Suzie Skougard has four beautiful children, and one of these little girls just happens to have Down syndrome. Skougard was aware little Carly would be born with Down syndrome, so while she was pregnant, she tried to learn as much about it as she could.
At Skougard’s local grocery store, she always picked Sydney Taylor’s checkout lane. Taylor has Down syndrome as well, and Skougard had wondered, what would it mean for Carly when she got older?
“What would her life be like? Would she be anything like this woman?”
She hadn’t mentioned to Taylor that Carly had Down syndrome, not when she was pregnant, and not when she was a little girl.
Besides Taylor, Skougard also interacted with many other people at the grocery store on a regular basis—and not all of those interactions were good.
By the time Carly was 6 months old, Skougard remembers a woman who scolded her for not putting shoes on Carly after she had kicked them off, a clerk who just was not interested in helping her find an item, and an impatient person who just shoved past the mother and daughter when they had been walking slowly behind an elderly gentleman.
But then she got to the checkout line, and Taylor reached out to hug Carly.
By then, Carly was fussy and upset—nap time had been interrupted—but what Taylor did just made her day.
She wrapped her arms around Carly and said, “She has Down syndrome.”
“She sure does,” Skougard replied. Then she snapped a photo, “because when exchanges like this happen, they are my favorite moments in the world.”
Taylor said, “I have Down syndrome like her, and I have a big heart.”
“You definitely do have a big heart,” Skougard said.
“Does she know sign language?” Taylor asked, signing at Carly, and showing her some of the signs she used as a baby.
“Yes! Carly knows those ones!”
Then Taylor said she there was one more she could teach her, and signed “I love you” to Carly.
Skougard had had all those unpleasant encounters at the grocery store, but this gesture was just worth so much more. She took to Facebook to share the experience on a page she made chronicling Carly’s wonderful adventures.
“Some people people feel like people with Down syndrome don’t contribute anything meaningful to society, but amidst all the Grinches today, she stood apart. And just being her, she gave us an amazing gift. A smile,” Skougard wrote. “Merry Christmas, y’all.”
The photo went viral—and then Taylor’s family saw it pop up on Facebook.
A friend of Taylor’s mother had tagged her in a comment, reading:
“Joyce you must be so proud when you read this post, I can honestly say it made me tear up. It’s beautiful to read about the impact that Sydney has had on someone’s life and the sweet connection with Carly and her mom. Team Carly, I love this post, thank you for sharing and for showing what a wonderful heart my cousin Syd has. No doubt your daughter will also grow up to love this world bigger than you could imagine!”
And Skougard was thrilled that the outpouring of love for Taylor from friends and strangers alike made it back to her.
“Our whole family just adores Sydney. More than once after our interactions, I’ve come out to my car and cried happy tears with hopes for my daughter,” Skougard wrote.
The post was shared to Team Carly Jean, a page dedicated to Carly’s smile and her development, where Skougard continues to update the page with heartwarming stories that help raise awareness about Down syndrome.
For instance, in May, Skougard wrote about Carly’s amazing speech development.
Time and again, doctors told her Carly wouldn’t be able to speak until she was 5.
But then while waiting at her daughter Evie’s ballet class, she saw another little girl with Down syndrome, around age 3, bounce up to her father and say, “Dad, I was a quesadilla.” She immediately began asking him questions, and realized that she shouldn’t sell Carly short. Skougard hadn’t been able to get Carly into speech therapy, so she made it her mission to work with her herself.
Now, “Carly’s vocabulary is in full bloom, and so is her sense of humor,” Skougard wrote, describing the funny interactions she has with her siblings.
“Another worth noting: she and I were playing on the floor, and she got over excited and hit me. I immediately made a sad face. She said clear as day, ‘I sorry Mama. I gentle’ and reached out for a hug.”
“S’s and R’s are really hard, and she’s never used the word sorry before. She would sign it when she was told to say it,” Skougard explained.”To hear it so clear, literally gave me chills.”
“Carly is a beautiful little girl who just happens to have Down syndrome. This is a good page to check out when you need a smile,” Skougard writes.