On Remaining in Leave-land
Given my status as an American, with indefinite leave to remain (thanks to my marriage to a Swedish EU citizen) but without British citizenship, I felt that it would be inappropriate for me to campaign too enthusiastically, through social media or in real life, for the IN campaign prior to the recent British referendum on membership in the EU. I was acutely aware of my ineligibility to participate in the vote itself; even my husband, who has paid considerable taxes to the UK government and who is permitted to vote in the local and mayoral elections, was prohibited from casting a ballot for IN. Until Brexit, my lack of British citizenship was due far more to personal obstacles blocking completion of the citizenship process than to a lack of desire to become a loyal subject of the Queen, yet it still seemed unfitting to air strong opinions on an internal debate as someone who, despite fifteen years in this country, remains officially an outsider.
As I watched the news on TV the morning after the mowing-down of scores of carefree revellers celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, I realised that I had made a mistake by constraining my voice prior to the referendum. I listened to Manuel Valls, the French Prime Minister, speak of international cooperation to combat terrorism, and I thought of the intelligence, skills, and not least, money that the United Kingdom would perhaps now be less obligated to contribute to any concerted European Union efforts towards that worthy goal. I considered how the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, and her cabinet would use this latest horror, and all the attacks that had come before, as exhibits to not only limit the influx of refugees and immigrants to the United Kingdom, but also to rid the United Kingdom of any inhabitants without citizenship whom the Home Office felt were not carrying their weight. I have heard the Brexit argument that the immigrants are all terrorists anyway, but I am one of those immigrants, and I am not a terrorist, which disproves that argument handily. Further, the (still, just barely) United Kingdom’s resolution to opt out of tackling the refugee crisis from within the European Union will serve to not only worsen the situation for these people, who are suffering, homeless, and overwhelmingly fleeing terrorism themselves, but may well indirectly lead to increased terrorism, as Nick Stockton reported in an article for Wired magazine (“Turning Away Refugees Won’t Solve Terrorism, and Might Make It Worse,” November 17, 2015).
After considering the effects of England’s departure from the European Union on the fight against terrorism, my thoughts turned to the more mundane but more pressing question, for my family and for many, many families here through the agreements on open borders membership in the European Union entailed, of the overall atmosphere in the United Kingdom; even in London, which voted overwhelmingly to stay IN, the social climate has undergone a subtle, but seemingly irreversible, change. Before June 24th, I believed that I could probably call England home forever, my continued efforts to truly feel that I understood and accepted actual Britons and they understood and accepted me notwithstanding. After the referendum, when it became clear that the resistance to integration I had always felt, but could never prove, is painfully quantifiable, that particular balloon has at least a slow leak, and possibly an irreperable puncture.
Europeans and Americans often end up in a blind spot for the British with regards to immigration. Several born or naturalised Brits, during the weeks before and after the referendum, said to me, “But you’ve been here so long, you don’t have to worry. It’s not like they’re going to kick you out.” Each time I would patiently explain that, on the contrary, there are several scenarios that could result in deportation for me, my husband, our children, or some combination thereof. Forced deportation is extreme, and in my case, would be unlikely, but I know a handful of European or half-European families so shaken by Brexit that they are seriously considering voluntary relocation, and at least one family that, while not being made to move by the Home Office, will need to leave because the husband’s company is moving its headquarters to a country still within the European Union. In all of those families except my own, both partners have made significant financial contributions to the United Kingdom through paying taxes on their above-average incomes and, in at least one instance, by also founding a successful business. These families have all been thrown into uncertainty, and while they will likely superficially recover, until their course of action is resolved, the element of insecurity will seep into their daily lives, eroding their family foundations to varying degrees. This weakening will impact each affected family differently; I can only report with confidence on the toll Brexit has taken on my own skeletal family, which, unfortunately, has been substantial.
