Wednesday, January 02, 2008


By Cornelia

If you have a kid with a developmental disability, sooner or later you will run across a famous essay by Emily Perl Kingsley, titled "Welcome to Holland."

It is a beautiful thing, in many ways, so I'll reproduce it here:

Emily Perl Kingsley (1987)

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.

She is right. This is not to say that you won't have days when you think, "fuck Holland. And the wooden shoes it rode in on."

Or days when you think, "If this is Holland, where are the damn hash bars, because I could totally use one right now, not to mention some gin."

This is because, while these tulips are very beautiful flowers, they weigh as much as plutonium, and while your friends and family are off eating risotto in their gondolas, they are often too busy to remember that you're still carrying around the same old back-breaking bouquet of five-ton flowers and everything.

But in the end, Ms. Kinglsley has it right. Holland is a beautiful place, and there ARE Rembrandts--even Van Goghs, on the best days.

And there is a subtle and sublime state of mind I can only call "Dutch Courage" that you will never find in a gondola, no matter how hard you paddle.


  1. Moving and heartfelt. As beautiful as a field of red tulips.

  2. Well said, Cornelia.

    Italy is over rated anyway.


  3. Lovely post, Miss C.

    And I agree with Jim ;-)

  4. oh what a wonderful story, cornelia. my oldest daughter suffers from epilepsy. she is now 23 and i can truly say, holland doesn´t look so bad any more. (allthough for us germans it is still quite an act of bravery to admit to that.)

  5. You guys are great, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

  6. I hope everyone has good resolutions, that they include kicking back at least occasionally and just savoring '08...

  7. I've spent a lot of time in the Netherlands, Cornelia, and it is a lovely place, a lot of fun, and very "alive." And the Dutch really know how to dance, and that's something we should all know how to do - here's to a merry dance through '08.

    Lovely post, our Miss C.

  8. As also a traveler to Holland, you're right. This totally gets it. As does your comments.

    Happy New Year, Cornelia!

  9. Beautiful post, Miss.C.

    And how totally apt.

    Now I have an image of an endless rainbow of poppy fields waving and rippling in the sunshine, under a cobalt sky in my mind. :-D Thanks.

    A bright and prosperous New Year to all, and to those so inclined, one also filled with rainbows.


  10. This is such a sweet post. You always knock me out, Miss C.

  11. It was good to read this again. And I enjoyed your extra comments. As a special education teacher, I guess that I could be considered a tour guide in Holland. I teach the younger children so often times I am one of the first to "welcome" parents to Holland. It's always good to be reminded of the parents point of view.

  12. You are a most amazing woman, Miss C. Truly, you are. Do I sense a need for pancakes?

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  14. That essay was sent to me soon after my son's diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes.

    I love it.


  15. This is really great. To some extent, parenting is probably always like "I am from Italy, my child is from Holland." But I really identify with it in my daughter Eve's reading. As you know, Cornelia, it was a huge struggle to get her to basic literacy. Now after a lot of work, she reads fluently and above grade level. But on some level it still isn't natural to her. She doesn't do it unless she's supposed to. Whereas my worst punishment was having my book taken away in the middle and I have still been known to read cereal boxes for want of something better. I usually panic and buy $100 worth extra of books in the airport in case I might run out. So...Eve and I do a lot more movies and audiobooks than I ever expected. It's fun, but it's still Holland and not Italy.

  16. I believe it takes a special and wonderful soul to be able to appreciate the beauty of Holland and to share it, but it takes an even more exceptional person to acknowledge that there are times when you loathe living in Holland, but still share your love and the delight that you've unexpectedly found there.

    Thank you.

  17. You knock me out, as always.... Very pertinent given that we are doing peds home care here. Not a country I would choose to visit....
    Thank you C, for always touching the heart of the matter.

  18. Thanks, Cornelia. I remember reading this when W was diagnosed with the big A. It's possible to get de-sensitized to some words, but this will always make me tear up.

    Typed a search on you and found this blog. Found your new book coming out this week and your new deals. Just wanted to say a big ol' southern fried CONGRATULATIONS to someone I'll always admire.

    Wishing you the best,