I had no way of knowing that this little jar would hold so many important things. On one hand, the memories of that year are ingrained in my mind and I don’t actually need them on little tears of paper. But on the other hand — on the hand that values sentiment — those little pieces of paper hold deeper meaning than just memories. Each slip a memory of a joy or a pain, a surprise or concern, and each slip a tangible expression of what that year held. Now those slips of memories are in the trash somewhere back in Pennsylvania, and this little jar is on my nightstand holding pennies an inch deep. The pennies weren’t on purpose, but they also weren’t a mistake. I had emptied the jar a few months prior to moving and had decided that the papers weren’t as important as the actual memories and I felt the permission to dump the papers. Each slip held a really beautiful memory, even if it was a painful one.
The day I moved to Pittsburgh. The day I found my church. The day my grandmother went into the hospital. The day of her funeral when I had a job interview but instead I was stopped on the side of Brighton Road having an anxiety attack. The day I met my dearest friends and mentors. The day I felt I had a community. The day my grandpa went into the hospital. The day he came home. The day I first experienced extended prayer and worship. The day I moved to Washington. The day I felt at home.
Now, pennies. Some of the pennies had been in there already collecting with silvers, but it started as a penny jar until I needed a coin jar and then, well, lots of coins. But some of the pennies were gifts, little round coppers filling my palm as each person said their goodbyes the eve of my departure.
So now I collect pennies. Now I have a jar of pennies to dig my hand into. I never would have put so much value on a small coin on my own. I had help. Someone read me an essay about pennies by one of her favorite authors, who is also now one of my favorite authors.
Now the pennies fill up the spaces that the paper memories filled. Now instead of crumpled tears of paper with sloppy penmanship marking memories of that first year in Pennsylvania, I have weighty coins to fill my fists and remind me of the formative moments that weigh me down and anchor me to that place.