We begin January 1st every year with an empty glass jar and a stack of brightly coloured scraps of paper. They’re placed on the kitchen side together, easily accessible for all, and throughout the weeks and months that follow, whenever someone thinks of something that they’ve felt happy about (or proud of, or excited about) they write it down on one of the pieces of paper, fold it up and put it in the jar. There is no label on it, but it’s collectively known by all of us as ‘The Happy Jar’.
I love seeing the jar slowly fill up as the days and seasons pass by. A rainbow of joyful memories tied up with a glittery ribbon. On 31st December – New Year’s Eve – the girls and I gather together in one of their bedrooms. We snuggle on the bed, and they have one last chance to add in any remaining memories they want to preserve. There are usually at least a couple, jotted down in a hurry after a minute or two of gazing into the distance thoughtfully, chewing on the end of a pen in concentration.
Then, we open the Happy Jar. I adore watching the girls take it in turns to reach in and choose a piece of paper, rummaging around with solemn faces and delight in their eyes, as if it’s a lucky dip at the school fair. Once they’ve selected the piece they want, they each read out loud the words written on their little coloured squares. Some are hasty scribbles. Some are detailed paragraphs. Some are almost illegible and we have fun trying to figure out what they say. Some are anonymous (though unique handwriting usually gives the game away) and some are signed with a flourish and an ‘x’ or two.
It’s one of my most favourite traditions of the year and I think it’s becoming one of the girls’ too. Lola even wrote “opening the happy jar” as her final contribution for 2018. It’s a chance for us to reflect on the preceding twelve months, to look back at all the moments – both big and small – that we’ve enjoyed, that have meant something to each of us.
It’s fascinating seeing and hearing which memories and moments stand out the most to each of us. Sometimes they’re deeply personal insights whereas others are shared family experiences and I love that there is so much contrast. I honestly feel it helps me get to know my girls better. And something I noticed this year was that there were no notes about gifts they’d received for birthdays or Christmas, nothing material at all. Every single one was about looking forward to something we had planned, spending time with people we love, travelling on the holidays and day trip adventures we’ve been lucky enough to be able to have, and moments spent laughing together. I’m so happy about that – maybe I am getting something right on this motherhood journey after all.
It takes us a while to get through the whole jar: partly because it’s stuffed full of notes; and partly because each memory or moment shared leads to a conversation about it, a “remember when…?” and reminiscing and laughing all over again.
Some of my favourite notes from this year were:
ELLA: Spending the whole day with Mum just the two of us
MIMI: Being chosen to captain the girls football team for a tournament at school; getting a Sports Award at the presentation assembly at school
LOLA: Going to her best friend’s house to play; getting the Star Of The Week award at her musical theatre class
ME: There are so many to choose from! Feeling my best friend’s baby move in her tummy (and then getting to meet her when she was ten weeks old and we went to stay with them for a couple of days); spending an afternoon with a friend from America and meeting her beautiful family when they visited London; our annual visit to Bude (St Nectan’s Glen and Clovelly were two particular highlights); our trip to Italy (pizza, gelato, sunshine, incredible scenery); walks on Cannock Chase and visits to Trentham Gardens; watching The Greatest Showman over and over again; our mini-road trip; Harry Potter World; luxury glamping at Warwick Castle; quiet days spent playing board games; doing a newborn photoshoot for a friend; celebrating birthdays and anniversaries; getting the giggles with the girls over a silly cat video…
It’s funny. I’d considered 2018 to be quite a tough year. The husband had a rough few months in the middle of the year with depression and anxiety. I’ve had my own ups and downs with both of those things too. The ongoing challenge of trying to help Mimi with the things she struggles with. Ella having a bit of a wobbly start to high school. Lola’s intense emotions. Feeling frustrated with not being able to grow my blog and photography businesses as much as I wanted to. The house still not being as we want it to be. Not quite fulfilling my intention of taking action in the way I’d envisioned it at the start of the year. Significant health issues for various family members. It’s felt… difficult.
But looking back though our Happy Jar like this has helped me see that overall it’s actually been a wonderful year! It helped me remember all the things that we’ve enjoyed, all the fun we had, all the new things we experienced together, all the love that there is in our family. Yes, they’re the highlights and the difficult things still happened, but challenging moments don’t make up the whole year: the positives far outweighed the less-positive times. And that’s the key thing really – remembering that there are always more good times than tricky ones.
And now we have an empty jar to fill throughout 2019. We’ve got a couple of trips planned so I’ve no doubt that there will be a few little notes about looking forwards to those, plus several scraps of paper about all the things we get up to whilst we’re away (I’m already so excited!). Otherwise, who knows?!
2019 is a blank canvas, an opportunity to create a year full of memories. I work hard to create magical moments with and for my girls and as altogether as family, and I also love it when the magic happens on it’s own too – spontaneous little moments that make life memorable. The very best kind 🙂
I can’t wait to open our Happy Jar at the end of the year to see what memories we’ve made and the fun we’ve had.
Do you have a family happy jar (or variation of one)? What have been some of your most memorable moments throughout 2018?