One of my ENG 299 assignments this week is to find my “favorite” (in quotes because no way; I have too many) poem and send it to my instructor.
The first thought that popped into my mind when I heard of this was (in the words of my friend) nope. Not going to happen. Do you know how many poems are beautiful, moving, etc.? Basically all of them. That’s what poetry does; it evokes a feeling in readers that is hard to ignore.
The second thought that came to mind was a piece of writing called “Welcome to Holland.” Though it isn’t necessarily a poem, this piece has hung in my mother’s classroom for as long as I can remember and is certainly a favorite of mine. It has traveled through numerous towns and classrooms throughout the years, but the message is simply beautiful and incredibly meaningful to me. So, that being said, I wanted to share it with you:
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.”
I know that to some of you this piece of writing means nothing. It’s just words on a page that describes a life you don’t know or understand. That’s okay.
However, to me, this is perfect. My younger brother, Kellan, has Down syndrome, a fact my family didn’t know until after Kellan was born. It was a shock; my parents were reeling from this and had to deal with the fact that Kellan was born very sick. He didn’t have an esophagus, and, quite frankly, the future wasn’t looking very bright. My parents felt confused, scared, and alone.
Flash forward to today and you wouldn’t know. Kellan is a healthy 17-year-old who loves basketball, movies, and Pepsi. He has had over 20 surgeries in his lifetime (and probably isn’t done yet), but he has this zest and love for living and kindness that makes me a proud big sister. He is amazing, even if he isn’t considered “normal” by some people.
This piece of writing has always been close to my heart. I think it rings true for a lot of people; you expect one thing and then life throws you a curveball. But, you don’t give up. You adapt and learn and grow. You continue to love and cherish the beautiful obstacles life gives you. Life doesn’t get worse when your plans are changed; it’s just different. And I wouldn’t change it to anything else.