Sunday, March 8, 2009

Why "The Other Mama"?

In the quest to find a new name for this blog, I kept finding myself falling into that “other” category.

You know those questionnaires that ask if you are Caucasian, Hispanic, African- American, Hawaiian/ Samoan {really?} or Other? I’m definitely Caucasian in real life {just call me Whitey Whiterton-from the pale side of the family tree- see my dance moves if you have any question}, but I would check “other” in plenty of other areas.

For example, I work full time, but I work from home. {Go ahead and e-mail me here because I know you all want to know what I do to be able to work from home. ‘Cause it’s so glorious and all.} I don’t fit into the category of office workers and I don’t fit into the group with stay at home moms. I’m somewhere in between.

I’m also the “other” mom on the soccer field. Not the one who gets to chat casually with friends over a juice box swiped from the snack cooler. No, I’m chasing a screaming one year old off the field who wants to play on his 3 year old brother’s team. Then I’m coaxing the 3 year old back onto the field to try to run after the ball- and not the ball or the girls on the next field.
Yes- hi- that’s me.
You probably have one of those at your soccer field, too. I’ll let you in on a secret: she needs something stronger than a juice box after the game.

Every now and again, when the moons align and I wear matching earrings and have a decent hair day, things come together and for a brief shining moment- I HAVE IT ALL TOGETHER. And then I get to pre-school and find out one child has dumped a truck full of rocks on another child’s head and the other child is crying because we forgot to bring his show-and-tell.
Ah yes. Back to myself again.
So, I carry them out, one screaming under each arm, and just smile at the people who give me the look of, “I’m so sorry ” and those who stare and point. Unfortunately, they are NOT pointing at my great hair.

In many ways, I fall into “The Other Mama” category, but the most important factor in the name of this blog is a person- My Other Mama.

When the first grandchild my mom’s side of the family was born, the all-important grandparent names were chosen. The in- laws received the basic Grandma and Grandpa {original, huh?} and my grandfather decided he was going to be Big Daddy. My grandmother’s famous quote was, “there is no way in Hay-ell that I’m going to be ‘Big Mama’!” She decided to be “Other Mama”- which stood for the “other” grandmother. Most people might think this would be derogatory or ordinary, but she didn’t- and neither did we. On the contrary, we thought she was the coolest grandmother around.

We called her Other Mama {or Other for short}, but her real name was Smiles. {Oh, wait, her real name was Veneita, but she might be mad at me for telling you that.} Her father started calling her Smiles as a baby and it stuck; it was even on her checks. She grew up in Piedmont, AL, and then moved to Apalachicola, FL, when she was in middle school. She met my grandfather when she was 14 and he was 19 at a mixer at the local USO dance hall. She said it was love at first sight.

Other Mama in High School:
They got married when she was 18 and raised their 4 children in the quaint and beautiful fishing town of Apalachicola. The town puts Mayberry to shame for small town lore and their family was a vital part of the community. The stories go that my grandfather was most definitely the disciplinarian in the family and Other Mama was the soft spoken, kind mama. She wanted you to make the right decisions and taught Christian morals and values, but was very understanding with all her children and their friends.

I wish I knew the secret to this and hope that I’m able to be that kind of mom. I think they had stronger support networks in small towns in the 1950s and maybe stronger drinks. I think I should do some research in both those areas.

Of course, she was even more lenient with her grandchildren, as most grandparents are. She did everything she could to spoil, lavish praises and reward us. Other Mama had a special sort of compassion in her spirit. I don’t know how to describe it other than telling you that if she was sitting, her fingertips were in constant motion either caressing a pillow, your arm, or a bourbon and water. Something about that constant motion made me feel assured and comfortable. She had a quiet confidence, a quick wit and a determination to love the heck out of you.
Other Mama and Big Daddy {maybe in the late 70s or early 80s?}.
They were married for 58+ years before he died in 2005.

