Holland. My mother’s been there. She brought me back these cute teeny tiny wooden blue painted shoes. I picture people walking around in wooden shoes, cute funny hats. I think all the men dress in green woolen Bermuda shorts and suspenders. All the women, of course, wear dresses with elaborate embroidered bodices with colored skirts, and they all have blond hair that curls up at the end. Everyone lives on a farm with a windmill. Of course, that’s not reality, but it’s what I picture nonetheless. I think going to that Holland would be like going into nice childhood memory. Such a quaint, albeit wrong, vision.
But Holland is a metaphor now thanks to a wonderful essay by Emily Perl Kingsley.
Welcome to Holland
Emily Perl Kingsley.
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……
When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”
“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”
But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland. c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved
Now, you might ask yourself, then. Do I mind having to be in Holland all the time. Actually, yes I do. I never wanted to go to Itally either, but that’s besides the point. 🙂 But, I don’t mind it most days, just some. Metaphorically speaking, traveling to Holland every day ain’t easy. Years ago, when Katelin was going through a particularly rough patch (of several months) this essay inspired a poem. So, here is my answer to Ms. Kingsley essay.
I visit Holland every day and mostly I go alone
To spend the hours, frantic, because it hardly feels like home.
And the language that gets spoken is hard to understand
And there are only a few that lend a helping hand,
Because the one traveler that’s always by my side
Is one they see and hear but wish they could deny.
Oh, they all say they understand, smile, nod their heads
And tell me, yes they know, but not one would go in my stead.
There are days I hate it; I beg and plead it isn’t so
Because Holland is not a place I ever wanted to go.
But still there’s my ticket- Sleeping quietly in bed
And sometimes I am guilty, wishing she belonged to someone else instead.
Yet, most days-Holland is ok with all its problems and tears
And I wouldn’t trade the ticket of a daily trip for years.
Because, Holland remains innocent, untouched by age or schemes
And every day and night are filled with only sweet, sweet dreams.
And a two year old at seventy will keep me young at heart
Still smelling the roses (or tulips) and happy each time we depart.
So, sleep my life-long child in dreamland far away-
And I will pack our things tonight for the trip we take the next day.
And in our bags I’ll put, along with diapers and such,
Patience, hope, love and a little bit of luck-
That our flight is not delayed and over before we know
And we have had a happy day with all the places that we go.
Yes, dream, sweet dreams of all that you will see
As you travel to Holland, every day with me.
It’s true that I always wanted you to see much more
And wanted to go with you to other places and explore.
I know what you are missing, but forget what’s gained instead-
Flowers and beauty every day and a sleeping ever-child in bed,
Who will always love bubbles, Barney and Pooh Bear,
Storybooks and tickles, messy face, hands and hair.
I know that when I’m 70 and she’s still only 2,
I’ll whisper when she falls asleep- I can’t wait to go to Holland with you.