the memory jar

Editor’s note: Before I begin, I need to say something. I need to say thank you. To those of you who understood why I wouldn’t — couldn’t — simply “move on” from the events of the past few days. Why it was — and remains — so desperately necessary for me not just to apologize to those who were hurt by my words, but to talk about why that matters as much as it does on as big a platform as I’d said the words in the first place.

To those of you who scoffed at first, who told me it was enough and pleaded with me to move on then came back to say that you now understood why I couldn’t, by God, thank you. To those of you who tried to respectfully guide others toward understanding the same, thank you. To those who stood up for yourselves in all of this, who said, “This isn’t okay,” thank you. To those of you to whom it is still confounding, thank you for sticking around. I hope that eventually it will become clear. Thank you to Jennifer and Kimberly and Chris, and all of the other autistic activists who stuck in there through all of it, taking it all in, no matter how hurtful it got, to make us all better at this. And thank you to my friend, Conner, whose words cut straight to my soul every time, who said, “That is my mom’s promise to me. She will always listen to me. Mom can hear me when I use words and she can even hear me when words do not come. I need her to hear me when words don’t come because sometimes I have loud pain inside me and no words to come. Listen then too.” That, in the end, was what all of this was always about. Thank you for listening with me. 

As the end of the year approaches, I always begin to think about thank you gifts for the girls’ teachers. Every year, I wish that I could buy them all ponies or send them to Europe or, at the very least get them new cars. Ya know, just small tokens. While I’m sort of kidding, I’m mostly not. Because the way that these folks care for my kids, well, it’s something. No, it’s everything. Brooke’s team – 18 people in all, get her. They love her. They celebrate who she is. They think outside the box because they understand that she is not inside it. They spend time thinking about how to help her to be comfortable and successful, how to achieve her goals, which may or may not be ours, and how to become the very best version of herself that she can be. They are family.

In a month and a half, Brooke will be graduating and moving on to middle school. Although we will never truly say goodbye to her team, we will be moving on. If I stop to think about that for too long, I’ll be a puddle, but nonetheless, it is time. And so it is that this year, the end of year gifts take on even more import. And, since no one wants to have to feed a pony, we had to get creative.

Now, you might remember the last time that I posted a crafty idea here. It went something like this …

The following conversation really happened. More or less.

It took place in bed, sometime after midnight on Sunday night.

Me: Ooh, so I wanted to tell you, I came up with what I think is a really cute idea for the den. I hope you’re okay with it. I mean, I already went ahead and got the supplies for it, but, ya know, I spent like $8 total, so it’s not like it’s a big deal. But ..


Me: Anyway, when Katie and I were at AC Moore today, I picked up this ribbon. Well, sort of a ribbon. Kinda like twine. It’s like ribbon made out of twine. Do you know what I mean? Like sort of rough, natural colored material sort of like burlap but ..


Me: Do you know what I’m talking about?

Him: Um, sure?

Me: So I bought that and then a bag of these little mini, natural wood clothespins. I’m thinking that I’m going to run the twine along the fireplace mantle, ya know, where we hang the stockings, and then use the clothespins to hang the girls’ artwork from it.


Me: I think it’ll be kinda cute.

Him: That sounds great.

Me: And then I can take pictures of it and post them on my blog and be one of those bloggers that like does crafts and stuff.

Him: Oh my God.

Me: What?

Luau: Can you imagine?

Me: What?

Him: You, becoming one of those bloggers that does CRAFT PROJECTS?

Me: Pretty funny, right?

Him: No.

Me: Huh?

Him: Can you IMAGINE you … YOU? Instead of getting up at 5 to write, you’d be getting up at 3 and stomping around the house looking for things to do and then blog about. You’d be frantically crisscrossing the house picking things up and saying, “Hmm, what can I do with this pillow?” or “Oooh, I’ll bet I can create something out of this tissue!” It would be a DISASTER.

Me: *Laughing too hard to argue* So you’re saying it’s not a good idea?

Him: Um, no.

Me: You know I’m going to write about this, right?


Me: I’m going to forget this by tomorrow. Will you write it down on your phone and send it to me? Pleeeeeease?


Me: Aw, c’mon, take one for the team, babe.


Me: For the kids?