To review: I’m American, my husband is Swedish, our children of fourteen and eleven, Christopher and Louise, are Swedish-American. Although Christopher has lived here since before his second birthday and Louise was born at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, none of us have British citizenship. We have lived in the same leafy southwest corner of London since the children started primary school nine years ago. For many years prior to Brexit I had wished to become a British citizen. I studied for— and to my amazement, passed— the notorious “Life in the UK” test (“King Richard III of the House of York was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field in: a) 1485, b) 1490, c) 1495, d) 1498” “Why is 1928 an important year for women’s rights? a) Women could vote at 18, the same age as men, b) Women could vote at 21, the same age as men, c) Women could vote if they were over 30 years old, d) None of the above” (Life in the UK practice questions, http://www.theuktest.com/life-in-the-uk-test/1)) only to discover that I had misunderstood the process; the test was meant to follow a year of holding indefinite leave to remain, and the results of the test would stand only for a year, so I would need to retake the test. I would also need to pay close to £1000 and file a form listing my every absence from the United Kingdom for the past five years. That form, Form AN, has been languishing in a basket in our dining room for the last two years, the combination of hurdles proving consistently insurmountable, but until June 24th, I kept hoping that one fine day I would be able to use my British citizenship ceremony as an excuse to don an outfit composed entirely of Union Jack fabric and pose for pictures flashing my burgundy European Union United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland passport.
In the final weeks prior to the referendum, when I began to sense that I had made an error of omission, I asked some close friends to consider voting IN, and I cautiously entered the IN camp on social media, all the while fully cognizant of my status as ineligible to vote and aware of the possible objections that could arise from my diving into the question in public. The day before the referendum, I met a left-leaning dog-walking friend, now British but originally Canadian, in the park.
“So,” I began. “Tomorrow…” I let my voice trail off and knitted my eyebrows.
“I’m not worried,” my friend said stoutly. “The bookies say it’s four to one odds in favour of IN, and they usually know what they’re doing.”
“Do they? Oh, that makes me feel better,” I said with relief.
“But I will tell you, it hasn’t been pretty. I’ve actually done some campaigning for REMAIN, and the amount of abuse flung at me, well… I had a shock.”
“Uh oh… Were you making calls, or going to houses?”
“I’ve gone house-to-house with fliers, but no, the worst was in the town centre. I went to help one afternoon, and you wouldn’t believe some of the things people were saying.”
“In the town centre?” I asked, incredulous.
“Yes, you know, where the Christmas tree usually stands. We had a table there, and one man who passed by screamed at us, ‘Send the f***ing immigrants home!’”
“No,” I said in disbelief. “Really?”
I had seen activists in the town square on countless occasions, and had never heard anyone shout at them.
“I kid you not,” my dog-walking friend said gravely. “There’s a lot more hate here than I thought there was.”
It rained, sometimes heavily, the day of the vote. I mused on the effect the weather would have on the outcome; I assumed that only the truly committed would brave the elements to tick their ballots, which did not bode well, as the IN voters holding British passports whom I knew personally were overwhelmingly hesitant, while the OUT voters known to me were gung-ho. Still, reassured by my dog-walking friend’s bookie report, I went to bed the night of the referendum feeling reasonably confident that when I awoke, the European Union would be intact.
My husband Markus woke me at seven the morning after the vote. “It’s OUT, he said simply.
I swam reluctantly from sleep towards consciousness. I opened my eyes and looked at Markus, whose jaw was clenched. “F**k,” I said.
I somehow managed to walk our eleven-year old daughter, Louise, to school, hoping as I did that I would meet only IN voters or wannabe-voters, as I didn’t think I would be able to even look known OUT voters in the eye without breaking down. I was lucky; the first friend I spotted was a Swede.
“Can you walk the rest of the way yourself, Louise?” I asked my daughter. “I want to chat with Niklas a minute.”
“Let me guess, it’s about Brexit,” Louise said, in that world-weary tone my tween daughter sometimes adopted.
“That’s right. Niklas will understand, and right now I want to talk to people who feel like I do.”
“Fine,” Louise said, rolling her eyes. “Bye.”
“Bye sweetie.” By this time I had reached Niklas. “Hello,” I said.
Niklas didn’t even attempt to smile. “Hel-lo,” he said, emphasizing the second syllable as you would in Swedish if you wanted to convey urgency.
“So… Brexit,” I began.
“I’m stunned,” Niklas confessed. “I’ve been thinking about it, and you know, I wouldn’t be here without the European Union. Maria and I would never have married, and we wouldn’t have Josefina. Louise wouldn’t have been in Josefina’s class, and our family would never have met yours. We wouldn’t even be a family,” Niklas said. “I mean, I know I might have met someone else, but my life would be completely different without the EU. I just can’t help thinking about all the families that never would have happened— all the lives that would have been utterly different than what they are now. You wouldn’t be here without the EU, right?”
