You are SIXTEEN? How can it be that 16 years has gone by? I remember the day you were born.
You made me a mom. It was the best day of my life.
I have sat down countless times to write this and every time I cried. You started our family of 6 and I am forever grateful. Being the first “big brother” is definitely different in our family.
When you were diagnosed at 17 months old we were afraid. Very afraid. I spent countless hours on the internet looking up CdLS, doing my research, calling the foundation. What do we do? What can we do? We need to get you help. We need to get you the best help. Yes, we cried. Yes, we were in denial. But we put on our big mommy and daddy pants and got to work just like any parent does. We never listened when we heard that you may not walk or talk or hit any milestones. We did everything we could to get you the best care and therapies and didn’t listen to any negativity. I was given this poem. I read it and I read it again, and I kept reading it. And I cannot tell you Riley, how happy I am to be in Holland. Holland has taught our family a lot the last 16 years. For those who have never read the poem, Welcome to Holland, here you go…
Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley
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!” “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 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.
We have been in Holland for 16 years. I cannot tell you how much I LOVE Holland. Hell with Disney… Holland is the happiest place on earth and I cannot tell you how happy I am in Holland. It is my favorite destination.
Someone, and I am not sure who, wrote a follow-up poem on Holland..
Welcome to Holland – Part 2
I have been in Holland for over a decade now. It has become home. I have had time to catch my breath, to settle and adjust, to accept something different than I’d planned.
I reflect back on those years of past when I had first landed in Holland. I remember clearly my shock, my fear, my anger—the pain and uncertainty. In those first few years, I tried to get back to Italy as planned, but Holland was where I was to stay.
Today, I can say how far I have come on this unexpected journey. I have learned so much more. But, this too has been a journey of time. I worked hard. I bought new guidebooks. I learned a new language and I slowly found my way around this new land.
I have met others whose plans had changed like mine, and who could share my experience. We supported one another and some have become very special friends. Some of these fellow travelers had been in Holland longer than I and were seasoned guides, assisting me along the way. Many have encouraged me. Many have taught me to open my eyes to the wonder and gifts to behold in this new land. I have discovered a community of caring. Holland wasn’t so bad.
I think that Holland is used to wayward travelers like me and grew to become a land of hospitality, reaching out to welcome, to assist and to support newcomers like me in this new land. Over the years, I’ve wondered what life would have been like if I’d landed in Italy as planned. Would life have been easier? Would it have been as rewarding? Would I have learned some of the important lessons I hold today?
Sure, this journey has been more challenging and at times I would (and still do) stomp my feet and cry out in frustration and protest. And, yes, Holland is slower paced than Italy and less flashy than Italy, but this too has been an unexpected gift.
I have learned to slow down in ways too and look closer at things, with a new appreciation for the remarkable beauty of Holland with its’ tulips, windmills and Rembrandts.
I have come to love Holland and call it Home.
I have become a world traveler and discovered that it doesn’t matter where you land. What’s more important is what you make of your journey and how you see and enjoy the very special, the very lovely, things that Holland, or any land, has to offer.
Yes, over a decade ago I landed in a place I hadn’t planned. Yet I am thankful, for this destination has been richer than I could have imagined!
Holland is the HAPPIEST place on earth! We could not be more proud of you Riley. You have crushed every milestone on your time, beat the odds, and make everyone smile that you meet. We love you more than you know.
Happy 16th my Prince… the one that started it all.
Love, Mom, Dad, Reese, Chance, and Colin