It was nearly -30 Degrees C on the Wednesday of Christmas Break.

I was cozied under a blanket with a book when I heard our front door slam.

I didn’t even have to look.

I got up and slid into some boots, and dashed outside in just my sweater, following my son.

A smile spread across his face.

“Mommy, it is coming!” he said in a little voice that sounds a little bit like a robot.

“It sure is,” I smiled back, pulling the hat I had brought onto his head. (The big one, with the fuzzy ear flaps that tie under his chin.)

I went back inside and took my place at the window, as the big green garbage truck made its way down our street, stopping two doors down, one door down, and finally, at our house.

I wish I had the words to describe the joy.

There was my boy–my baby–all grown up as a tall eight-year-old, jumping up and down with glee. He smiled, he waved, he gushed, he acted like a fan at a concert.

The big green truck extended its arm, grabbed our trash can, and swung it high into the air, to the cheers of its biggest fan. The arm brought it back down again with less of a clunk than usual, thanks to all the snow, and the driver inside gave my son a big, enthusiastic wave.

My boy made his way back inside with rosy-red cheeks and a smile that could light the whole world.

On Wednesdays (during the summer and school holidays) we watch garbage trucks.

I have rescheduled playdates and appointments around the garbage truck’s schedule. I have even found out where the garbage trucks “sleep” when they are not picking up the trash, so we can drive by while we are doing errands.

I don’t do it because I have to. I do it because I can.

Because one garbage truck sighting makes him happy for days.

Because, I can’t control so many things about my son’s life as he navigates Autism, but I can do this.

In a way, I wish more people were like him. I wish the whole world could be as happy as my son is when he sees a garbage truck.

On Park Playdates We Pick Up Trash

Yes, he will go on the swing or the slide, or run through the spray pad, but only after the park is clean.

When we arrive, my son zeros in on the abandoned coffee cup on the park bench. The fast food bag lazily left on a picnic table. The neon-coloured flyer that has gotten loose and now rests under a tree.

He puts them all in their rightful place: the big trash bin by the picnic tables.

Then, he looks for other things to put in the trash. He picks up all the fallen branches and big sticks that would get stuck in a lawnmower, and he disposes of those too.

And then, he reports to Mom. (He knows the drill. Mom needs to sanitize those hands!)

On park playdates we pick up trash.

And I don’t mind one bit.

Yes, sometimes I have seen people stare.

It’s ok. I know it’s not typical, but neither is my boy.

My boy is atypical.

My boy is neurodivergent.

My boy is Autistic.

And the world is (quite literally) a more beautiful place because of it.

© 2022 Ashley Lilley – First time commenting? Please read my Comment Policy.

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