“That’s exactly right,” I agreed. “And what about our kids? What are they going to do? Our kids aren’t even British.”
Niklas’s eyes widened. “Really? Oh gosh. Josefina has a British passport; she was born here.”
“Louise was born here too, but she’s Swedish-American. She’s not British,” I explained. “And I’m not a British citizen, nor is Markus.”
“Oh, that’s even worse than our situation. What are you going to do?” Niklas asked.
“I don’t know. We don’t really have many options at the moment. Markus’s job is here, and the kids are settled at school,” I said weakly.
Niklas nodded. “We won’t jump ship straight away either, but it does make me think about the future. I used to think we would stay here forever, but as of today, I’m not so sure.”
“It’s so good to hear you say that, because Markus and I feel precisely the same way, and I thought we were the only ones.”
Niklas shook his head. “You’re definitely not the only ones.”
By this time another European national friend had appeared. I took leave of Niklas and turned to Anna, who held her arms open wide in invitation. We hugged.
“How you doing?” Anna asked.
“Not great,” I admitted. “You?”
“I’m thinking we’ll leave,” Anna said matter-of-factly.
I thought of Anna’s British husband and her two very Anglicized children. “Now?”
Anna’s laugh floated over the footpath. “No, not now,” she said, then added solemnly, “But it will happen.”
“You’re the second person to say that. Niklas, who I was just talking to, said the same thing, and Markus asked me this morning where I thought we should go. I’m surprised, actually, that all the Europeans are having such a similar reaction.”
Anna grinned as though the explanation was glaringly obvious. “Why would people stay where they’re not wanted?” she asked, in her lilting southern European accent.
“Why indeed?” I echoed.
We parted, and I took my dog— who believes, as I do, that borders are overused and overrated— to the park.
I sleepwalked through the day, but sleep didn’t come easily that night. Instead, as soon as I had closed the bedroom door and lay down next to Markus in bed, the particular maelstrom of fear and pain that I remembered well, but thought I had left behind, returned, and racking sobs overtook me. “There, there,” Markus consoled me, putting his hand in mine. “It’s just Brexit. No big deal.”
Tears spurted from my eyes. “Markus— seriously— what are we going to do? Where are we going to go? I don’t want our kids to live in the US— they could be shot at any given moment— and Sweden didn’t work out for us. I thought we would be OK here… I even felt I was putting down roots… but that was just an illusion. They hate us, and they want us to leave. How can we carry on living here if that’s how it is?”
Markus patted my hand. “It sucks, I know. It feels like a slap in the face. But look on the bright side— it will take at least two years for the process to be completed, and anything could happen in that time.”
Mental health, it seems to me, can best be described using meteorological terms, specifically the wind classification system. Children are born with a predisposition towards a particular amount of turbulence, with most falling genetically between calm and strong breeze, but with some, even at birth, wired as gales, storms, or worse. Children’s environments and experiences then alter their typical meteorology, so if a child prone to gales is raised in a very calm home and has overwhelmingly pleasant formative years, they may be able to reduce their habitual level of mental health to the breeze level; conversely, children born as breezes may reach adulthood as hurricanes in some unfortunate circumstances. If someone’s mental health tends towards light breeze, even if they are hit by hundred-mile per hour winds— in the form of, say, unemployment, divorce, or death— they will suffer a psychological tropical storm, but the damage will be recoverable. However, should someone lean more towards gale to begin with, the same hundred-mile per hour winds will result in a super cyclonic storm, a severe tropical cyclone, or a major hurricane, leading to enormous destruction. (Wikipedia, “Wind,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind#Wind_force_scale)
I was born with perhaps a psychic moderate breeze, but by adulthood my mental state could fittingly be deemed a storm. I managed, through years of dedicated wind engineering, to enter motherhood in my mid-thirties with an interior meteorology resembling a strong breeze on a good day and some degree of gale on a bad day; this was an improvement— a calming— but it still left me more vulnerable to damage than most of my peers, because if misfortune swept through my life from outside, it would add to the adversity I carried within me— my permanent interior weather system that breaks only for brief, incongruous sunny spells.
