Twig

Lauren was 20 years old when she woke up on a bed of hay in the landscaping trailer.  She was the rear passenger on a motorcycle that had collided with the pickup truck towing it.  You would think that when you’re catapulted from traveling at a high rate of speed, your flight would be nearly as fast, and your trajectory would lead to no happy ending.

For Lauren that was not the case. She recalls it was as if something had gently guided her into that trailer. As if something were looking after her. To this day though, she has no idea what that something was.

But what she does know is that had it not been for the trailer being in the right place at the right time, chances are she would not be here today. Nor would she have had the chance many years later to read the name tag of a 91-year-old grocery store employee. After all, it was the name tag that made all the difference.

Strange coincidences are always the best. Even if they take nineteen years to occur.

*          *          *

It all began in 1997, in a high school English class taught by her mother, when the name caught Lauren’s attention: Terwilliger. Such a different name. But a fun name. A name whose syllables playfully skip off the tongue. It could be a character from a book of fables…Prince Terwilliger raised his golden sword atop his winged stallion. It could be a hobbit….Terwilliger was the greatest carpenter of all Middle-earth. Or it could even be a gift shop…All bracelets are 50% off at Terwilliger’s!

It could also be the name of a professional baseball player.

Wayne Terwilliger is his name. He played in the major leagues from 1949-1960. He was a second baseman, drafted first by the Chicago Cubs before going on to play for four other teams. His most notable experience was with the Brooklyn Dodgers when he played alongside the great Jackie Robinson.

From the moment Lauren came across his name, it became a part of her life—infiltrating her in such a way that she felt committed to it. She used it for computer pass codes. She said Terwilliger was worthy of being the name of her first-born.  Though said in jest, the statement had a sincere undertone—a way of acknowledging that no other word rivaled it.  What was the highlight of her English class? Reading a short essay by Annie Dillard entitled “Terwilliger Bunts One”. Just saying that title made her smile. An audible alignment of words that sounded perfect.  As if better off with no spaces: Terwilligerbuntsone. It became a catch-phrase that she would never forget.

*          *          *

Nineteen years have passed since her high school English class. Lauren has spent time broadening her horizons by travelling to Korea to stay with a friend and explore a culture literally foreign to her. She visited Hawaii to learn about the healing powers of herbal medicine.  But it is her love of music that guides her to an occupation suiting her perfectly. She acquires a degree in music therapy that channels her passion to improve the lives of people with autism. The non-threatening medium of music reaches far into their psyches where other methods of treatment have not.  The music taps into the tight crevices of the brain that struggle to make sense of things most people take for granted.  It’s a masterful style of therapy that opens up the mind, instead of confusing it.

Lauren’s life has been well-travelled and not wasted amongst the bane of typical everyday living. She’s favored taking the paths that explore her curiosities. It has been a productive life that has also encountered the miraculous….

*          *          *

It is summer 2016, and Lauren is driving on I-20 with her 2-week-old daughter, Dorothy, to a pediatrician appointment in Ft. Worth, Texas. Halfway into the thirty-minute trip from her home in Weatherford, Lauren realizes she is out of baby formula. The small town of Aledo is just ahead, so she exits the highway for a Brookshire Brothers grocery store.  Grab the formula off the shelf, put a few other items in the basket, pay the cashier, and off you go.  What could possibly interrupt such a simple errand?  Perhaps a name tag.

What happened next came with no warnings.  No signs indicated something magical was about to occur.  There was no strange feeling like the time she went airborne from the motorcycle and felt as if some kind of guardian had steered her safely into that bed of hay. There was nothing like that.  There was only a 91-year-old man watching her struggle with her bag of purchases while trying to maneuver Dorothy back into her car seat. He was an employee of the store who often helped customers with their groceries.  He offered his help, which she accepted, and when he finished she noticed his name tag.

“‘Twig’,” she said. “Now that’s an interesting name.”

“Oh, that,” he said, smiling. “That’s actually my nickname.”

“It’s a great nickname,” she replied. “It’s unusual.  In fact, I have an unusual one myself.  For the longest time, people have called me ‘Linky’.”

“Well, Linky, my real name is Terwilliger.”

Lauren did a double take, uncertain if she’d actually heard him correctly. “Did you say…Terwilliger?”

“Yes I did.”

“This is so strange, because I’ve always loved that name.  Came across it in an English class.  There was a baseball player named Terwilliger.”

Caught in a moment of disbelief, he paused, reciprocating the double take, then said, “That’s me. I’m Wayne ‘Twig’ Terwilliger.”

Two people. Neither knows the other, but they are immediately connected through the magic of a wonderful coincidence.  It is a moment rich with immeasurable value.

When you’re 91 years old, you can pretty much say that you’ve seen and heard it all.  You’ve got more memories than there is time left on the earth to tell of them.  But each day that you awaken leaves an opening for something new, and perhaps something unlikely.  The marvel of an improbability will always be welcome.  After all, having the soul stirred with amazement simply never gets old.

Lauren told him of the essay she had read that introduced her to “Terwilliger” and went on to explain how much she liked his name.  The coincidence of her crossing paths with him was something they both found unbelievable. Unable to wait till he got home to tell his wife the news, he called her from the store.

It took nineteen years for Lauren to finally find a person whom she had never been looking for.  For nineteen years she had never forgotten about the allure of Terwilliger.  But what were the chances of meeting him without any premeditated plan? Her nickname, Linky—was there any possibility that it was in some way a clue or premonition of things to be linked by some unexplainable cause?  And was it at all possible that whatever had guided her into that soft bed of hay had somehow been involved, directing Lauren’s path to Aledo, Texas? It’s anyone’s guess.

At the time that Wayne Terwilliger called his wife, Lauren took out her cell phone and dialed her mother. “Mom,” she said.  “Remember my English class you taught back in 1997?  Well, have I got a story for you…”

 

Copyright Ros Hill 2016

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