Hello Scotland 2020, Farewell Brexit 2016

scotland hyes

My husband is a Scot who has been waiting for his country to become independent. Many of you know that in 2014 Scotland held a stay-or-go vote regarding its relationship to Britain, and by a margin of 10% decided to stay.

A 4% decision to leave the EU as the United Kingdom means Scotland is going to hold another referendum (as such votes are known) about leaving Britain. Jack is doing a happy dance right now.

Me, I’m the American wife. I do a lot of “yes dear” and “mhmm” because for me it’s about him, not the nation. Big unions break apart, powerless countries try to form unions to become big. As the proverb goes, seven times down, eight times up. And vice versa. I want my husband to be happy; I don’t care what the world does.

And I have to admit, that reaction might be tempered by a lot of writers, women writers, who described great political upheavals and their (often bloody) aftermaths less in terms of the significant impacts for the world, than as stories of the people they saw having their lives involuntarily changed: Anne Bradstreet in the 1600s; Vera Chapman watching her generation’s men fall in World War I; Barbara Tuchman describing Germany’s tug-of-war from the Middle Ages to now. Over and over, big political moments come down to a couple of simple things: peace and prosperity. To get these, men fight about who is going to rule, and then women clean up.

Given that two of the key players in this EU-UK divorce are Angela Merkel and Nicola Sturgeon, women clean up in many different ways. Sturgeon has already announced a Scottish referendum is coming. The promises reneged on after the 2014 vote will probably swing this one to Scotland actually leaving this time—and then promptly joining the EU as its own country. Scotland 2020, in more ways than one.

It will be interesting to see what Brexit does to the stock market, what the rest of the EU countries do. In our house, we already know what Scotland’s going to do, and that’s the ball we’ll be keeping our eye on. Brexit 2016, Scotland 2020. I want what Jack wants. Jack wants what Scotland wants. And the world is a different place now.

When a Bird Marries a Fish

When people from different countries (or religions) marry one another, interesting things can happen over the course of their union. This post may be misunderstood as a comparison by some, but any fish who has married a bird will understand.

I was in Scotland when 9/11 happened – specifically, driving home from teaching a very successful workshop on using storytelling with abused children. It had been glorious and I was high on life–until I turned on the car radio and the world flipped upside down. Scotland is five hours ahead of the US, noon here is 5 pm in most of the UK. The fourth plane had just gone down.

A pit opened in my stomach.

In the days that followed, the usual anti-American sentiment one finds in the UK intensified, oddly enough. It was a bad time to be American in places other than the US.

But for two different reasons. The first was that people who heard your accent would turn to you in the grocery and say things like, “Well, since you’re here, I guess Cupar will be bombed next, ya bloody Yank.” (Cupar is a market town of about 8,000 people.) The second was that a sad, terrible, terrifying thing had just reinvented the future of your homeland, and you weren’t there to be a part of it.

For reasons I don’t fully understand even now, I didn’t watch the news coverage for four days, and by then they were playing the last cell phone calls of people who had realized they couldn’t get out of the Towers. One was a sweet 20-something who called her husband and told him she was sorry she wouldn’t be seeing him any more, but she wanted him to know how happy she’d been, being married to him. “Bye now,” she said at the end.

And I sat up in bed in the middle of the night, about a week after 9/11, and started crying my eyes out, thinking about that poor girl all alone, reaching out to someone she wanted to know she loved, and then dying, for nothing she’d done. Poor Jack woke up and put his arms around me until I fell asleep, still sobbing.

It is hard to be away from your country when something intense is happening. It doesn’t matter what it is: a chance to change, a good thing, a bad thing, an uncertain thing. What matters is that you are not there. You have made a home somewhere else, with someone else, and you have traded in one set of influences for another.

Jack had to watch the Scottish vote from afar. And if he wakes up crying in the night, I’ll be there. It will not be the same as being in his homeland, but it will be home. Because we made our homes with each other.

It is not always easy. When Jack ran for town council here, a handful of ignoramuses made rude comments about his accent and equated ‘foreign’ with ‘godless.’ Sure, I’d like to see Coalfields Appalachia come into its own by shaking off such stereotyped behavior, but what seared my soul with blue-white heat lightning was their disparaging of a good man. My husband. Jack.

I still hate them. That’s part of the package. We protect each other. We defend each other. Our homes are each other. The voice from the tower says, never mind the madness; it’s just you and me.

To watch your own country struggle is hard. To be somewhere else while watching it is harder. But Jack and I pledged to each other, and this is a union that will not dissolve.