Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Double Dutch

Some of you have been kind enough to encourage me to put Maggie’s stories in book form. Honestly, I would love to do that and hope someday to make it a reality. At this point,it’s more a matter of organizing and editing what I have already written rather than starting from scratch. Still, it is a daunting task and something I approach in fits and starts when I need to go full steam ahead.

Even in this day of electronic book readers, there is something about a BOOK that is so inviting. A book tells you to plop down in the easy chair or to put a couple of extra pillows behind yourself and get comfortable. You can carry a book around with you and forget it in the coffee shop where someone else picks it up and reads it. It’s a slow motion connection to relaxation and enjoyment.  And to know people were reading something I wrote? Delicious. Who wouldn’t want to see their name on the cover of a book?

Actually, that’s the only part of my book I have completely planned – the cover.  If I’m going to dream about this (rather than work on it) I might as well have it pictured in my head.

The title will be a reference to the essay Welcome to Holland a little piece of prose known by almost every parent of a disabled child. The writer, a mother of a child with down syndrome (I believe), compares having a disabled child to an unplanned trip to Holland when one was expecting to go to Italy. While Holland isn’t the expected destination, and all the sights of Italy will be missed, the traveler eventually realizes that Holland has its own benefits – it’s beautiful, the people are kind and it is full of flowers.  No, it’s not Italy, but it’s not bad. It’s just different.  

I have  love/hate relationship with this piece of writing. Originally, I loved it for its simplicity.When Maggie was a baby I found it a helpful way to come to grips with the foreign world I found myself part of.  As time went by, though, and the distance from Italy grew  farther and farther every day, I grew to hate the essay for the very same simplicity. I felt it oversimplified and cheapened the existence I was living. Other parents of disabled children I have talked to feel similar. One mom I know simply says F** Holland and another says it should be called “Welcome to Somalia.”  It is more comforting to those without a disabled child because they THINK they can grasp an understanding of what it’s like – and they can tell themselves it’s not bad, just different. If no one else will say it, I will: raising a child with disabilities is always different, it is sometimes great, but it is often very very bad.

What then will be the title of my book that may or may not ever materialize? 
“I Think This Might Be Holland.”

Despite the "hate" part of my love/hate relationship with“Welcome to Holland”, I have to acknowledge its role in the world of parenting a disabled child. It is iconic. Besides that, I have the perfect picture to go with it.  In 1980 – yes thirty years ago – I went to Europe with my lifelong friend Nonie.  We were in our 20’s and went for over six weeks with backpacks and train passes. It was a great time and we travelled through several countries.  A year or so ago Nonie found some pictures from that trip. She was handing them to me one at a time. After so many years the various places and adventures from that trip blend together. She was  trying to remember each one saying, I think this is Germany, I think this is Spain, etc etc. Then she handed me this one of me and said in a perfect dead pan  “I’m not sure  but I think this might be Holland.”

I knew there were some big shoes to fill. 


  1. I laughed aloud. What a great friend. I, personally, despise the Holland letter now, but like you, loved it when Sophie was still a baby and newly diagnosed. I think you've described beautifully why -- its simplicity.

    Thank you for this great post -- and for your wonderful, dry and dark sense of humor.

  2. Oh, I love this post. You in those clogs and your complete honesty about that Welcome to Holland piece. It not only simplifies but sort of glamorizes having a kid with a disability. I've often thought, "this is so not Holland"...


Hi Maggie loves your comments. It may take a while for the comment to post, but you will see it eventually.