Wednesday, November 3, 2010


After Charlotte's Down syndrome diagnosis, I frantically searched the web for information. One poem I came across frequently was "Welcome to Holland" by Emily Perl Kingsley. The author uses a metaphor for describing raising a child with special needs. The first time I read it, it was vaguely familiar to me. After racking my brain, I finally connected the poem to a song I had heard a few years before at a concert. David Roth, a folk singer and good friend of my parents, had written a song based on the metaphor in the poem. At the time, I had no idea the song was a metaphor; I just thought it was a nice song about visiting another country. Hah! In my defense, I was young and I am a pretty concrete thinker! I also had never looked at the printed lyrics, just listened. Below are the lyrics, however I urge you to download the actual song from iTunes. Hearing it makes a bigger impact :-).

HOLLAND © 1997 David Roth 

We planned a trip to Italy, we got so darned excited
We bought a bunch of guidebooks and we learned a phrase or two
We packed our bags and off we went, directly for the airport
As prepared as we could be for something altogether new

We’d mapped out all the prime locations, Rome, Milan, and Florence
We connected with our agent about nine months in advance
We knew this trip would change our lives,
We went to classes, husbands, wives
We didn’t want to leave one thing to chance

But when we landed we were in Holland
Italy is what we had in mind
This was not what we’d come all this way to find

We couldn’t change it, we got our baggage
And we began a trip we never in a million years
Could have imagined

We got our footing quickly though, there wasn’t time to take things slow
We got some brand new guidebooks and we learned a whole new language
We met people who we never knew, existing here in Holland
Reluctant as we were with all these unexpected changes

Nowadays we still see everybody all around us
Busy coming and going off to Italy as planned
They’re all bragging what a great time
And they pass around their pictures
We smile and say “your trip sounds very grand”

And when we’re honest we’re exhausted
As we walk the streets of now-familiar towns
A different dream is what we’ve landed here and found

But we have tulips, we have Rembrandts
And we remember that not everyone will know
Such different kinds of beauty

I prefer the song over the poem for a couple reasons. The first, at the end of the poem the author states the pain of the loss of the dream I had for my child will never, ever go away. Maybe I am being idealistic in my thinking, but I do hope that one day I will no longer feel that pain. I have said before, and remind myself often, that I am mourning a loss of a dream, however it was my dream, not Charlotte's. I look forward to discovering Charlotte's hopes and dreams. I prefer the end of the song, which focuses on the beauty of the differences we will get to experience.

The second  reason is words, for me, seem to make more of an impact when in a song and put to music. Already, I have found comfort in this song and have listened to it probably a hundred times in the past few months. One warm summer night in July, after a particularly bad day, I left Mike to put the kids to bed, strapped on my iPod and spent 45 minutes jogging/walking around the subdivision listening to this song on repeat, crying of course. Sometimes a good cry can really help one's frame of mind.

"Holland" by David Roth is on his Irreconcilable Similarities album. Along with "Holland", I also enjoy  "A Little Something More," a song about a young man with Down syndrome.

1 comment:

  1. Just wrote a lengthy reply. I don't know what happened to it. Darn!


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