"How to convey this enormous change to my five-year-old, non-verbal son? That it feels like the ground is eluding me, shifting under my feet? How to express, with a sign, a gesture, that overnight I’ve become an outsider?"
The Morning of Brexit by Carole Villiers
Carole came to the Who are we now? workshop in Brighton in July 2017. She is a writer and voice-over artist with a particular interest in people’s lives and minds, foreignness, and difference. She lives in Brighton with her husband and two children.
I shower as usual. I take the time it usually takes to put my make-up on, get dressed, have a sip of water, go downstairs and push open the kitchen door where my British husband is preparing breakfast. I have kept myself from checking my phone or any kind of device which could have given me the news. With my eyes, I silently ask him the question: Yes or No? In or Out? I plunge my big dark blue eyes into his big, sad, light blue eyes. He shakes his head slowly from the left to right.
I can’t add anything to that. For a second, my brain refuses to process the news. The word “news” has never felt so right. This situation is unlike anything before.
Blanche, our nine-year old, storms in.
“Can I have an egg dad?”
Charles keeps his British phlegm and proceeds, but I’m French and a bit stormier. I can’t hide my feelings from her. She has recently become more aware about current issues and is alert to when something big is happening. She knows that some results are due. “What’s happening mum?”
She looks at me with her special face, the face of a child who can’t bear to see her mum emotional, but who at the same time is fascinated by it. Sadly, passionately, angrily, I tell my Anglo-French bilingual daughter that the UK is not part of the European Union anymore. I can’t remember if I explain it in French or English.
Then comes Dexter. How to convey this enormous change to my five-year old non-verbal son? How to explain to him that he’s become more vulnerable than ever? That it feels like the ground is eluding me, shifting under my feet? How to express, with a sign, a gesture, that overnight, I’ve become an outsider? That I’m now joining him in his alienation? That we are not welcome?
I could do the Makaton sign for “out”. It requires both hands, palms inwards. One is clenched, almost tucked, into the other’s palm. You have to lift it out from the clench with a short, dry movement, as if it was a blade, only instead of falling onto the chopping board, it’s ejected, with strength, finality. Each hand is left alone, exposed, abandoned.
I don’t have the will to make the “out” sign to him, but our connection, his sensitivity, mean that he’s already picked something of it up.
It’s time to go to school, to go out into this changed world as if it is business as usual. I grab my children’s hands, I hold them stronger than ever. Their hands, tucked into mine, will not be ejected. They will stay in.