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Nathan is Hebrew and means "gift from God" - we couldn't have been more blessed than to have been chosen as his parents!

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pack your bags! We're all going on a trip to Holland!

When Nathan was born I was given a poem written by Emily Perl Kinglsey, titled "Welcome to Holland," from just about everyone that knew of its existence - even my sister gave me the poem. Without reading it, I knew what it was about because those that didn't give me the poem told me all about it. I never read it until today.

Emily Perl Kinglsey's son Jason has Down syndrome and the poem is her reflection of what it's like to have a child with a disability. This poem can speak to each of us regardless of your abilities - the moral of the story is - everything in life is what you make it. You choose.

WELCOME TO HOLLAND
by Emily 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'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.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Every time I read it, I get emotional. Though I don't have a child with a disability, I like to believe that I look at life, with all of its twists and turns, from that perspective. Certainly, I forget every once in a while, and this poem helps to remind me.

By the way - while some of us may have made it to Italy, its important to remember that the trip is not always EVERYthing you planned for. As no trip is without its share of little unexpected "surprises" and pitfalls. There is no 'perfect place.' And, there will always be some sort of housekeeping to be done - life truly is, what we make of it.

Hugs and kisses,
and much love,
Ree

Mairead Elizabeth Hickok said...

I had actually read that poem for a class once- we were talking about teaching and parents children with special needs, and how that journey is so different for everyone on it. I think it's a great metaphor and so eloquently describes the author's experiences. I hadn't seen it in a long time- thanks for posting it!

Anonymous said...

Life is truly what you make of it whether or not you are blessed with abilities or not. This is a great reminder of that to everyone who reads it. Nathan is truly blessed to have parents who recognize this. Nathan is an adorable little boy.

Lilyana's grandma.

Lianna said...

Life is exactly what you make of it. I remember receiving WELCOME TO HOLLAND in a folder given to us by the local Ds community centre shortly after we found out about Gabriel having Ds.

The thing is, not unlike you, I didn't read it for a long time. And it took me a few times of reading it through to accept what she was saying even though I was wearing the "brave face".

Now, reading her words, makes me realize how fortunate I am. Holland is terrific -- there are certainly some rough areas, but I like being "here".