By Betty White Coleman
One of the most celebrated days in the month of May is Mother’s Day, and rightly so. Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16; Matthew 15:4; and Ephesians 6:2 all include the words “Honor your . . . mother.” On Mother’s Day we normally honor our mothers, grandmothers, stepmothers, godmothers, mothers-in-law, surrogate mothers, and any relationships with the term mother attached to it. But, if you’re like me, you have at least one worthy individual that you recognize as your “other mother.”
A Second Mom
Growing up I had a wonderful woman in my life who was like a second mom—Aunt Dizzer. Her name was Louisa, but as a child my mother couldn’t pronounce that, so she called her Dizzer. It stuck. She was my mom’s older sister, and she was as special as our name for her. Her early marriage at the age of 16 ended in divorce and she never remarried or had children of her own. She lived in Nashville, Tennessee, and worked as a dietitian for Tennessee State University for more than 30 years. She took the Greyhound Bus for every trip to our home in Brookhaven, Mississippi. After nearly 60 years of buying bus tickets, she most likely could have owned her own private bus, but she was content to leave the driving to them.
Aunt Dizzer always packed a suitcase and one or two apple boxes with surprises for us. Inside at least one box was a homemade pound cake, in addition to a fruitcake at Christmas. Her camera was her traveling companion. It was the equivalency of an American Express card—she didn’t leave home without it. Until the 1950s black-and-white photos were still the norm, so her first pictures were in black and white. By 1963, when I was 5 years old, the memories she made with her camera were in color. Color film was pricey in the early ’60s but Aunt Dizzer felt her family was worth it. She tried the Polaroid instant camera but her preference was to use her 35mm film camera. Thanks to Aunt Dizzer I can see my older siblings as they grew from babies to toddlers then preschoolers and beyond. For me and younger family members, these snapshots of the past are the only link to how some of our ancestors looked and lived. Priceless is how I describe these Kodak moments.
With my other mother there were no switches or frowns or short snappy answers. She was a living, breathing plethora of hugs, smiles, and never-ending patience. My mom would bake a cake for my birthday, usually chocolate (my favorite) or coconut. It was delicious. My other mother would decorate a personalized cake for my birthday also. The colorful icing she used inspired me to enroll in a cake decorating class. Aunt Dizzer decorated my mom and dad’s wedding cake and then another for their 50th wedding anniversary celebration.
Until I was 5 years old, my Christmas gift my mom bought me was a doll. I enjoyed spending time combing her hair, dressing her, and feeding her. When I was 6 my other mother brought me my first African American doll. She was the most beautiful doll I had ever seen. She had black curly hair like mine and would walk if I held her hand. She wore a pretty blue dress and wasn’t Barbie thin. I was impressed and elated to have a baby that looked like me.
My mom attended my school plays, graduations, and award ceremonies, usually accompanied by Aunt Dizzer. My mom taught me Scripture, and for that I am eternally grateful. My other mother lived Scripture. Likewise, my mother was beautiful to me but my other mother even more so. There was no competition between my mom and her sister, just love beyond measure for us children.
As a child I couldn’t understand what made Aunt Dizzer want to schedule every Christmas, most vacations, and personal time to come to our little town and our little house to be with us. Then, in April of 1973, my first niece was born. Suddenly, at age 15, I was sewing little dresses and taking what money I had to buy children’s books and toys. As time went by I attended graduations, pageants, and other special events. I took vacation leave from my job to bring my niece to my home in Jackson, Mississippi, or travel back to that same little town I grew up in to spend the night with her—and her younger brother also. I spent Christmas and birthdays with them. I was an “other mother.”
My other mother is now 93 and lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with my sister and her family. Alzheimer’s has started to rob her memory. But every birthday, Mother’s Day, and Christmas she’s sure to get a gift. And there’s always the “just because” happies throughout the year. At times Aunt Dizzer is confused when told who a gift is from, but amazingly she still quotes Scriptures from memory.
During a phone visit this spring I asked, “Aunt Dizzer, do you remember taking the Greyhound bus to visit us and baking pound cakes for us to share and enjoy?”
“Oh yes,” she quickly replied.
“I enjoyed every moment of every one of your visits,” I said.
“So did I,” she replied, and I could hear the smile in her voice.
“Do you need anything?” I asked.
“No, just pray for me when you think of me,” she said.
“I can and I will,” I assured her. I can tell her focus is drifting so I say, “I love you—we’ll talk again soon.”
We end our conversation, but I am always smiling as I relive past memories, enjoy the present moments, and look forward to sharing the stories of her love, faith, and generosity with future generations.
Advice, Support, & Love
Galatians 5:22, 23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” How wonderful it is to have a mother who exemplifies all attributes of spiritual fruit. Would you not feel blessed and highly favored to have another mother figure bearing these same characteristics?
We all feel various emotions about Mother’s Day. Regardless of how you feel, you can improve your feelings about this day if you consider Mark 3:31-35: “Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.’ ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.’”
I have mother figures of different races and occupations and in different cities and states. I don’t lack for motherly advice, support, and love because the Spirit of Christ overflows in so many. Mothers are special. They bring us into the world. They nurture, care, and provide for us. But other mothers have no such obligation. They are simply mother-like figures made by, for, and because of love. “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you” (Philippians 1:3, King James Version).
Happy Mother’s Day.
Betty White Coleman works as an employment interviewer for a state agency in Brookhaven, Mississippi.