I've been thinking..about the poem "Welcome to Holland" by Emily Pearl Kingsley.
(Original is here https://www.pdx.edu/…/www.…/files/Welcome%20to%20Holland.pdf )
The first time I read it, I was in the throes of intuition around my baby being autistic. I knew when she was very, very young that she was, autistic.
Someone sent me the poem and I cried.
I cried and cried and sobbed and sobbed into a towel.
I cried so much my body heaved with pain, ached with sadness and fear for the way in which her life would be difficult and why I might be the curse of a Mother she was stuck with and how I was no good and not at all the things she would need.
The poem "Welcome to Holland" addresses what it is to prepare for a baby. Apparently somewhat like planning for a wonderful and exciting vacation to Italy.
It talks about how we'd buy guide books and learn about the culture and the place, all ready for our new adventure.
But then, an air stewardess announces that actually, we've arrived in Holland.
The piece then talks about how Holland is just fine, it's just that it's 'different' to Italy and we'd now have to buy some new guide books and learn about Holland, and be prepared to meet some new people we might not have necessarily met in Italy.
Exact words: "It's slower paced than Italy; less flashy than Italy".
But it's all good 'cause there's windmills and Rembrandts.
"And for the rest of your life, you will see people coming and going from Italy and you'll say 'Yes, that's where I was supposed to go, that's what I had planned'"..
And, if you don't pay attention enough, you'll miss the windmills and Rembrandts.
Here's the thing..
I don't even care about Rembrandts and windmills.
I love the whole thing, the entire country of Holland is beee-au-ti-ful!
But, sadly, as much as I appreciate the abstract nature of this piece, it still feels inaccurate for what I know to be my experience.
I wasn't packed and ready for Italy.
I was shit boring and just wanted to stay home.
I expected and felt entitled to routine; familiarity; normality.
My bags weren't packed, I was happy with the language I speak and the food I know.
And this is half our battle as a society.
We don't REALLY give a shit about Italy or Holland or anywhere else, for that matter.
What we really want is to remain right here, in our comfortable and safe little countries we've grown up in and know.
We want to speak a language others understand, we want to adorn the clothing we and others are familiar with, we want to hear the music out country knows and loves and water our native gardens.
And when that stewardess even so far as suggests we travel a little, we freeze.
Most of us don't want to travel, we don't want to be airlifted off the ground, we don't want to sail across high waters.
We don't want to eat what we don't recognise and we're not sure how to care for the flora we aren't familiar with.
So, we begin looking for ways we can exist within 'Holland' and we build huts that resemble our native countries.
We invite our friends to travel to see us, but only by putting them in blinders so they can't see they're in another country.
We continue speaking our own language from back home, but our friends are rather confused and tired of our strange and peculiar ways and so we're forced more and more into making friends with new people who speak the language of the country we're in now.
And we refuse.
We call them odd, strange and disordered.
We write books and journal articles on their strange ways.
We try and teach them the ways from our own country so that we can be more comfortable.
We end up isolated, lost, confused and lonely.
We are completely disconnected from our new country and our new home.
We write home, to our country of birth to support networks, seeking help to know what to do, how to proceed, how to live.
We're instructed to continue speaking our native tongue, even though others cannot understand us in the new country.
Things are getting dire.
We cannot travel, buy food, ask questions, have conversations, because others are unable to understand us.
And yet we continue to speak our native language.
We long for our home country.
And the beauty, the opportunity, the incredible human beings, the sensory experience, the new life awaiting us..
I will forever be grateful to my four, beautiful daughters.
For guiding me through many flights and sailing expeditions,
For leading me all over the world, through many countries.
For being my compass when my navigation was thwarted.
For expanding my horizons.
For being your brilliant, luminous, autistic selves.
For helping me to uncover my true heritage,
No roots solely planted within the country I was born in,
But in many countries.
For helping me to realise
I already knew the language of 'Holland'
Within my heart
That I too, am brilliantly, luminously, autistic.
I love you all
For you have also, returned me home..