So it was that the Brexit storm shook many of my friends but toppled me. For the first three days, I was unable to look at any social media; my heart would dunk in my chest, my breath would shorten, and the world would spin slightly as soon as I saw the very word Brexit.
Louise noticed. The Tuesday following the referendum, on our morning walk to school, my eleven-year old had words with me.
“Mum,” she began, tentatively, “Are you losing your mind because of Brexit?”
I allowed myself a tiny smile. “Why do you ask, sweetie?”
Louise relaxed, relieved that I had taken her question seriously. “You just aren’t yourself. I’m actually worried about you. Are you going to be OK?”
“I’m sorry to worry you, Louise,” I said, slowly picking my words. “I think I’m a bit depressed, but I’m sure I’ll be fine. I just need a little time.”
“Don’t take too much time,” Louise cautioned.
I nodded seriously. “I’ll try not to.”
I wanted to snap out of it, for both Louise and myself, but as if Brexit had not been enough, I received word that Tuesday afternoon that a friend had died suddenly after a very brief illness. The mutual friend who called to let me know worked her way to the message slowly.
“Are you recovered from Brexit yet?” my friend asked. I could hear in her voice that she was hoping for an affirmative response, but I couldn’t provide that.
“Not really,” I admitted.
“Hmm…” There was a split-second silence while my friend, no doubt, debated whether or not to deliver the news at all. She made the right choice, but perhaps because of my post-Brexit instability, I was unable to accept that the news could even be true. I made a few shocked noises, but my response, considering my friendship with the woman who had passed away, was inappropriately superficial. My friend on the other end of the line was caught off-guard, having anticipated, at the very least, genuine emotion, or at worst, the need for a long session of empathic listening.
“Are you sure you’re OK?” she asked, after I indicated that I really should get on with preparing dinner. “I know it’s coming at a bad time, in the wake of Brexit and all…”
“I don’t think I can believe that she’s really gone,” I said, with a steady voice. “I think it will take some time to sink in.”
“I’ll let you go then,” my friend said, “But if you find you want to call me in an hour or two, you’ve got my number. Call me whenever.”
“Thanks,” I said, and returned to chopping potatoes into uniform cubes for Tuesday’s stew.
Two days later, at my daughter’s primary school Sports Day, when another friend touched my arm gently and asked how I was coping, I burst into tears right there behind the line of seated parents, with all four hundred of our combined children assembled across the five running lanes painted onto the field. Quick tears, instantly harnessed, would have gone unremarked, but these were hot tears that would not do my bidding and carried on for at least three minutes before I was able to summon control. By the time I pulled myself together, a small phalanx of dear friends had formed around me, only loosening when it was clear that I could speak without sobbing.
It was one thing to be down, but it was another thing entirely to make a spectacle of myself at school Sports Day. I had hit the bottom of my particular pool of post-Brexit depression, a pool made deeper by the introduction of several metres of grief for the loss of an actual friend beyond the loss of the illusory safety of a political union. I needed to swim up for air, but I was so disoriented by my extended dive that I wasn’t sure how to reach the surface.
The first lifeline I was able to catch was tossed to me by friends, both personal friends and friends I have yet to meet. As the days went on, Britons in my social circles and at the national level went to great lengths to express their resounding disappointment— and in several cases, shame— at the referendum’s OUT result. Many Brits, it became clear, truly believed in the peaceful, cooperative marriage the European Union symbolised; many actively opposed the racism that the referendum had unearthed. And a good number of these Brits, whether born British or nationalised, were willing to not only vocalise but also stand up for their beliefs, as the march attended by thousands on Saturday, June 25th to protest the result indicated. Yes, many of those marching were not Brits, but many of them were, and that did not escape me.
The weekend after the vote I went to see the band Massive Attack play at Hyde Park; from the moment they took the stage, their show— the images on the screens behind them, the songs they chose, the stage banter (such as it was— they are not a garrulous bunch)— was a pointed protest at the OUT result, at the government, and at the xenophobia sweeping the nation. Some of the audience members had draped themselves in large EU flags; my favourite fan was a twenty-something young woman who had sewn herself a black satin jacket and stitched IN on the back in foot-high red satin letters. All these friends speaking out, in the private and the public spheres, eased my pain; I was not alone.