She was a true Southern Belle: a graceful hostess, a charming story teller {with a few off-color jokes mixed in} and a good friend. She threw great parties with amazing seafood appetizers and always had napkins made for the occasion. She had a group of girlfriends that she played bridge with for 50 years {and possibly shared a few drinks with over the decades}. When I called her to tell her I was pregnant with Henry, she told me that all of her friends used to call each other and their code was, “Well… guess what?” {Ours is, “You’re not going to believe this…”}

She loved to travel and passed that love on to all our family. She took me and my cousin DK to Disney World when I was 9. She and Big Daddy paid for our entire family (17 of us) to go on cruises to Mexico, Canada, Alaska and many more trips. She told me on the dock of a cruise ship in Alaska that the most important thing in life was spending time with your family.
My mom, me and Other Mama in 2002.
She died unexpectedly just days after Henry was born. I was still in the hospital when I got the call. I was not allowed to travel or attend the funeral {because of the C-section}, so I didn’t get to mourn with my relatives. She left behind a large brood, who rode the tides of laughing, crying, believing and reliving. We still do it every time we’re together- which is pretty often. She would be proud of the legacy of importance of family that she left behind. She is in heaven with my Big Daddy, now and heaven is much better off. I’m sure they have matching napkins with their parties since she has arrived.

So here I am. Trying to enjoy every day with my family, write a good story every now and again and laugh my way through the bumps. I have given up the quest for perfection and have decided to settle for memorable. Perfect isn’t any fun anyway, right? Even if people say, “Remember that girl who always had crazy hair, macaroni stuck to her jeans and made fun of her kid’s art?” at least I’m memorable.

I hope you’re an “Other Mama”, too. You don’t even have to be a mama! Just someone who enjoys a good story, time with your family and a fun time with friends {bourbon not required, but suggested}.


Laura said...

Beautiful post, Hillary. Thank you for sharing a little about Other with us, and what a lovely way to honor her. All of our modern day conveniences are wonderful and stuff, but there is something about our grandmothers' generation that I wish we had...your entry definitely described a piece of that.

Carrie said...

I remember Other. She was a beautiful woman. You are blessed to have had her in your life.

Btw, there was a cute article in Cookie last month on Appalachicola. It made me think of you. Check it out!

Monica @ Writer Chic said...

Love, love, love this!!!! The post, the look! I'm so praoud of you for doing this, and now I have my motivation to get my new "look" too!

BASSakward Tales said...

hillary - you are a very gifted writer....that is a beautiful story about your 'other' is very short and in the end all that matters is your relationship with God and our the stories....

~k said...


What a FABULOUS legacy!!!

Hollie and Janie said...

I LOVE your new look! It's just precious. Thank you for always sharing your stories. I really enjoyed "hearing" about your Other! What a wonderful legacy!!!

Lori said...

How fun! Love the new name and especially the reason behind it. Your blog's got heart, girl!

LeAnne said...

oh, what a great post!! i love everything about the new blog...especially that beautiful story about the title:) what an awesome way to pay tribute and cherish your memories!!

Amy said...

Love, love, love this post and would most definitely have loved Other Mama had I ever had the privelege of meeting her.

Anonymous said...

You nailed it - the essence of Other proud we are to be family, especially to be your family. Thank you for keeping such precious love alive for all of us and for readers who can understand and revel in its meaning. Love always,
Aunt Renn

mary caroline said...

I love the new blog makeover and the inspiration behind it :)

Matt, Carrie and Lucy Allen said...

this is such a sweet post hillary! looking forward to seeing all the changes that come along with the blog makeover, so far it is all great!

MARGARET said...


mamas*little*treasures said...

Such sweet memories, and a wonderful legacy for family and friends of Other Mama. I was intrigued by the name of your blog . . . as I am an "Other Mama," to our two adopted daughters. And our grown-up kids have kids of their own now, so we are Grammie and Papa here in the farm country of Indiana. Glad I found you! nina @ mamas*little*treasures

Sharon Weyland said...

Hillary, I haven't had time to read all of your writings, but I've enjoyed what I have read. It's great that you are taking the time to write your thoughts and insights. Your sense of humor is adorable! By the way, Bob-a-Lu is closed. :o( Many great memories were made there for parents and kids alike. I even skated there (at the old building) as a child! Keep up your great website! (Your kids are precious!)
Sharon Weyland

Beverlydru said...

Oh how i love this post. I named my blog in honor of my grandmother, who we called "MuLou" when we were little. I called her LuLu as an adult. Sometime LuLuBell as she was also such a southern bell. She died on my birthday in November. My daddy is in heaven too but he was form Carrabelle. I have oh, so many memories of those little fishing villages.

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