Posted by: alethacs | April 22, 2009

In Praise of Other Mothers–An Ode For Alice

p51600071Alice Charlotte Morris

Nov. 20, 1956-April 2, 2009

Alice was my dear Aunt, whom from the time I left our hometown until her death wrote me letters–over 25 years worth.  What follows is a tribute to her based on those letters and our friendship.  She also introduced me to John Lennon (she always “played” him when imagining with her sisters that they were the Beatles).  One of her favorite songs was “Instant Karma,” especially the part about it knocking you right in the head (that made her laugh).  Alice, you were a superstar, and you are shining on.

Just fifteen, wailing baby on her arm.  “Where’s the paregoric?  This child won’t quit.”

Noting the accusing stares at her homemade cut-offs and bare feet, she cruises through the store to get the colic cure, head held high and smiling.

She’s not the mother, but her care is no less genuine for the child from the sister closest to her heart.

Days spent running and chasing, hugging and playing.  A seed is planted in the little one:   this one’s for keeping.

No greater gift than the time of her days, spent with an under-five who forgets for now but remembers forever.

Unconditional love is what she gave no matter when or what or how.  An unhurried love ready to listen to what could not be spoken.

A confession, a release too dangerous for the mother; this other welcomed without fuss.  And so she became a savings bank for secrets both silly and serious.

Who was this other Mother?

A stack of letters twenty-five years high.   All the news that was fit to print (and sometimes not so fit), usually in tentative light pencil. 

Always with an, ”I hope you can read this.” 

Always with an, “Remember I am always thinking of you and love you very much.”

And sometimes with a secret, “you’re my favorite one.”

Jobs gained and forgotten.  Pounds lost and gained. 

Sleepless nights draw the letters.  Rarely Alice is the subject.  But instead:

 “Audrey did not like the farm.  She said the water ‘kept moving.’  But we had a good time at the lake.”

“Bobby is doing well.  It is good to see him so happy.”

“I will never have Mama or Daddy in a nursing care facility.  I’ve seen what they call care.  Just a money making place.  I’d quit my job first.  So they could be taken care of at home.”  And she did.

 And Timmy, and Peewee, and Ramona, and Virginia, and Bobbiesue, and Melanie, and Paulette and all the rest.

In between the surrogate mother and child dance their way through the teens, young adulthood, Motherhood; a give and take not equivalent, not unequal but shared.

Treasured memories:  but shhh—who’s listening?  A trip in a Trans-Am with the T-tops out, kids driving.  Don’t tell.  A night on the roof of the school—shhh don’t get caught!  Unnaturally late nights awake—shhh what’s the harm?  And under the love an inborn imp ready to spring.

“Time to check the trot line.  Wanna hold the lantern or check the line?”  “I’ll do the lantern.”  “Ok” a twinkle in her eye.  And as every bug climbs into the girl-child’s nose-eye-mouth, Alice is laughing hysterically.

Yet more of the ultimate gift.  A trip to indulge the girl-child:  a night watching a shooting star storm.  A trip in honor of the girl-child:  a weekend float on the river.  And many days spent just sitting and nights just laughing.

Who was this other Mother?

Homemade baby toys from empty bottles.  A tinker at heart.  A heart that was all heart and felt so much it sometimes hid.

Yet the tinker always returned; with a five cent find that resembled the Holy Grail, or the idea for a quest worthy of the name. 

Always seeking treasures.

Always finding junk she somehow turned into treasure and a gift for another.

News shared:  A new love.  “You’ll like him, he’s a lot like Brian.” 

And always more letters.  More love to give.  “Hope you’re feeling better.  Don’t worry about me.  I know you’re busy.  I’m so proud of you.  Can’t wait to see you.  We’ll have so much fun.”

And more news:  “Just one more thing before I go to bed.  Doran and I are getting married!” 

To every address, to every name.  And then to the women-child’s son:  more of the same.

New treasures to find and repair and give.  New babies to love and hold.  More impy rhymes to teach–

And the child-girl-woman was neither faithfully correspondent nor modest; these things she easily ignored.  She was faithful.  She was modest.  She was not “fancy people.” 

She had no airs to put on yet put forth her humble love letters without worry of response.

How can you be gone, my other mother?  I so long to confide in you about your death.

Alice, you are loved.  You are the treasure.  You make a difference in my life.  I love you.

Love, “E”  



  1. Thinking about you. I ‘m glad to have read this.

  2. Just reread your ode about Alice, inner tears wet my heart as I wonder how did she leave so quietly. I suppose a day doesn’t go by that I haven’t thought of her. Miss, hurt, empty, lonesome, silence are words that linger when I think of my best Alice. Wonder what she is up to now?

  3. I’m glad I got to read this again, I didn’t really remember the last few lines because I was already crying. remembering my father too. And here I am now, with my own other mother, Roberta.
    Thank You for posting it.

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