Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A year in a jar: Opening our 2013 Memory Jar

For the entire year of 2013, a simple jar sat on the mantel over our fireplace. There are many special items with special stories on our mantel, mostly gifts passed down from my grandmothers and even my great-grandmother. The jar looked rather plain in their midst, and yet, each time I looked to the mantel, it was this jar that made me smile most of all. It represented memories and very small moments of our year, moments that normally would pass without recognition.

In January of 2013, I made a commitment to write down favorite moments throughout the year on a small piece of paper and toss them in the jar. I didn't create too many rules around the activity, just that I could not open any of the notes until New Year's of 2014. It was surprising how much anticipation and excitement we felt around the opening of this jar. I can't say that it surpassed Christmas in anticipation for Clara, but every time there was a mention of opening the jar, I can attest to witnessing squeals and jumping. 

Some people call these jars Gratitude Jars, and others make the art of decorating the jar a creative project. I chose to call my jar a Memory Jar, and I liked that it was such a simple jar and that I could see inside how many memories I built. Although I think of my jar as a Memory Jar rather than Gratitude Jar, I can attest that I regularly felt a tremendous and inevitable sense of gratitude looking over at this jar each day on my mantel. Look at all these happy memories, I thought, look at all these good things that happened. It was hard to feel down when a jar of happy memories sat beckoning, reminding me of a year of blessings. And the fact that I couldn't open the jar for a whole year made the notes feel mysterious and special.

For 2013, I wrote about 99% of the notes. I am hoping now that Clara is writing more that I can encourage her to participate more this year. Nonetheless, the revealing of our yearly memories felt like a family bonding activity rather than a solo adventure. We ceremoniously poured out all of the notes upside down on the table, and then took turns pulling each one from the pile to read aloud.  

There was a lot of laughter as we recalled favorite events and remembered special moments that had already been forgotten. Many of the notes were memories of a funny thing Clara said. It seems like her unique pronunciation of words represented nearly 10% of what I wrote down. And I'm glad I did, because I already forgot many of these idiosyncrasies. The most resounding reaction as we read through the notes was "Awww, I remember that." And for the memories we had already forgotten, the reaction was a feeling of joy and wonder at reclaiming a lost moment.

Overall, creating this Memory Jar felt successful and meaningful. It helped me to appreciate events in the moment (Oh, I should write this down for the jar!, I often thought) helping to reinforce the smaller moments of life that wouldn't have a place in Clara's baby book or more formal places. The anticipation of waiting to open the jar created a sense of excitement in our house, and the joy of reading the year in review as a family reinforced our sense of togetherness. So, if you're looking for a family bonding, memory reinforcing event for the new year, I highly recommend trying out your own Memory Jar.

Here are just a few of the memories we recorded last year:

January 20, 2013
Clara wrote: I had fun going to Lila's thumbs-up party. I watched a movie and ate popcorn and gummies. I did a dance with the balloon for everybody. And I ate dessert.

January 22, 2013
Clara got a pink yo-yo today from Sophia's birthday party bag and she loooved playing with it. She said, "I'm really, really good at this. I should take a yo-yo class!"

February 17, 2013
Clara finds a quarter on a cold, windy walk around our neighborhood. "Will ten dollars and this coin pay for my college fund?"

The backstory on Clara's knowledge of the "college fund" is that she found a ten dollar bill on a neighbor's driveway just a few weeks before finding the coin. I told her she was a lucky girl to keep finding so many coins and bills. When we tried to return the said ten dollars to the neighbor, she told Clara to keep the money for her college fund. Ever since that comment, Clara has assumed that she will can pay for college from her piggy bank. How great it would be if college cost only $10.25!

March 2013
Making smoothies in our new blender. Clara always says "Can I have a try?" even if its rhubarb & kale mix. Her favorite so far is apple-pear-raspberry-rhubarb-almond butter-almond milk!

March 2013
Driving on a long car trip and having the radio pop on after more than a year of not working... just when I most needed it.

May 21, 2013
I love how Clara tickles the soles of my feet while I'm doing push-ups for my cardio workout dvd. So funny how Clara calls exercise "extracise."

May 27, 2013
Clara woke up this morning and drew us a Happy Memorial Day drawing with an American flag. All day, she said, "Happy Morials Day!" When I said it is pronounced Memorial day, she said "that's not how I say it!"

We had a picnic on the beach, even bringing our own grill. We bought a kayak today, too!

May 31, 2013
Clara was happy that it was the last day of school and soon she will be visiting Nonna and going to Switzer-land (she pronounces it like it is two different words, and a long "a" sound).

From a very hot July day: July 17, 2013
Popsicles at the playground after an afternoon of swimming. Jump into the pool and then walk over to the playground barefoot, cooled off. Swing. Climb. Play! Strong, in our bodies, the joy of summer!

August, 2013
Meeting our newest niece who is all smiles and love. Camping in Colorado and seeing the endless stars at night.

September, 2013
Seeing Matilda on Broadway. Staying up until 2am talking with my sister-in-law afterwards. Impromptu four-hour lunch the next day with a neighbor I barely knew. I really like unexpected meetups.

December, 2013
Driving along the Pacific Coast highway. Walking through Muir Woods. Finding a spot after a hike through the woods where I can lie down nestling into the earth and looking up at the tall trees. Feeling adventurous and independent.

I plan to type up all of the 2013 notes so that we have a record of our yearly memories. And we are already gearing up for our next year. 

Here is our 2014 Memory Jar with the first note of the year for each of us. Happy memory making!


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