We Collected the Keys to Happiness In This Jar

Our son was four when he picked up his first lacrosse stick. He stood before us, three-foot nothing, filled with a spirit of discernment and a laundry list of demands starting with his first helmet. I just knew this hobby would never last.

This was my child who refused to wear a hat when it was cold or a Halloween mask. Somehow, he would play a sport with a helmet and pads. It did not seem likely, but I was wrong. I was very wrong. He never looked back. His love for the sport grew with exponential fervor. It consumed him in all the best ways possible. 

We collected keys to happiness. (Photo credit: Danielle Hall)

We traveled all over the state for my son to play lacrosse

By the time he was eight, we were traveling all over the state, and by the age of nine, we hit the road and headed out of state and up north. We were uncertain where the journey would take us or when it would end. We were there for it. He had a big dream, and we were happy to help.

It was on our first big trip out of state when my husband came up with an idea. He slid our first hotel key into the side pocket of his truck door and outlined his plan. It was simple. We would collect a key from each hotel room we stayed in while we traveled for lacrosse. We would simply stash the keys away in a drawer. Maybe one day, we would look back at them and be reminded how far we had come. 

Well, one key turned into a dozen keys. That dozen turned to fifty. That fifty became a hundred. Our collection grew and grew until there were hundreds of keys. This year, as our last summer of travel lacrosse ended, we began to fill a gallon-size Mason jar with our collection. To our surprise, the keys more than filled the jar. We needed a bigger jar. 

Much to my surprise, my son stuck with lacrosse. (Photo credit: Danielle Hall)

I see so much in our collection of hotel key cards

My husband placed the jar on our fireplace. I have passed that jar for the last few days and stared at it in amazement. I am certain if any other person walked by, they would see a jar of stupid plastic or someone’s idea of a bizarre collection. I see so much more.   

It is a jar of hope and a jar of dreams. Those keys are the keys to happiness. They didn’t just open the door to the hotel rooms with crappy, complimentary breakfast bars. Those keys opened the doors to family wrestling matches and hotel room pizza parties. They are reminders of lifelong friendships made on and off the field. They are the keys to laughter.

That jar of keys reminds me that I will never stop longing to have all of us sleeping under one roof

Keys remind me how I will never stop longing to have all of us sleeping under one roof. There is something about that symphony of snoring and breathing after a long day. I am certain all mothers treasure it because that sound means her children are with her.

These are not fancy keys from exotic resorts in far-off destinations. There is zero monetary value. Yet, they represent something so valuable to me. Each represents a night spent with our family — a night where we were all piled into one small room. We were talking and laughing and watching movies.  

Nights where we worked in unison to disguise the pungent odor of wet lacrosse equipment. Those keys illustrate a decade-long journey where our whole family helped our son reach his goals and dreams. That jar is filled with more than old hotel keys. Its contents are sacrifice and hard work.

This year is his senior year. We will move him into his dorm nine states away in twelve months from now. He is moving on and continuing his journey as a Division 1 lacrosse player. We could not be more excited for him. 

My husband and I will also start a new chapter, which will be an adjustment. While our son is off chasing his dreams, we will be learning to live our day-to-day lives without him here, at home, with us. There will not be any sweaty workout clothes to wash. My grocery bill will certainly decrease.

Our son will leave, and our home will grow quieter

Our house will grow quieter without his loud antics and gregarious personality. I won’t be a team mom for the first time in a few years. My husband will not be ordering new equipment or athletic tape. We will be one step closer to empty nesters.

My heart is heavy with that thought. How can I be so happy and so sad all at the same time? I just can’t help but think we need to find a new jar. 

Mothers need time to slow down and yearn to regain the lost moments. We are forever fighting to preserve every second we are given. We don’t take any of it for granted if we are smart.

Our job as mothers is prepare our kids to leave us

We hold on tight and understand that our time as mothers is the most precious gift. It is so strange to me. Our job as moms is to prepare our children to leave the nest. No one tells you about the simultaneous realization of never wanting them to leave. 

My husband and I will never say we did everything right. Like every parent, we were trying to figure it out. There was a lot of trial and error. I know we messed up more times than I would like to count.

That jar sitting on our hearth, with all those silly plastic keys, that jar says we did something right. It is a reassurance of our effort. The jar symbolizes our willingness to put family first. It was us against the world. The keys in the jar say so. 

Those are the keys to many wonderful memories from a decade of happiness. I have no idea what the next jar looks like. I can only pray that one day, I will look back at its contents with the same admiration and affection I see when I walk past this jar. 

More Great Reading:

Losing My Marbles, One Day At a Time

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