Thursday, March 31, 2005

Memories of Holland

On a curvy two lane road, well off the beaten path lies a little town called Holland, Texas. There is nothing to mark its location except for one plain green exit sign along the everyday bustle of the busy interstate. There are no glitzy tourist attractions, nothing to beckon you in, nothing to give you a good impression of the journey you are about to embark upon. How I found myself in Holland I will never know, but it was not an accident that I made my way to that tiny town. I was not lost. I just did not know where I was headed. Not very many people have heard that a village called Holland does exist, let alone been there or had a cause to visit. No, You do not go to Holland unless you have a reason to be there.
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When I first heard of Holland I thought it was this far off distant land that I would have never traveled to. In reality, it was far closer than I would have ever anticipated. I did not have to cross a vast continent, or conquer a raging ocean, just simply go for a drive down the road I was being led to travel. My stay was brief, for I was only passing through. But I took the time to get to know the surroundings and to learn to find and appreciate the beauty in the quiet times, in those precious few moments. I did not have a need for the travel guides, or the maps since it was Faith that guided my way through. Nor for the translation books, because Love, Compassion and Friendship are a universal language to be understood by those willing to open their eyes to see beyond the obvious and their hearts to feel what truly lies within themselves.

The landscape of Holland was not that much different than that of my own hometown. Wildflowers filled the gently rolling hills, even the bluebonnets were in bloom. Small cottages dotted the countryside along the crooked little creeks. So far everything looks perfect. A few miles up the way there is a sharp turn in the road. Before I know it, I am right at the city limits sign, wondering what in the hell just happened? How did I get here from there? I decide that I am not lost, so I park under a giant oak tree to watch the local happenings from afar. This place is not that unpleasant I think to myself. Holland does not look that much different than my hometown. I take a deep breath and edge forward, and decide this would not be a bad place to live.

The town of Holland was not the picture perfect post card that you might imagine. On first glance, it appeared to be a tired, exhausted little town with a few run down Old Victorian manors and the newer, plainer homes. A few old buildings scattered the two block long main street and several churches made room for the faithful. To appreciate the local architecture, you had to look at the inner structure of these dwellings- The true foundations that these homes are built upon. The elements that hold these structures together are the love, the determination, the patience, the endurance and the faith to sustain any force that comes against them.

The people of Holland are a closely tight knit community of hard working and hard loving people that have learned to appreciatethe special moments that make it worth being there. A group of people brought together by one common bond, who have taken the time to become deeply engrossed in every facet of each others lives. They are your neighbors who understand it all, for they live in Holland too. Long term plans are not made in Holland; The people there take life, one month, one week, one day, one hour, one minute at a time. Some residents settle in for a lifetime, some just stay for awhile, and others never have the chance to get out of the car as they pass through town. Holland was not my first choice for a place to live, but I accepted what I thought was a lifetime of adjustments. I would have gladly set up a permanent homestead and made a new life for us there if that is what it took to keep my family under one roof.

There is only one road guiding you into Holland and it is a one way street, but there are two roads out of Holland. One leads up towards the heavens. The other path leads east beyond the horizon towards a new sonrise, a new day and a new chapter of life. My precious child took the path upward and departed Holland on the wings of Angels. There was only room for one, a place reserved especially for her. Hers is a journey I could not travel with her. Barely did I have time to kiss her forehead and stroke her cheek and hold her hand while praying for dear life before she set out on her own adventure. I was left to take out to the east. Yes, it was quite a different route out of Holland than the one I came in on. It too, was a path far less traveled than the first. This road, a lonely single lane gravel road, full of bumps and ditches still has its own rustic bittersweet beauty. It has bridges to help get me where I am going, to carry me over the deep trenches when I can not reach it on my own. This trail of tears is not as dark and desperate as one may think; there are nice little houses and wildflowers and butterflies along this road also. Things to show that there is hope and happiness, that there is life beyond Holland's borders.

My passage through Holland lasted exactly 400 days. Not a day more, not a day less. 400 life altering days that I would not change for anything the world has to offer. Why only 400 days is the question constantly on my mind. 400 days is only minutes in the grand scheme of things, but it was a lifetime worth of memories made by one little girl. These are the memories thatI hold on to dearly, until this momentary separation is over and I can hold her in my arms once more, to never have to let go again.

I have come full circle since my journey to Holland began. I don't know if I will every make it to Italy. For now, I am somewhere in between. I have learned more, loved more,cared more and cried more than I ever thought possible. I loved Holland and made many wonderful friends and will continue to visit often. It is, after all, just down the road.

I am back at my old home now, but it will never be the same again. Someone is missing. There is a passenger that did not come back with us. I have the souvenirs to remind me of that glorious journey, the pictures,the clothes, the toys, the blankets, the empty crib beside my bed. They are a constant reminder that a crucial part of myself, a part of me that I helped to give life to, that I carried inside for nine months and carried in my arms for 13 months, was here, if only for a short while. We were there for her, but more importantly, she was here for us. Part of my dreams, part of my hopes, part of my heart now remains in a place called Holland. Yes, Faith guided my way and Grace will lead me home.

For Gracie,
born January 14, 2004
received her gift of Eternal life February 18, 2005
after two liver transplants

10 Comments:

Blogger Moreena said...

Carol,
This is so moving and so beautiful. I am truly humbled by the spirit you have shared with us here. I hope you continue to share with us.

10:41 PM  
Blogger Sarahlynn said...

Beautiful. And heartbreaking.

12:38 AM  
Blogger Bettie Bookish said...

Amazing. Thank you.

8:28 AM  
Blogger none said...

((((Carol))))

I donĀ“t know you, but reading this post made me respect you far more than some people I have known for years.

Only a very special person could have written something like that.

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Robyn said...

This was wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

3:12 PM  
Blogger Yankee T said...

This is so beautifully written. My heart goes out to you.

3:33 PM  
Blogger Laurie said...

So, so beautiful. Carol, thank you for sharing this here.

3:38 PM  
Blogger ocelot said...

:.(

10:24 PM  
Blogger Amanda M said...

Carol,

What an incredibly gorgeous essay, such a privilege to read...It made me cry and cry, and sigh with relief to hear from one of my neighbors in Holland. Come say hi anytime.

9:38 PM  
Blogger angela marie said...

How blessed Gracie was to have you to care for her while she visited this Earth.

I'm so sorry that she couldn't stay here with you.

9:53 PM  

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