Megan Goates is a Salt Lake City native with degrees in English, teaching, and writing. She blogs as a form of therapy at tooursurvival.com about raising boys. Two of her four sons have special needs; four of the four have lots of opinions. She likes it that way.

photoThat September morning, piles of dirty carpet and crumbling carpet pad overwhelmed my house. The combination of exposed tack strips and little bare feet turned the dreamy event of getting new flooring into kind of a nightmare.

As we watched for the bus and I kept my mentally disabled nine-year-old son Jack from menacing the tools which littered the floor, the carpet installer watched Jack with curiosity. He nodded and told him hello, then asked where he went to school.

After Jack left on his bus, the carpet man went to his truck and returned with a laminated obituary of a woman with special needs who had passed away a couple of years ago in her early fifties.

“That’s my little sister,” he said.

The high points of this woman’s life were written by someone who knew her well. Some of my favorite parts: she liked Big Red gum, Pepsi, eating out, singing duets with her brother (our carpet guy), and shopping at the dollar store. She had more friends than anyone else in her family and always had to have two dollars in her purse.

Her personality shone from the laminated newsprint.

Later, my toddler and I left for a walk and I considered the carpet man’s sister and her list of simple pleasures.

When we passed the school where the sixth-graders were wrapping up recess, I casually tried to spot my kid in the sea of navy and red polo shirts. I wanted a peek of my eldest in his element. Just before I rounded the bend in the path, half of the sixth grade spotted and recognized me, yelling, “Hi Henry’s mom!” Henry gave me a wave and a “Hi Mom!”

I decided that moment was worthy of a laminated obituary. My simple pleasure: being known as my kid’s mom by a happy crowd of sixth graders.

Before the walk and my celebrity moment by the school, when I finished reading the obituary of a woman I didn’t know, I thanked the carpet man for sharing it with me and handed it back to him.

You know.”  he said. “You understand.  She was a joy…….and a chore.”

At this statement my mind raced through myriad images of my family’s life, like the shuffling of a deck of cards.

I saw myself holding my redheaded baby as a geneticist diagnosed him with a rare syndrome.

I imagined every time a Code Brown covered the carpet, walls, and furniture and squashed my will to live.

I remembered feeling like I lived at Primary Children’s Hospital and at Early Intervention, or at least on the freeway which ran between them.

I recalled kneeling helplessly beside Jack’s toddler bed as he cried, listening when the Spirit whispered “Jack is a child of God.”

I pictured the after-bath miracle when three-year-old Jack, who had never before mimicked things we tried to teach him, imitated my husband opening and closing his mouth, saying “ah” to his hooded-towel clad reflection in the mirror.

I grimaced at the memory of ten years of difficult Sundays with Jack kicking me in the church foyer, screaming during the sacrament, and having no place to fit in during the two long remaining hours.

I tasted the sweetness of the evening two Christmases ago when my family sat together on the couch through an entire viewing of Fantastic Mr. Fox without a single person freaking out.

I swelled with emotion remembering when the bishop asked me at Jack’s eight-year-old interview if I believed Jack knows his Savior, and deeply knowing that he does, even though he can’t say it.

I recalled the recent day when my boys and I walked the long gray windowless hallway leading to the university behavioral health clinic, and I realized that place no longer holds any power over me. Victory and acceptance have replaced anxiety and despair.

I felt the lightness that accompanied a dream I had where a neighbor leaned over and whispered to me at church, “You don’t need to worry what people think about the challenges you have raising your children. You’re doing a good job,” and knowing it was actually God saying it to me.

On that September morning, my mind fanned through the everyday images of parenting a joy and a chore. I solemnly nodded at this knowing man stapling carpet to our stairs, who in five words summarized the essence of my life.

What things in your life are ‘a joy and a chore’?  Also, like “Big Red Gum,” and “being called my kid’s mom”, what are your simple pleasures?  How do life’s simple pleasures make the difficult parts more tolerable?