Me: For the greater good?


Me: For the Gipper?

Him: Okay, just promise me no craft blogging.


That was February. Now, I’m not great with math, but according to my calculations, that’s like … a long time ago. I think that we can all agree that the statute of limitations is up, so here we go.

Brooke and I decided to make memory jars for each of her teachers, therapists, the school secretary and everyone in between who has contributed to making her elementary school experience better. I’m kind of excited about this. And the total cost for each one is about $2.50. Take that, Martha Stewart.

So, here’s how we’re doing it.

{disclaimer: I took the photos with my phone and didn’t have time to edit them, so they’re pretty bad, but I trust that they will sufficiently convey what they are meant to convey. If you want pretty pictures with fancy filters, I hear Pinterest is fabulous. This ain’t that.}


{image is a photo of all of the supplies we need. Ribbon (Brooke chose pink, of course), mason jars, scrapbook papers, and gel markers, which we already had in the house. The plain piece of paper in the photo was simply there to protect my dining room table from the gel markers.}


{image is a photo of a mason jar with a lid. $1 a piece at AC Moore. We splurged on blue ones (not pictured) as well because Brooke wanted a combo of the two and, for one extra dollar each, I was willing to be a sport. In case that wasn’t clear – clear jars $1, blue jars $2}


{image is a photo of a pack of scrapbooking paper. The whole packet was $2.99 at AC Moore.}


{image is a photo of some of the papers inside the packet, in all sorts of patterns. There were many different books with a variety of themes, from firetrucks and airplanes to flowers and butterflies. This is the one that Brooke chose. I cut them into strips for her to write on. Each page yielded three strips.}


{image is of Brooke writing one of her memories on a strip of paper. She’s smiling as she writes. If I’m not mistaken, that’s because this was the one on which she wrote, “I like to call art fart because that’s funny.” While Brooke is now able to write these for herself, this can certainly be adapted in a million ways to whatever is developmentally appropriate and comfortable for your child. A couple of years ago, I would have been the one writing our family’s memories of the teacher, adapted from the stories we knew and those we’d culled from the home to school communication log, and Brooke would have been coloring on them.}


{image is a photo of one of the finished strips. The text reads, “Art is 1 of my favorite specials in the whole wide world.}


{image is a photo of the strips folded into the jar.}


{image is a photo of the closed jar with its bow in place.}


{image is a photo of the finished product, highlighting the card which we tied onto the bow. Neat thing about the papers, they come with one hole through the middle of the top of the page. I have no idea why, but it served us well as all we had to do was put the ribbon through the hole et voila.}


{image is the final product. A jar full of memories. A thank you that, in the end, I’m hoping makes the point that if we could, we’d get each and every one of them a pony. And the best part? You don’t have to feed it and it doesn’t ever poop.}

Ed note: If you see Luau today, what say we just don’t mention the whole crafty thing, heh? I don’t want him to go hiding all the pillows and tissues again. (sarcasm)




10 thoughts on “the memory jar

  1. This is a fantastic idea and one of the most meaningful ever. Brooke looks so happy doing it and I’ll bet you had a matched smile on your face. Great job!

    Love you,

  2. That is wonderfully sweet and meaningful and inclusive of Brooke in the process. (Plenty of parents of all children should take note of that.) The team will LOVE them. But, I sure hope you tell them to read the blog post about it. ‘Cause the part with Luau made me laugh/cry the first time I read it, and it has only gotten richer with time!

  3. Great personal idea. The tweaked in me thinks ooh ooh you could have put a picture of Brooke writing the notes in each jar…

  4. Awesome gift! I have saved every card/note/letter that came from students or parents that told me what they got from me or my class. Most teachers do. Those notes are needed to help you get through the bad days and are a reminder of why we do what we do. Am so not surprised that you understand how that kind of feedback is the greatest gift we can get (and give!)

  5. We did something like this for the grandmothers for Christmas in 2001. Sadly, just days before Christmas, one of them had a stroke and died (before she received it). We keep the book with the dozens of unopened “love notes” in a prominent place in our home. A sad, but precious reminder to us all.

    (P.S. Hugs to you for being so brave with the events of the past few days.)

  6. Pingback: Time In A Bottle | Try Defying Gravity

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s