Fishbowl Funnies & Memory Keeping


After my now-husband and I had been dating for a while, I noticed that his parents kept a fishbowl filled with index cards in their kitchen. At first, my thought was that it was full of recipes that my mother-in-law kept carefully guarded, like her famous pistachio pie. It wasn’t until she pulled the bowl out on the dining room table one night that I realized it held a larger purpose.

memory keeping with folded slips of paper in a bowl

The Purpose of the Fishbowl

That fishbowl held all of the funny things her two sons had said over the course of their childhood. It was filled with quips from both boys that made her laugh every time she read their words on the index cards. Even now, it remains a huge source of entertainment whenever the grandkids pull it out and flip through the assorted index cards.

It made me wonder how I would document the lives of my own children in the digital age.

Memory-keeping is extremely important to me, especially knowing that our time with our kids tends to be more fleeting than we think possible. You never know when a child might leave your home, sometimes sooner than you anticipated.

Keeping those precious memories alive allows us to reflect on where we’ve been and what good moments we had.

Our Own Style of Memory Keeping

One of the things we do each year is compile a family photo album. This has become a way for us to review what the last year brought and to present it to my in-laws as a new source of memories that are kept apart from their own fishbowl. It captures the essence of our families over the course of a year, and it’s easier than ever to make since we all take pictures on our phones. Stacked one after the other on the shelf, it shows the progression of kids from birth to elementary school, and everywhere in between.

This memory-keeping has become even more precious to us as we learn how fleeting life can be. My father-in-law had a stroke almost two decades ago, and some of the precious memories that he had are lost to us forever due to his aphasia. My husband and I found the same thing as some of our children have moved on from our home.

In other words, we don’t want the memories to die with us.

With our first biological child in the house, I’ve started keeping a bin of sentimental items: the first blanket from the hospital, our favorite outfits, and even his first handmade Halloween costume. I imagine this system will prove bulky 18 years from now, and he may not want to take with him all the detritus of his childhood, but I will be glad that I saved it for him all the same.

It’s an imperfect system, this holding of the memories. But we know how precious that link to the past can be for both the parents and the children. It makes us more determined than ever to keep the memory of our families alive with us. Maybe we will start our own fishbowl one day so that we have a record to look back on.

I wish we had started sooner, the very first time we became parents.

If you have littles in the house right now, don’t miss out on this chance to start your own fishbowl record of moments. You will never regret taking 30 seconds to jot down a funny quip or something cute your kids did, to snap a picture and make it into a photo album, or to tuck away a treasured piece of art into a box somewhere.

How will you start keeping the memory of your family alive, even now?

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Ashley Simpson is a freelance writer and book coach, helping people to tell authentic and true stories that come from the heart. She has been married to her high school sweetheart, Parker, for the past 10 years and just gave birth to her first biological child, Jasper. Prior to this, they were foster parents for several years and have had close to a dozen teens through their home – some for longer than others. When she isn’t writing or drinking coffee, you will find her at the barn with her horse or with her nose buried in a book.


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