“Welcome to Holland”

A few weeks ago, my husband attended the funeral of a friends young daughter. I don’t know many details, (and if I did, they aren’t really mine to divulge, I suppose..) but I do know she was under 5, and had been sick all her life, I believe.

On his way home, he twittered the following: “Welcome to Holland.”

Usually, my husbands random, cryptic tweets can usually be attributed to song lyrics. Sometimes because they represent what he’s thinking — other times, just because he’s listening to it, or likes the line. (and I imagine, more often than not, confusing his wife may also be a pretty prevalent reason….)

So.. I start going through the usual suspects. Depeche Mode? Nope.  Joy Division? Not that I recall… Hmmm. RadioRadio? Nope. Not unless there’s a secret “Holland” demo floating around that I haven’t been privileged enough to hear yet. (Which… is pretty likely. Just, doesn’t sound their style.)

By now, I’m pretty sure that it’s just a new song of his, and I’ll get to hear all about it when he gets home. So for the moment, I get to just hang out, and wait. (Not my favorite thing, let me tell you.)

I’m not really sure what all to expect, and to be honest, I’m a little leery to ask how the funeral went. See, Matt’s normally not really a funeral person, but this was his friends family, and he went for moral support.  Suprisingly, (to me) he told me that some of the things they did at the funeral really touched him. One of which, was this “Welcome to Holland. ” Which coincidentally, it reminded him of me, too.

Without further explanation, he handed me this folded up piece of pink paper. Which read:

Welcome To Holland — by 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.

*     *     *

©1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved


As much as I hate to admit it – I cried.  I don’t really know what it’s like to be in her position – to have a special needs child — but I can imagine. My parents were in that position. My husband is in that position. People I’ve met through my support groups and online blogs — they’re in that position. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine how they feel, after talking to them. But I don’t believe, not until I have children myself, that I’ll be able to know more about how they feel.

What I can relate to a lot from this though, and I’d bet a lot of people could, is that my life isn’t anything like I thought it’d be. I never would have married a musician — especially if I knew we’d have a rock badn practicing in our garage for a year, and our house would become a recording studio. Or, if I knew how often he’d have to go out of town. It is definitely not the type of marriage I have EVER dreamed of — but it’s not something I’d give up now, even if I could. Matt never thought he’d marry someone with tattoos – let alone pay for one of them. Preferably, by now, he’d be living in Manchester England. Or, really, even Tulsa. Anywhere but Owasso. There isn’t a day goes by that he doesn’t harass me a little that we’re living here, and not there.

I never thought I’d lose my dad to lung cancer, I never thought my mom would have a stroke my first year in college, and be confined to a wheelchair. I don’t imagine my brother and sister ever pictured those two events ever happening in their life either. And I don’t think any of us would hesitate to change either one of those events, if given the choice.

But at the same time.. I married. I moved out. If I wasn’t taking care of my mom during the day… I have to wonder. Would I spend as much time with her as I do?  Right after I moved out, before Gail, the lady who took care of her (and my dad during chemo) passed away, I saw her maybe once a week. Depending on how busy we were. Now, I see her every day. And, it’s not my favorite thing to be doing, and I’m sure she doesn’t enjoy that she needs my help… I know she enjoys seeing me. And having me around.

This whole blog post has been really, a really big ramble. But the poem really touched me, and got me thinking that no matter how depressed I get, or how crappy things seem to be, or when Matt or I ever get into these “I wish things were this way, and not how they are” type moments… really, things aren’t so bad the way they are.  I know some people that read this, or click over on Facebook, might enjoy reading the poem, so, I’m sharing it.:) Please, feel free to let me know what you think. Have you seen it before? Is there something similar that maybe expresses the same sentiments, only better?

I’ll admit. I had no idea who this lady who wrote “Welcome to Holland,” was. So, I googled her a little, and some links I found said her child had autism, Wikipedia says she was a writer for Sesame Street, and had a child with Downs Syndrome, and since we are dealing with the internet here, I’m sure there are even more sites saying she has different things. Anyway. She’s written several children’s books, and a made-for-tv movie.


2 thoughts on ““Welcome to Holland”

  1. whitneyfrisk says:

    I absolutely LOVE that poem. A friend at UCO shared it with us in one of our classes when we were talking about having children with special needs. It is beautiful and really helps you understand a bit of what the parents are going through I think. Thank you for sharing it! -Whit

    • Tina says:

      Aw. ❤ I had never heard of it, until Matt brought it home and had me read it. It's absolutely gorgeous. And you're welcome!

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