I can’t pinpoint when I became aware I had an other mother any more than when I became aware of my own name. I remember when I met her, sure. I was a floundering 22-year-old from the backwoods of Oregon and she was an 82-year-old former burlesque dancer from New York who said things like “Every woman should have at least one affair. It builds confidence.”
Seven days from now the whole world will meet my other mother: Byrne Miller. November 5th is the national launch of “The Other Mother: a rememoir” and the date her collected children, including me, will have to start sharing her with readers everywhere. What I’ve learned since the fabulous local kickoff of the book in Beaufort, SC is that women of all ages instinctively “get it:” we’ve all needed and cherished the love of other mothers even if we’ve never put our finger on it until this book came along.
What I’ve also learned is that there are many different reasons why. Othermothering isn’t the sappy happy apple pie fantasy of nuclear families. It’s real world and defies stereotypes. After I spoke to 65 avid readers Friday at Litchfield Book’s Moveable Feast in Murrell’s Inlet, one grandmother raised her hand. I thought she might ask the question I often get: “Was your real mother ever jealous of your Other Mother?”
But instead she said she bought her ticket to the luncheon the minute she saw the book cover and title. “I figured since my daughter and I don’t always seem well matched this might be just the solution.” The whole crowd laughed right along with her and Litchfield Books sold out of my book within the hour. Most told me it was gift for themselves, and some had Christmas presents for their mothers and other mothers in mind. But when I was signing books after the talk, two different women asked me to inscribe their copies to their daughters. “Can you write something like Dear Jane, have you thought about finding an other mother?”
It reminded me that daughters aren’t always the sweet dears we like to think we are. It dawned on me why I never got the feeling that my own mother was jealous of Byrne. She was probably sick and tired of my twenty-something know-it-all self and relieved that another woman was willing to guide me into another phase of life. Hmmm…. Come to think of it one of my many nicknames growing up was Miss Information.