Thursday, January 29, 2009

Welcome to Holland

I wonder if you have read or heard of this piece before?

It has been in my mind lately for many reasons.

byEmily Perl Kingsley.

c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved

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 are going to have a baby, it is like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks 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 flight attendant comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I am supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

Nevertheless, there's been a change in the flight plan. They have landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they have not 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. You must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

Its just a different place. Its 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. Moreover, 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.

Its true. Some families only ever get to speak Italian. They never think twice about it.

Some commute back and forth from Italy (that can be very confusing). An Italian kid and a Dutch kid in the same family. Some of us have Dutch uncles :)

We become bilingual. Its a talent. An art. Not one we aspired to from an early age, but still...

For those who find themselves in Holland - welcome to the club.

And congratulations to my little Dutchie, my little spekulaas, for landing a job. Woo-hoo!

I wouldn't change you for all the pasta in the world.


widget said...

That's brilliant. Congrats! Description was awesome.

Jennifer said...

This was a beautiful piece. I'd never seen it before, and am so glad you posted it; it will be incredibly helpful for me in my work with some parents who are facing their child's learning differences for the first time as they surface during early school years. Different kinds of disabilities certainly, but still a different journey from the one imagined.

Frogdancer said...

I'm so glad she found a job! Wish her all the best from us.

Lesley said...

Wonderful news about the job - she must be thrilled too! Give her my love.
I had to smile about the two places you mentioned in your previous post ...!

mtnchild said...

Awww - What a wonderful piece!


Melzie said...

I have that laminated :) I love it. I have a 'Dutch' kid myself ;) Love your blog as always. xoxo melzie

Tillybud said...

I've read it before but had forgotten about it. thanks for renewing my acquaintance -it's lovely and so true.

Anonymous said...

I have given theis out to parents in my classroom in years gone by, it always gets comments. It's such a wise slice of writing.

Stomper Girl said...


Kelley said...

I have seen variations on that one.

Not as nice and happy as it. I tend to identify more with them.

Perhaps one day Holland will be nice, I know a guy who lives there. ;)

Dutch Boy said...

Beautiful,love reading your blog.

Natalie said...

I found this at just the right time.
Amazing. Thank you.
I'm loving the windmills.

Victoria said...

Glad you had a good holiday:)