Filling a Memory Jar – Remembering their field of dreams
I feel bad about my Aunt Mary. She died three years ago, at age 94, in a nursing home. When she lived in her apartment, I loved to visit her. We didn’t live too far from her and on many nights, I would say to my husband and the four kids, “Do you want to go visit Aunt Mary?”
I would pull the van in front of the Genuardi’s supermarket and the kids would run into the store with a twenty-dollar bill to get the snacks. Aunt Mary didn’t have much food in her refrigerator and certainly not any sweets.
When I was a kid, Aunt Mary had lots of candy – in her collection of candy jars and candy dishes. That was before she had diabetes.
My kids would come out with a half gallon of ice cream, chocolate syrup, whipped crème and cherries. We were all set. We liked going over because she made a big fuss about how much she enjoyed the visits – and the treats.
After she had a bad fall, she could no longer live alone and went to live in a healthcare facility. It was a little bit further, my visits became less frequent, and somehow they were not as much fun. Her apartment had been so cozy and somehow it had seemed exciting and a bit adventurous to load the kids in the car – when they probably should have been in bed – and go eat ice cream on a school night.
She loved rap music and watching television until 2 am when she fell asleep in her pink Lazy Boy chair. I am sure she did not understand the words to the songs.
When I visit the nursing homes and healthcare communities, I look into the eyes of each resident and smile as if each person was my dear Aunt Mary. Sometimes, my Aunt Mary had a faraway look in her eyes, just like many people that I meet.
She probably had an infield and outfield of dreams once when she was young. Her mother died when she was twelve and she dropped out of school to raise my dad – he was five years old. We used to go to bed hungry a lot. I always gave little Bobby the soup and the best fruit. And, I made sure he went to school. He went up to 9th grade.
I think of her candy jars, the ones that she had in her kitchen in the 1950’s and 1960’s. That is how I got the idea for the Memory Jar. When I go to visit all of the “Aunt Mary’s”, I ask the seniors to share a memory with me. I place all of the scraps of paper in the Memory Jar. The Jar filled with dreams, heartaches and heroes.
The Memory Jar is special – it is the wisdom keeper of secrets and tender times; why she postponed motherhood until the late 30’s, the memories of feeding birds, problems with kids, preparing extra-hearty meals in the winter, a youth filled with dance lessons, a major snowstorm that threatened to cancel the wedding…. a time when they refused to give up, a time they beat the odds, and a time when they accepted what they could not change.
My child was “born sick.”
My favorite memory is of reading Golden Book Sleepytime Tales to my children.
A wonderful memory is when my grandchildren from Florida first saw snow.
My parents were always disappointed in me – I was not a Phi Beta Kappa.
The wisdom contained in the Memory Jar is priceless – just like Aunt Mary and her collection of candy jars. Just like all of the residents that I have met during the past year and a half with the Stories for Seniors Project.