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Moonlight on Linoleum

Cover of Moonlight on Linoleum

Moonlight on Linoleum

A Daughter's Memoir
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Now in paperback—in the bestselling tradition of The Glass Castle and The Liar's Club comes the captivating memoir of a young girl forced by her mother's instability to care for her siblings.
Even if others abandon you, you must never abandon yourself.
This simple truth became Terry Helwig's lifeline as she was forced to grow up too soon.
Terry grew up the oldest of six girls in the big-sky country of the American Southwest, where she attended twelve schools in eleven years. Helwig's stepfather Davy, a good-hearted and loving man, proudly purchased a mobile home to enable his family to move more easily from one oil town to another, where Davy eked out a living in the oil fields.
Terry's mother, Carola Jean, a wild rose whose love often pierced those who tried to claim her, had little interest in the confines of home and motherhood. In Davy's absence, she sought companionship in local watering holes—a pastime she dubbed "visiting Timbuktu." She repeatedly left Terry in charge of the household and her five younger sisters.
Despite Carola Jean's genuine attempts to "better herself," her life spiraled ever downward as Terry struggled to keep the family whole. In the midst of transience and upheaval, Terry and her sisters forged an uncommon bond of sisterhood that withstood the erosion of Davy and Carola Jean's marriage. But ultimately, to keep her own dreams alive, Terry had to decide when to hold on to what she loved and when to let go.
Unflinching in its portrayal, yet told with humor and compassion, Terry Helwig's luminous memoir, Moonlight on Linoleum, explores a family's inner and outer landscapes of hope, despair, and redemption. It will make you laugh, cry, and hunger for more.
Now in paperback—in the bestselling tradition of The Glass Castle and The Liar's Club comes the captivating memoir of a young girl forced by her mother's instability to care for her siblings.
Even if others abandon you, you must never abandon yourself.
This simple truth became Terry Helwig's lifeline as she was forced to grow up too soon.
Terry grew up the oldest of six girls in the big-sky country of the American Southwest, where she attended twelve schools in eleven years. Helwig's stepfather Davy, a good-hearted and loving man, proudly purchased a mobile home to enable his family to move more easily from one oil town to another, where Davy eked out a living in the oil fields.
Terry's mother, Carola Jean, a wild rose whose love often pierced those who tried to claim her, had little interest in the confines of home and motherhood. In Davy's absence, she sought companionship in local watering holes—a pastime she dubbed "visiting Timbuktu." She repeatedly left Terry in charge of the household and her five younger sisters.
Despite Carola Jean's genuine attempts to "better herself," her life spiraled ever downward as Terry struggled to keep the family whole. In the midst of transience and upheaval, Terry and her sisters forged an uncommon bond of sisterhood that withstood the erosion of Davy and Carola Jean's marriage. But ultimately, to keep her own dreams alive, Terry had to decide when to hold on to what she loved and when to let go.
Unflinching in its portrayal, yet told with humor and compassion, Terry Helwig's luminous memoir, Moonlight on Linoleum, explores a family's inner and outer landscapes of hope, despair, and redemption. It will make you laugh, cry, and hunger for more.
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  • From the book


    I Invited the child I once was to have her say in these pages. I am the one who came out on the other side of childhood; she is the one who searched for the door.

    I LEFT YOUR DAD," Mama told me more than once, "because I didn't want to kill him."

    She wasn't kidding.

    Mama said she stood at the kitchen counter, her hand touching the smooth wooden handle of a butcher knife. In an argument that grew more heated, Mama felt her fist close around the handle. For a brief moment, she deliberated between slashing our father with the knife or releasing it harmlessly back onto the counter and walking away.

    My sister Vicki was ten months old; I was two. Mama was seventeen.

    By all accounts, Mama and Dad loved each other, even though Mama lied about her age. Mama told my dad that she had celebrated her eighteenth birthday; Dad, twenty-two, believed her. But the state of Iowa insisted on seeing Mama's record of birth before granting them a marriage license. Only then did Mama confess her lie. Dad broke down and cried. Mama was fourteen, not eighteen. Still, despite the deceit and age difference, on Wednesday, May 26, 1948, Carola Jean Simmonds and Donald Lee Skinner said, "I do." Mama's mother signed her consent.

    Mama definitely looked older than fourteen. She had thick black hair that fell around her face, accenting the widow's peak she inherited from her mother. Her hazel eyes reflected not a shy, timid girl but a womanly gaze that belied her years. Physically, she was curved and full-bosomed. But she was not pregnant. According to my birth certificate, I came along a full eleven months after they married, proving their union sprang from something other than necessity.

    Part of Mama's motivation may have come from her eagerness to leave home. Her older brother, my uncle Gaylen, witnessed the difficult relationship Mama had with their mother.

    "This is hard to tell," he said. "When your mom was just a baby, I remember walking alongside her baby carriage with our mom. I must have been about eight. Carola was crying and crying and Mom got so mad. She stopped the carriage, walked to a nearby tree, and yanked off a switch. She returned to the carriage and whipped your mom for crying. I couldn't believe she was whipping a baby."

    Uncle Gaylen fumbled for words, attributing his mom's state of mind to my grandfather Gashum's infidelity. "I think Mom took out all her frustrations on Carola," he said.

    I wish I could scrub that stain from our family's history. I wish I could reach back in time, snatch the switch from Grandma's raised fist, and snap it across my knee. It might have made a difference. Mama's life might have taken a different turn.

    She might not have been so desperate for tenderness.

    By the time Mama turned fourteen, she had fallen for my dad. Instead of protesting when Mama asked to marry him, Grandma extolled my father's family, told Mama she was lucky to have him, and readily signed permission for Mama to marry. With the words "I do" uttered in the sleepy town of Glenwood, Iowa, Mama became the fourteen-year-old wife of a tenant farmer.

    Around that time, Mama wrote a couple of jingles and sold them to Burma-Shave as part of its roadside advertising campaign. Mama liked to drive by a particular set of red-and-white signs posted successively along the highway near Glenwood. The words on the signs, which built toward a punch line farther down the road, were Mama's words, right there in plain daylight, for the whole world to see.

    His cheek
    Was rough
    His chick vamoosed
    And now she won't
    Come home to roost
    Burma-Shave

    It's impossible to...

About the Author-
  • Terry Helwig, author of Moonlight on Linoleum: A Daughters Memoir, graduated with an MA in counseling psychology. Before founding The Thread Project: One World, One Cloth www.threadproject.com in 2001, she specializ ed in womens personal growth and spiritual development. She and her husband Jim currently divide their time between the coasts of southwest Florida and South Carolina.
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    Howard Books
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  • Copyright Protection (DRM) required by the Publisher may be applied to this title to limit or prohibit printing or copying. File sharing or redistribution is prohibited. Your rights to access this material expire at the end of the lending period. Please see Important Notice about Copyrighted Materials for terms applicable to this content.

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Moonlight on Linoleum
Moonlight on Linoleum
A Daughter's Memoir
Terry Helwig
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