“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 guidebooks and make wonderful plans. The Colosseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You learn some handy phrases in Italian. You book a plane flight and reserve a room. You make dinner reservations. It’s all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. You board the plane feeling more anticipation and excitement for this trip than anything you’ve experienced before. Several hours later the plane lands. Italy, what a dream come true! You have arrived! Then 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. You’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is that you haven’t been taken to some horrible, disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.
So, you must go out and buy new guidebooks. You must make new hotel arrangements. Dinner plans will have to be altered. And you must learn a whole new language. You must make new reservations at new places. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would have never met if you hadn’t landed here.
To make matters worse, everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they have there. They share Italy stories and offer Italy advice. Little of it applies in Holland. For the rest of your life you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go, too. That’s what I had planned.” And the pain of that will never go away because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.
Holland is a different place. It’s slower paced than Italy. It is less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been in Holland for a while you catch your breath, you look around…and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
If you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to go to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special and lovely things about Holland.”
**Excerpt from a story by Emily Perl Kingsley as printed in “Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul”
Trimester 2 finals are in the books and it’s weeks like this one, when my family finds itself knee deep in the debris of train-on-tracks, spectrum living, that I long to run away with my ticket in hand, desperate to secure my spot in a country I long to visit. Even though the opportunities have come and gone, I’m desperate not to let the topic drop but to say just one more thing in case it’s the right one.
Italy. I was supposed to be over there, not here. And while I’ve had almost fourteen years to adjust to living here and while Emily Pearl Kingsley is correct, Holland is incredible in its own right, a part of me sometimes wonders what I’m missing over there, in that other place. But pining for Italy is a slippery slope and I know firsthand it leads me far from where I want to be. From where this family and the child I adore need me to anchor myself. Far from where God has planted me.
Holland is a beautiful place and while this season brings with it some grey days, I can’t let myself forget that this is right where I need to be. After all, spring is coming. And I’m looking forward to the tulips.