Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas in Holland.


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.


We just had our 3rd Christmas "in Holland."  Wesley is 4 and this should have been a really exciting Christmas for him.  But we are in Holland.  Things are not the same here.  I currently have 7 still wrapped gifts sitting by the tree, all with Wesley's name on them.

Christmas morning, he acted like we were trying to murder him when we tried to get him to open his gifts.  So, we are letting him do it in his own time.  Every now and then, for reasons unbeknown to us, he will take interest and decide to open something...then it's back to whatever he was doing before.

I mourn Italy on occasion, but I recognize the beauty of Holland.  Wesley greets me with great vigor every time I am away from him for a time...even if it's just long enough to take a shower.  :-)  He gets super excited for the smallest things.  "Cars" is his favorite movie and you can't help but smile when you see how excited he gets over it!  He loves to be praised and will look for it!  He likes to make you laugh, he just recently learned how to pretend to be a dog.  He will get in my face barking, panting and even licking until I just crack up.


  1. I have gotten used to the clogs and windmills now and quite enjoy it (most days, have some days where I long for Italy!!). Jen

  2. I actually recently called someone about this poem, though they never got back to me. I had heard it read on a testimony night and I loved it. Thanks for posting it. I have a few questions about it if you get a chance. Thanks.


  3. It's so hard to find the balance between mourning what didn't happen and celebrating what we have. I'm sure that it's always a struggle, regardless of what our "Italy/Holland" situation is.

    That said, when Rich posted about Holland the other day, I couldn't help but think of David Sedaris's "6 to 8 Black Men" essay. Which is what I associate with the Netherlands & Christmas! Ha!

  4. Hi there, new follower here! I found your site on the blog hop. I hope you'll follow me back.


  5. Thanks for joining How sweet It Is, hope your having fun party hopping!

  6. Have you ever read the second part of the Holland piece? Let me know if you'd like to.

  7. Following you from the Mrs. blog. Please stop on by and say hi. We love new followers as well.

  8. Stopping by from A Pocket Full of Buttons, just showing some support!!!! I would not have found your blog had she not posted what happed with the list, so I am glad I found out.

    I love the metaphor you used to describe your life. Your post is wonderful!

    Anna, The Pilot's Wife

  9. What a lovely post!! I am also showing support from the How Sweet!?!?

  10. Thank you for writing this-I have been to your blog before and honestly thought you had spent Christmas in Holland itself-I am glad I took time to read this....I have never spent anytime in Holland...guess I am what you call the Italy...but I appreciate how those that go to Holland adapt and go on with your plan-just in your own way. (hope that makes sense).

  11. I loved reading this...I'm all choked up.
    I get the Italy envy, the "what ifs" and to reality checks.

    Here's to the hollanders or hollandese, tulips, rembrandt and funny shoes!