By now you’ve read all about the woman I call my other mother. Byrne Miller was the other mother of my book’s title. But just as there is no one, single definition of other mothers, there’s no law that says you can’t have more than one.
In and of itself, that’s one major difference between other mothers and the kind we’re born with. The very fact that we choose them, or they choose us, makes the bond something most of us don’t have with the mothers who raised us. Not that we’d trade our mothers in – other mothers are never replacements, just lucky additions to a treasured life.
I’ve been lucky enough to have more than one. I share an other mother right now, with dozens of other people who came to Beaufort, South Carolina from other places. Her name is Georgia Phillips and she runs the gallery where Gary’s work was first exhibited. I mention that because it’s the way she othermothers – she spots people with talent, makes sure others come to share her opinion and then if they’re really lucky, invites them into her coveted circle of dinner guests. Which isn’t to say she’s a new-age, everything-you-do-is-wonderful kind of other mother. She never lets me forget how bad of a cook I was when she first took me under her wing. I’ve never lived down the over-salted bean soup I attempted to serve her in the 90s, and to this day she’ll only come for dinner if I tell her Gary’s doing the cooking. She’s the kind of other mother who keeps you grounded. And five pounds heavier than you should be. And when I’ve been away from Beaufort on shoots for too long, she’s the one I’m homesick for. I’ve even called her from the road, just to hear her voice and know that she’ll still make fun of me and feed me when I return.
I’d have to say that Patricia Brewer-Jones, the ballet teacher you meet in Chapter One of “The Other Mother” was the first other mother I can remember. She never even knew how much she broadened my horizons, or how often she came up in conversations around our living room. I talked of her so incessantly that my father nicknamed her “Patti Who?”
I’m often asked if my mother was ever jealous of Byrne. By the time I met Byrne I was 22 and so far removed from the circle of my mother’s influence that she was relieved, if anything. Not so when I was 12 and dreaming to become a ballet dancer. But still, I don’t think she was jealous of Patti. If anything she was envious that in her I had found a champion, someone who believed in my talent more than anyone had ever believed in my mother’s. (insert photo)
That’s why other mothers are so important. I wish my own mother had had a Patti, Georgia or Byrne. So as Mother’s Day approaches carve aside a little space to think of your other mothers too.