I’ve been fortunate in life to have two mothers, very different from each other, but both strong, and both beautiful in spirit. When I spoke to one of them about the other I always referred to the other as my Other Mother. One of my mothers I met at birth and the other I met much later.
The very first time I met my other mother Jean I was the tender age of 14 and I was enthralled by her sophistication. She was a well- proportioned 5’2”, her hair was dark brown with red highlights and looked as though she had just stepped down from her beautician’s chair. Her facial features were petite and pretty and her slightly olive skin gave her a sultry look.
She wore a silk blouse with a notched v-neck collar that showed just a promise of cleavage and a red pencil thin skirt that fell just below her knee. Her legs were crossed as she sat in the chair and a high heel dangled dangerously from the toes of one foot.
In between sips of coffee and soft bursts of laughter she allowed a curtain of smoke from her cigarette to drift upward from her mouth to her nose where it disappeared and exited again shortly through her mouth. A French Inhale! Having dabbled with cigarette smoking myself that same year I had heard of it, but had never seen it done. Wow! To me, she was the epitome of sophistication and self –assurance and my Dad who had been divorced for a couple of years was dating her.
Soon she began spending all of her free time with my Dad and with us. My Dad had custody of the three of us, so we were a package deal! One evening by the fireplace my head rested in her lap and she lovingly stroked my hair until I fell asleep. I didn’t know until that moment how sorely I missed a woman’s touch in my life. From that day forward she had not only my admiration but my undying love.
Shortly after that evening my father asked her to join our family and she courageously walked into a new life with one wonderful but sometimes difficult man and three teen-agers who were 17, 15, and 13. Many years later when my son grew into his teen age years I marveled again and again at the courage it must have taken to step into the role of mother in our family. She had no experience to bring to the task, only a great amount of love and an enduring sense of humor which she would have great need of over time. In fact, one of my fondest memories is waiting with my brother for Jean and my Dad to meet us in front of a building they were in, and as we waited I heard her laughter before I saw her face, her unabashed out-loud laughter. I learned how to laugh from her.
I’ve told her many times how wonderfully courageous and crazy I think she was to join our family, and how thankful I am she made that decision. Her response is always, “I was the lucky one Eleanor. God blessed me when he gave me you kids and your Dad”.
She’s given me many unseen gifts over the last 47 years and has set a sterling example of what a woman can be in this life. The greatest gift was her unconditional love that only a mother can give. To a child of any age the knowledge that you are loved in spite of your weaknesses or the mistakes you’ve made, it is as if a place in heaven has been secured for you and you will always be welcome there.
The example she has set is one of an amazingly strong, loving woman who always finds room in her heart and in her home for one more person, even though that person might be her husband’s previous wife, or a daughter of his from a previous marriage of which no one knew a thing about….or her own sister, who most unfortunately became an invalid and subsequently a divorcee at age 26 with a 2 year old child to care for. All of these people found shelter or were welcome in my mother’s home.
I’ve been proud to call her Mom since the first day she began living with us. The phone rang, I answered, and it was for her. After the initial panic of not knowing what to call her, I quickly made my decision, and covering the mouthpiece of the phone I stepped to the foot of the stairs and called “Mom, telephone!”
I will always remember her courage and strength, her unfailing love and her laughter. I miss her every day.