Several weeks before the referendum I had started reading “Sophie Scholl and the White Rose” (Dumbach and Newborn, Oneworld, 2006), a book about the resistance of a group of university students to the Nazi movement during World War II and their ultimate martyrdom. Anyone with a decent understanding of history paying attention to the political discourse of 2016 will notice the similarities between the rhetoric of today and that of the Second World War. Now, as then, the “other” is to be hated, feared, or both, and the individual nation and its nationals are to be honoured and glorified. I would like to state for the record that I am not saying that all of those who voted OUT did so out of hate or fear. I know that many people have valid concerns about the European Union beyond immigration, and I know that not everyone who voted OUT is xenophobic. But anyone who sees the infamous LEAVE “Breaking Point” campaign poster, with a smiling Nigel Farage super-imposed in front of a long line of refugees, “Breaking Point” in huge capitals to the left, and “The EU has failed us all” underneath, would be hard-pressed to deny the impact of today’s culture of fear on the outcome of the referendum.
Sophie Scholl would not have been favourably impressed by the “Breaking Point” poster. Sophie, along with the other members of the White Rose, put her life in danger for several years by printing and distributing leaflets that sought to refute the ideas of the Nazis, ideas that included, but were by no means limited to, the vilification of entire groups of people. Several days post-Brexit, I reached the point in the book at which Sophie and her brother, just after handing out their final leaflet, fall into the hands of the authorities. During Sophie’s interrogation after capture, Robert Mohr of the Gestapo:
…tried to explain the National Socialist “worldview” to her, to show her what Adolf Hitler had accomplished.
She [Sophie] replied: “You’re wrong. I would do it all over again— because I’m not wrong. You have the wrong worldview.” (Sophie Scholl and the White Rose, Dumbach and Newborn, Oneworld 2006, p. 151)
Sophie’s words chimed out across the years, and the miles, and would not stop ringing in my ears. I dog-eared the page— a superfluous gesture, really, as just one read had sufficed to point me in a new direction. Yet though inspiring, Sophie’s example was also unlike anything I could envision myself doing. I needed a more accessible template.
Thankfully, someone much closer to me in time and distance than Sophie Scholl had demonstrated— on a vastly less dangerous scale— what it looked like to act on one’s beliefs regardless of the approval or disapproval of the world at large: my mom. My mom did not identify as a feminist, but Alicia Keys, who recently shocked viewers by wearing no makeup to the VMAs, had not even been born when my mom made the decision to toss her mascara, and her lipstick, and whatever else may have been in the makeup bag that disappeared before my coherent memories begin. I have no idea what my mom would even look like in makeup— she certainly would not look like my mom. I can’t remember my mother ever lecturing me about her choice to break so drastically with social norms, and she allowed me to wear makeup myself, which I did consistently from thirteen until I left home, but Mom showed me through her actions every day of my childhood that women didn’t need to paint themselves to be beautiful. She was a trailblazer in other ways too; decades before “locavore” was accepted by the Oxford English Dictionary, Mom spent countless hours every summer tending her always substantial and sometimes enormous vegetable garden, the fruits of which would appear fresh on our table before frost, stewed in the autumn, then preserved through the cold Vermont winter. I was never embarrassed by my mom’s refusal to wear makeup, and I thoroughly approved of her penchant for homegrown food, but I sometimes wished she would wear mainstream shoes. I know that she wore other shoes when I was very young, but I can’t picture them; all I can see on my mom’s feet when I call her to mind is Birkenstocks, the German sandals with the cork beds that mold to the foot. If pressed, I can also envision her in sturdy walking trainers, but that footwear came late to the party; for years, Mom wore exclusively Birkenstocks, switching from her standard two-strap sandal to a closed-toe model and wool socks during the snowy months.
I resisted Birkenstocks all through high school. But when I returned from my gap year in Sweden, ready to start university, the suede sandals with the— to my mind— hideous cork footbeds had unexpectedly swept into fashion. Birkenstocks were everywhere at the University of Vermont; they were well-crafted, ergonomic, and politically correct— perfect footwear for higher education. I asked my mom if we could go Birkenstock shopping, and she was happy to oblige. I soon became nearly as devoted to the German sandals as my mom.
It took several more years, after the adoption of Birkenstocks, for the world to catch up with my mom’s vanguard positions on agriculture and makeup, but locavore cuisine is now sought-after— farmer’s markets are the hippest sources of produce— and the no-makeup movement is slowly gathering momentum.
