The In Between

At the age of 20, my closest cousin and neighbor became pregnant three months after meeting a boy. She announced this on a crisp day at the end of January— this and the fact that she would be marrying him two weeks later, on Valentines Day. Sitting in a dented plastic chair at the reception, the wind having blown my ears numb and deaf, I leaned to my left, asking my 60-year-old grandmother to repeat what she had just said.

“I said,” she began and then paused. Her eyes turned teary and lingered on my cousin sitting across the room, who looked beautiful and who had refused to have a first dance with her husband. “I said not to worry. This can happen to you, too.”

Growing up in Lincoln Country, West Virginia, I imagine, is like growing up anywhere else in the world. Except that when it’s you growing up there, it feels different. Just like everywhere else in the world. My family has been low-income as long as we’ve been alive. This was the same for my neighbors, and the neighbors of my neighbors, and the neighbors of everyone I knew. Most of the kids hated their families for it. They demanded nice clothes with bejeweled pockets to cover their asses and 100-dollar price tags. And their parents, somehow, made it happen. My parents knew those sparkling jeans were uncomfortable when sitting and refused, not that I ever asked. Instead, they sent me to school with lunches my mom packed the night before, complete with sandwiches stuffed with square, pale pink ham and chocolate puddings with plastic spoons. My ass was covered.

Like most people, I grew up resenting the place I called home. Everyone was racist, and publicly so. During a 4th of July parade, all of the American flags were replaced with Confederate ones. Everyone said “nigger”. And they said it hard, lingering on the “r”. Heaven was a place for Baptist, white, straight men and their wives, if the women were willing to hush up. We married early, had kids early, and died early (usually, it was the cancer). I can remember giving a speech during my graduation, looking out onto a field of sinking chairs in the mud, seeing all of the male, and some female, classmates spitting their chewing tobacco into empty water bottles they carried out with them.

I spoke about achievement and beginnings, pausing and smiling as my voice reverberated. And I told God, privately, that I would saw off both of my legs and never take a sip of alcohol if only he would let me die somewhere other than up a holler in Lincoln County.

I’ve been writing my whole life, but never about home. It seemed too easy and too boring, so I actively avoided it. I came to college and wrote about hitchhikers in Montana and city slickers and Mars and anywhere but a bumpy back road with two exploded meth houses. I used to think that seeing a place for what it is meant that I had to write it exactly how I remembered it. But I was not seeing. I was not looking for stories, I was looking for an exit. In doing so, I missed it. The point. The moments in between. The magic.

This November, I went back home for Thanksgiving— a three-and-a-half hour drive with nothing but exits. My cousin had her baby, a healthy boy. As did my brother and his girlfriend, a little girl with his face. We sat in plastic chairs and I watched the babies sleep, holding their fragile little hands attached to their fragile little fingers. I was with my people. Low-income people with low-income neighbors and low-income family— all of us knowing that we didn’t care. My grandfather blessed the food and my grandmother packed it away in red Tupperware containers for my three-and-a-half hour drive back up. My ass is covered.

“This can happen to you, too.”

For one terrible moment, I thought about answering, “I hope it doesn’t.” And for one, even more terrible moment, I thought about answering, “I hope it does.” But in the end, I only smiled. I was there. Right in the in between of things.

-Lu Terlikowski

75 comments

  1. Lu, I just found your blog today. You are a rare and fascinating talent. The In Between is beautifully written. If you are as young as you look, you are wise beyond your years. Keep up the good work.

    I’m a West Virginia girl, too, so this speaks to me in a special way. Write more. There is truth and passion here.

    Best Wishes –

    Liked by 7 people

  2. Wow! Except for the sparkly jeans, you just described my childhood.
    I moved a lot, so going “back” was/is not an option. However, I can relate to the “in between” feelung.
    Lovely.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. going back should never be an option, but recognizing that you do not regret your past, that there are lots of moments of “inbetween”, makes your heart lighter to carry it to new places!

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Jen,
      I wish you had experienced the sparkly jeans, if only so we could talk about it. I’ve moved quite a bit since then, but I have a fairly stationary family so every holiday is a blast from the past. I hope you get the chance to revisit as an adult. Let me know if you do. Thank you for the kind words.
      -Lu

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A great story, about everyday life, traditions and finding awareness.
    “I was not looking for stories, I was looking for an exit. In doing so, I missed it. The point. The moments in between. The magic.”…but it is never too late if you recognized, that you´re right in between of things, or?
    So may be I have all reason to smile!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Anie,
      You could not be more right. I have had so many conversations with my parents that revolved around the idea of, “If only I knew then what I know now.” I’m still trying to find comfort in knowing it’s never too late, but hindsight can be unforgiving. I’ll try to take your smile with me. Thank you for reading.
      -Lu

      Liked by 1 person

      1. long time ago..; )…and now my question: Why do you think “hindsight can be unforgiving”?
        Everyminute in the future is different because everything changes all time….so what you know, changes also. I know much more today than last time we spoke. What I learned and the way things changed did not change my feelings about it and my desires but situations are not becoming easier in waiting and pondering what may be happen, what “if” and what “when”. We are not that important that world will break down, when we make a mistake.
        So we always have and will go on and search the paths which welcome us to go.

