Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Essay: Part Two

While the "The Bait and Switch" and "Loss" aspects of Emily Perl Kingsley's essay "Welcome to Holland" resonated with me, there is a third aspect with which I struggled.

"The Very Lovely Things About Holland"

In the following lines, a reader is left with the impression that the author has learned to accept that she is in Holland and is glad to be there:

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.

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.

...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.

To be honest, I didn't pay much attention to these lines at first. The other parts of the essay resonated so strongly with me that I never contemplated how I felt about being in Holland. I was simply glad to begin understanding what I was going through. As I began researching my memoir, I came across other comments about "Holland" and was surprised by the different perspectives. Some stated flatly that they didn't want to be there.

Is there a choice? I had never considered looking at it this way. Late last year, I had a song about Holland rattling around my head. The line that first formed was "and of all of the places that I'd rather be, I guess that it's Holland for me". On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I sat down and wrote and recorded the second - one day (it took me a week to finish my post about it on MySpace).

I blogged about this in my only blog post on MySpace:

Parents have mixed reactions to "Welcome to Holland". For some, like me, it resonates with our own experiences. I had it sent to me at a time when I needed to hear it most. Others don't want to be in Holland and I'm not sure I blame them.

The hardest line in the song to complete was the last line. I couldn't decide whether to use "I guess that it's Holland for me" or "I'm glad that it's Holland for me" (I recorded it both ways). It's a tough call that I think goes to the heart of the reaction to the essay. To decide, I asked myself three questions:

a) Would I rather not be in this situation? Probably.
b) Do I wish that the situation was easier on everybody, especially my son? Definitely.
c) Would I change my son to accomplish a) or b)? Not a chance.

I'm crazy about my son. He's perfect in every way. This isn't something he just has; it's something that he is. It's a part of him. I can't imagine him being any different, nor would I want him to be. I'm glad just the way he is. We'll have to make the situation easier through other means.

Therefore, "glad" won.

Would I change my son? That's the ultimate question. He is who he is. I love him for whom he is, not for the expectations I unknowingly had about him before receiving the diagnosis.

But despite any appearance of magnanimity, being "glad" is not an easy call. Even after the caveats above, it's still a 51/49 decision. There are many times I'm not glad to be in Holland. Sometimes I hate it. There are times that it flat out sucks. There are times I feel like I've landed in Somalia not Holland but that's for the final post of the trilogy.

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