I didn’t need to be like Sophie Scholl, who paid the greatest price for acting on her beliefs— I could be like my mom, who perhaps suffered some degree of ostracization for her pioneering spirit, but carried on undeterred.
The Sunday after the referendum result, I went to church, and it was there that I was given the piece that would solve the puzzle of how to survive in the UK after Brexit. Our vicar, who is a wise, wise man, delivered a sermon that, at the end of the service, he reported had met with the approval of at least a few of those on each side of the IN/OUT question (the full sermon can be heard here: http://www.allsoulschurch.org.uk/eu-referendum-a-christian-response-26-june-2016/). The distilled secular essence of what our vicar said that morning is that healing the divide made evident by the referendum results starts with me, and you, and each of us as individuals. We can begin by demonstrating kindness towards those who voted opposite to us, and that kindness can spread, in ever-growing ripples, to those who are clinging to fuselages or huddled on rickety boats to escape persecution. All of us have an amplified voice now— we are almost all on social media— and we can do our utmost to ensure that when we use those voices, and our actual spoken voices, we do so with consideration and respect. We have, as our vicar put it, been given a mandate: to work to the best of our ability to lessen the deep divisions that the referendum results revealed.
I can’t do the big work, but I can do the little work. I can remain friends with my neighbour who voted OUT, a busy but devoted mother of two who has a copy of our full set of keys stashed in her house, just as I have a copy of hers hanging by my door, should either of us lock ourselves out. I can quickly learn, and use without any hesitation, the names of the new friends my daughter is making at secondary school, friends who would tick boxes different to ours on the ubiquitous ethnic background form. I can think twice about camping with my family in the Lake District in Cumbria, where the result was a resounding LEAVE then go anyway (although telling Christopher and Louise to be on their best behaviour because “they hate us here, so we have to be good ambassadors” may not have been the most evolved act of parenting, and was certainly not in keeping with my stated goal of promoting unity).
The uncertainty for me about my future and the future of our family in the UK has not resolved. Every week headlines appear that remind me that my time here may well be limited unless I am able to obtain a British passport, but although I was convinced for years that I wanted to become a Brit, it turns out that what I wanted was to become a British European, a potential resident of any country in Europe, not a narrowly British Brit. Not only that, but the feeling of rejection that sickened me on June 24th has not completely dissipated, and like a betrayed lover, I will need to think twice before taking England back. I do recognise, of course, that the idea that I have any say in the matter at all may be hubristic; England may not want me back anyway, and may refuse any advances I eventually profer, particularly if I carry on posting essays such as this.
For now, although Britain may not remain in the EU, my family and I will remain in the (still) United Kingdom, and I am back on my feet. Louise, who has encircled all of our family in her web of sensitivity, picked up on the shift in my attitude; on our morning walk up to her school, maybe two weeks post-referendum, she asked, “So, are you recovered from Brexit now?”
“Well, I’m not completely recovered, but I’ve had an epiphany about how to deal with it,” I said.
“Oooh,” Louise said, with a hint of tween sarcasm, “An epiphany. Tell me all about it.”
“Basically, just because the result was LEAVE doesn’t mean I have to agree with it. And I don’t. I think it’s wrong. I think boundaries are artificial constructs, we are all human, and extreme inequality is immoral. I’m not a member of any political party that supported LEAVE. I’m a member of the World Party, and it saddens me to watch our world splitting into smaller and smaller factions when we have so much work to do to save our world together. But my job right now is not to give up. My job is to live an IN life, and that’s what I intend to do.”
Louise was stunned into uncharacteristic silence by my lengthy, impassioned monologue, but she bounced back within seconds.
“Wow,” she said simply. “I guess you’ve got it figured out then.”
“For the moment,” I said.
“So if I say, ‘Brexit, Brexit, LEAVE, LEAVE, LEAVE’ you’re not going to react, right? Because you’re a member of the ‘World Party’?”
“That’s still not advisable,” I cautioned.
“OK,” Louise conceded. “Instead I’ll just tell you I’m glad you’re not too depressed anymore. I was a little worried about you.” Louise’s eleven-year old voice quavered the tiniest bit.
“Thanks sweetie. I’m better now,” I assured my daughter.
“Good,” Louise said.