The other day, on my way home from work, I heard my mother's name on the radio. It startled me because my mother has been dead for years. It took me a half-second to realize that the NPR announcer wasn't talking about my mother, but rather was talking about another Lynda Jacobs. But wait---was it Linda with an "i" or Lynda with a "y". Over the radio, this distinction is even more subtle, but I could hear that this was Linda not Lynda and I was relieved. This Linda Jacobs worked with orangutans in Miami. Could my mother have worked with orangutans if she had lived longer? That's the thought that popped into my head. What else could she have done? Everyone always said she could have been a great writer.
Then, I remembered meeting another Linda Jacobs a long time ago--when I was still in high school. I went to a writing program for high school students at Bread Loaf in Vermont. A poet read for us and gave a talk to all of us prospective writers. In her talk, she mentioned that she had changed her name from Linda Jacobs to Verandah Porche, a tongue-in-cheek name if I ever heard one. After her lecture, I shyly went up to her (I did everything shyly back then) and told her that my mother was Lynda Jacobs, Lynda with a "y"--somehow, this connected me to this poet and she handed me a copy of her book of poems, The Body's Symmetry. I still have this book and I looked to see what she wrote so many years ago. Here is what she said: "Dear Tracy, I'm sorry that this book is so battered. I've actually worn out my 'new' ones and I figured you wouldn't mind this one which I used for readings. Hope we cross paths again. Sincerely, Verandah Porche (another mom)".
Our paths never crossed again--at least not so far. But in the years since then, and in the years since my mother passed away, no one has managed to replace my mother. Instead, there have been a number of women who were contemporaries of my mother who I feel have been maternal toward me in other ways. My mother's best friend, another Linda (but with an "i") is chief among these women along with other friends of my mother (Sheila, Judy, etc.) and family (Ellie). I don't need another mother and they know that. Maybe that's the maternal instinct and these women became "another mom" just in case I did need one. I know my mother would have done the same for their kids.