It’s not Italy…

This Saturday, three days from today, Aaron and I were supposed to take Addison on her first trip.  This was no weekend drive to visit family, this was a BIG HUGE international adventure.  First stop was Florence for three nights, then a week in a Tuscan stone farmhouse, couple of nights in Bologna eating prosciutto, long weekend in Venice, stopover in Singapore, two weeks around Bali for my sister Sonya’s wedding, all topped off with three nights in Tokyo.

For those of you who don’t know us that well, Aaron and I live to travel.  Even while Addison was in utero, that didn’t stop us.  At three months of pregnancy, we went to Peru and Ecuador to see Machu Picchu and the Galapagos.  Then at 31 weeks, we went to Hawaii.  We didn’t plan to stop even with a baby in tow.  Sure, we wouldn’t do any more high-altitude hikes to see Inca ruins, nor would we mountain-bike down the side of a volcano, but we definitely wanted to instill a love of adventure and travel in our offspring.

Well, our BIG HUGE trip has been cancelled of course.  Or maybe I should say it has been postponed.  If you had told me five weeks ago I would not blink an eye as I called Aeroplan to cancel our business class tickets (yes, that’s right…Addison was going to go on her first plane ride in style), nor would I think twice about sending out numerous emails requesting refunds of hotels and B&Bs, I would have scoffed at you.  Funny how quickly your priorities change.  I didn’t even flinch…ok, I did feel a twinge of sadness at not being able to realize my dreams of eating gelato at least once a day.

Doctors tell us not to travel out of the country for a year so I have decided these 12 months are a good time to check off a few of those places right here in BC that have been on my ‘list’.  Long weekends and mini-breaks are perfectly fine with a baby who has a new heart!  And then we can start planning for the future – Australia in January 2013 here we come.  Addison will still get to see the world, maybe at a slightly slower pace.

My friend Karis emailed me the link to a poem that she thought really summed up our ‘new reality’ perfectly.  It was written by a mom who has a child with a disability, and even if that isn’t your personal situation, I think the message is one we can all take to heart.  It’s along the lines of “If life throws you a lemon, make lemonade”.  Also, Karis has signed up for this weekend’s ChildRun for Children’s Hospital in support of Addison.  Support her with a donation if you have a few spare bucks lying around.  Thanks Karis!


by Emily Perl Kingsley
©1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe
the experience of raising a child with a disability
to try to help people who have not shared
that unique experience to understand it,
to imagine how it would feel.

It’s like this……
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.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “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 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.

And from what I can see of Holland already, it looks pretty spectacular.


Elaine, Aaron and Addison

5 thoughts on “It’s not Italy…

  1. Oh, Elaine. Anything for you and your girl! Wishing all the best for Addison with every step I run on Sunday. And I will see the two of you very soon!

  2. My dear daughter,

    You never cease to amaze me.

    First of all, I now realize that all the education we put you through was not a waste as it shows up so clearly in your writing skill. But most of all I am impressed by your tenacious personality and your incredible “get up and go” spirit.

    So far I am enjoying this trip to Holland. I savour every moment I get to share with our precious Addison–her cry, her smile, her big eyes and the cooing noises she makes when she curls up on my shoulder. All these I definitely appreciate much more as if I’m in a slow-motion movie. We have to enjoy all the tulips in Holland!

    We are very proud of you and Aaron. Go Addison go!

    love mom

  3. absolutely wonderful poem Elaine – thanks for posting it! how very true it is – and you’re right, for those of us with a child (young man for us now) with a disability Holland is a fantastic place full of new meanings, new experiences and the chance to meet wonderful new friends.

  4. That is such a perfect poem!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    (and even more perfect with the destination being ITALY!!!)

    Wish you guys could be at the wedding in Bali, but I know you will be there in spirit. I still think you should dress Addie up in that adorable little purple dress on June 28th….. 🙂

  5. “It’s not Italy…”… for now!! 😉
    I’m glad to read how tenacious you both are and it’s amazing that you’ve already started to think about your next destination. Addison is really lucky having parents like you!
    I’m really looking forward to see you soon again… here in Italy or wherever!
    Best wishes,

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