 

May 30, 2014

12 Comments

  1. Allison

    May 29, 2014

    I read your post this morning and have been thinking about it all day as I’ve cared for my infant son and made slow progress on an assignment for my church calling (both things that, for me, can be described by your title phrase). Thank you so much for sharing this–and what a great carpet installer!

  2. Blue

    May 29, 2014

    My joys and chores have changed at different stages of my life. It’s gotten less choreish and more joyish as time has passed. Currently, practicing piano is a joy and a chore. Making my kid practice piano, too. Exercise is a mostly just a chore, til it’s done and then I’m glad I did it 😉

    The simple pleasures for me? When I find a way to help someone out, or legitimately make their day brighter. When I’m able to do an act of service or kindness and know it actually matters. When I have a new insight or see something from a different perspective, come up with a great idea or complete something I’ve been wroking on. These things make my heart sing.

    Sometime I’m going to say “who cares!” and jump on the trampoline when it’s raining, even though ever since I had kids jumping on it makes me pee my pants a little. And I got a lilac bush the other day because I smelled something amazing walking through the parking lot at home depot and deduced it was one of the plants a man had on his cart and he told me what it was. I have been collecting pretty colored glass to create art with…that’s a simple enough pleasure. And I always roll my window down and slow to a crawl when I drive over Millcreek to smell the water and listen to the sound. Those are my simple pleasures. ♥

    • Lauren

      May 30, 2014

      I hear ya about jumping on the trampoline these days!

  3. Tiffany W

    May 29, 2014

    Oh this made me cry. I had this moment today in the midst of weighty concerns and thoughts where all was beautiful and sweet. My baby was snuggled in tightly against my chest and my other children were outside playing joyfully in the backyard. It was a spot of brightness and beauty.

  4. Jennie L

    May 29, 2014

    I love this. The simple comment of instant connection and a silent understanding. So powerful and sweet.

  5. Hildie

    May 29, 2014

    Very few things that are truly a joy are not also a chore as well: gardening, eating a fantastic meal that you cooked yourself, decorating a beautiful room, our church callings, hearing your children play together (not a chore in that moment, but a chore most of time!). Thanks for the lovely reminder.

  6. Lauren

    May 30, 2014

    Motherhood is a joy and a chore. I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last week and how to each of us, it’s our own specific chore and maybe it’s really hard for one person, and a different kind of hard for another person.
    I am in awe of the work that you do every single day with your boys, but I wonder if you hear that so much that it feels… hollow? How many are taking care of children with special needs? How many have two? And how many have two other kids as well? But you do it because, well, that is your life. To me, you are a super woman, but I wonder if to you, you don’t feel like you deserve the praise.
    I think that you do. You deserve the praise for being you; for raising your boys, for sharing your story, for your beautiful writing, for your fabulous friendship; and on and on.
    When I get to know somebody a little bit more, it’s just a glimpse into the joys that they experience because of the chores that they do over and over.
    So I’m giving myself credit for feeling exhausted with just ONE kid because to me, it’s still hard. And I’m appreciating the joy of laughing with this one boy, or taking a picture of him stuffing his face with dinner, because that is my experience. And that is one of the little things: taking a picture at dinner time when my toddler makes a glorious mess of his dinner, but gets enough of it in his tummy that he’s happy.

  7. Kerri

    May 31, 2014

    I agree with Lauren. And I love you.

  8. Karen

    June 2, 2014

    I laughed and cried while I read this. I have a daughter who has down Syndrome, and because of her, I have realized that most people have special needs of some kind, they just are not always as obvious.
    I loved the obituary, because like that man’s sister, my daughter finds joy in simple things. What a great example she is.
    Thanks so much for this post. I needed the reminder to find my simple pleasures.

  9. Mike C

    June 6, 2014

    Thanks for the lovely story! Best of luck with the many joys and chores you must have in raising your kids.

Comments are closed.

RELATED POSTS