It was a day when it felt like Angie was growing up too quickly, so I pulled her yellow-checkered baby book down from the top shelf of our closet. She and I crawled into bed, snuggled under the covers and devoured every photograph in the pages of her special album.

There was the day she was born, of course, when we regarded one another with bewilderment and uncertainty.

There was her first birthday, when she gobbled a pink-frosted cupcake almost faster than I could grab the camera.

And there was the time when she was 2 years old and wore Gramma’s white plastic mixing bowl like a hat around the kitchen. We made blueberry muffins that day — Gramma’s favorite.

Each photograph was a luscious treat, one that we held on the tips of our tongues before swallowing.

“Mama,” Angie said, flipping the page where I recorded her first word (cat) and her favorite food (peas). “What did you look like when you were a little girl? What kinds of things did you like?”

It’s a question I could answer only with words. I told her that I had long blonde hair that I liked to wear in pigtails. I drew princesses, dressed as Wonder Woman three Halloweens in a row and won a Christmas card coloring contest when I was in third grade.

But I couldn’t show my daughter any of those things.

The photographs from my own childhood are back in New Jersey, in the house that I shared with Angie’s father. After he asked me for a divorce, I packed my photo albums and most of my other belongings into cardboard boxes that I stacked near the attic. I thought it might be a few weeks or a few months before I saw them again. I never expected it would be forever.

My entire childhood is back there: the Cookie Monster sweatshirt I wore when I was 2, the felt Christmas ornament I made in Girl Scouts, and the photographs that would satisfy my daughter’s curiosity about what her mother looked like as a girl.

I have, over the years, asked him to send the boxes. He has resisted, for reasons that I don’t quite understand.

Until now, it has been merely disappointing to live without those items. I have chalked it up to one of the sacrifices of divorce. But now that my daughter is asking about my past, I am realizing how much of me is locked away in that attic.

Last year, on the evening before Angie and I moved to graduate school, my Aunt Brenda gave me back a small piece of my childhood when she tucked into our suitcase two photographs from her own album. In the first picture, I am 2 years old, sitting under a blooming crabapple tree with my blue elephant-shaped watering can.

In the second, I am sitting on her lap, wearing crooked pigtails and a smile brighter than the summer sky behind us. The picture is undated, but I appear to be about 5 years old.

The same age my daughter is now.

I like to think that when Angie and I huddle under the covers with our photographs, we see one another reflected in the images. I see the playfulness in her eyes, her friendly smile and her enthusiastic spirit. She sees my curious and creative nature and my desire for independence.

Angie’s baby book is my most treasured belonging, and I am thankful every day that I had the good sense to pack it when we left New Jersey. All the photographs inside are special, but there is one that stands out from the rest.

In it, Angie is almost 3 years old, sitting high atop the gigantic concrete mitten of the Frosty the Snowman statue at Santa’s Village in New Hampshire. She has a nervous-but-excited smile and her arms are reaching out for a reassuring hug.

I had my picture taken in the same spot when I was her age, and if I remember correctly, I had the same apprehensive smile.

Maybe I will get my pictures back some day. Maybe I won’t. But if I do, I will savor them like the sweetest of treats, holding each one on my tongue forever.

Wendy Fontaine’s “Party of Two” column appears the first and third Sundays of the month. Her e-mail address is: [email protected] Follow Party of Two on Facebook and read her blog at PerseveringParents.com


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