        Like

    1. Pooh,
      I’m glad you could enjoy that aspect of this story. It took me so long to see my life as anything but trivial and boring. I like what you said there. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Maybe it’s the realm of perfection that is boring. Thank you for this insight.
      -Lu

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My ass was covered, too. Barely.
    This is a wonderful piece of writing, and I’m following immediately because I hope there’s more and I love your voice.
    Congratulations on making Discover! (Today’s your day and tomorrow’s mine, but I think our entries are pretty darn similar.)

    Liked by 4 people

    1. this is wonderful, so you have found the best for you! Maybe your past was not so harmonic or in your childhood you lived completly different, but you have still good memories, which you will always keep as a treasure, because, these are your roots.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Not an Autism Mom (please forgive the formality as I am still learning the WordPress in’s and out’s and had difficulty finding a name),
      Thank you so much for this comment. I was just having a conversation with a friend of mine who is bilingual about how the same phrases translate differently based on language in culture. The “in between” is a phase I have come to use to reference a balance, especially in otherwise painful situations. I love that you use something very similar to express gratitude and understanding. I think I could use a bit more of that in my translation. Thank you for reading and for a wonderful reminder that goes beyond the story.
      Already your fan,
      Lu

      Liked by 1 person

      1. thank you for explaining…is just a moment to rest and relax between two situations?…Like going home for christmas…this must be a feeling like this?

        Like

    1. Jessi,
      I’m glad you found me, if only so I could find you. Scrolled through your blog and became an instant and overwhelming fan. Thank you for your kind words. I hope we both read much more of each other in the future.
      -Lu

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I love your phrase “unend” here. I saw on your blog that your searching for inspiration. I would love to see a piece under that title. Please let me know if you ever write it. Thank you for reading!
      -Lu

      Like

    1. Bluejean,
      Thank you for reading and feeling. Writing makes me feel as if all the world is with me, so I’m happy you are among them. I read some of your poetry and it seems as though you have some strings of your own to pull. I wish you luck in all your writing and am excited to see more.
      -Lu

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Walt,
      Thank you for reading. I’m grateful you did so I could find your blog, which has made me laugh and think and wish that I could have your voice as my inner-monologue. Your compliments mean a good deal to me.
      Hoping to speak more in the future,
      Lu

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Haunting truth. I too was raised poor in a holler with a pen and paper as allies. You will make your own world but it will have sprinkles of your raising. You are a talented writer. Keep writing what you know.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. This is lovely. I remember that feeling of wanting to get away. I wanted to be where there were streetlights, and stores that stayed open after dark, and, Lord, a movie theater. And I did. But decades later, when all the cousins get together, all we can talk about is the farmhouse, the fields, tractor, the barn. Your piece resonated with me. Keep writing. You are so good.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Liz,
      I’m sorry, did we switch lives for a moment? “Lord, a movie theater,” could have come right out of my mouth. I’m so happy to read that you felt a connection. I cannot thank you enough for reading and leaving such kind words.
      Your fellow back-road runaway,
      Lu

      Like

  7. Circumstances unveil the colors of nature and mankind. What is deep within stirs up and the side we define as bad shows up and then we worry. But to everything, we should man up and bear the outcome of our actions…
    Great work done Boss

    Like

    1. I have always believed that my best writing comes when I make a piece as bare as it can be and then take out another hundred words. I’m grateful that you have seen both complexity and simplicity in this piece. Thank you for reading.
      -Lu

      Liked by 1 person

  8. It takes a long time to make sense of the places we’ve been. The wanting to escape so badly for so long makes it impossible to see it all; you end up just seeing the slice that made you want to run like hell. I think those places get more dimensional, more whole, the longer we’re away and the more we know about other people’s places. This was a pleasure to read; beautifully told.

    Like

    1. Jan,
      You are so right. I’ve been trying to remember things as a whole, rather than just the high-lights (or low-lights). They all look so different now. Thank you for reading and thank you for the kind words.
      Yours,
      Lu

      Like

  9. Thwe past will always have its lovely memories, which are wrth to keep! This past made of you, what you are now. But you havee to search always the good and wonderful moments in the present. They are much more important, because this is your way going on. There is never a need and also no possibility to compare the past with the present, because everything has changes, even you…so the past is not to bring back.

    Like

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