindergarten, playdates. Once, the family had come home early from a trip because Lydia couldn’t sleep without her Pan.
Puck was the Taylor family’s loyal canine companion. He’d been with them long before Lydia was born, but he couldn’t remember a time without her. So when she stopped coming home, Puck noticed. He couldn’t understand why his family didn’t seem to notice that their daughter was gone. He hadn’t been himself since New Year’s, and his owners couldn’t figure out why.
But unlike the Taylors, Puck remembered Lydia. He mourned her. He kept Pan in the back of his doghouse in the backyard, and slept next to her just as his friend Lydia had. Maybe it would bring her back.
Will couldn’t remember where the diary came from.
As Lydia’s brother, nearly eight years her senior, he had treated her to many gifts over the years, but she’d loved none like the diary. He had been delighted to watch her grow into the habit of journaling, making his gift part of her life. Will was a loving older brother, close with his sister as a result of their age difference. He adored when she often told him about her day and showed him her writing for school.
“I want your real opinion, Willie. I can take it,” Lydia would tell him each time, holding her notebook out to him in slim little fingers. And every time, he would tell her that she was superb.
But Will’s favourite thing to do with his sister was follow along with her secret adventures. As her confidante, he was the only one allowed to read her diary, and it made his day every time she brought it to him. No one but Will had been allowed to know that it was hidden behind the DVDs on the living room bookshelf.
But now, there was no one in the Taylor house who knew to search out the diary or its contents. It may stay there, alone, for quite some time.
Lydia couldn’t remember where the newspaper clipping came from.
It was her parents’ engagement notice that they had framed in their bedroom. It had always been there. A small scrape of faded black-and-white paper with their picture. They stood in the backyard of their brand new house, Zack making bunny ears behind her head, and Jamie’s face turned up to him, smiling from ear to ear. It was captioned, “Jamie Claire Berry and Zachary William Taylor are happy to announce their engagement.”
It was the only piece of her home that Lydia had left. Even now, she clutched the paper tightly in her tired fist.