Note: I wrote Biscuits, Boys, and Babies years ago for a magazine that no longer exists. I decided to share it here. I hope you enjoy it.
“I’m blessed, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Do you want to know why? Because I’m a mother, but that’s only half of it. I’m blessed because, when I need to, I can still just be a daughter. I get the feeling that there is nothing more precious than to have both of these roles simultaneously.” ― Adrianna Stepiano
From thick southern drawls that take two minutes to utter eight-word sentences to the smell of rain so sweet your teeth ache, life in Northeast Mississippi presented all the nuances and refinements of Southern hospitality. As a child, I picked plump blackberries from bushes on the side of dirt roads and drank water from the spigot on the outside of my grandmother’s home. When adults told you to do something, you said “yes ma’am” and proceeded to perform the task without murmuring or complaining.
I grew up in a time and place when outdoors was a destination every child visited for hours daily. My cousins and I got dirty as we made mud pies with garden soil and red clay. When I was eight, I played kickball with my neighbors in a nearby pastor until night fell.
There was always something to do, even if I complained about being bored several times a day. When I played hard, I slept well.
Then puberty struck. I went from a fresh-faced, bright-eyed little girl to an acne-prone tween who retreated to the library to explore places other than the outside around me. I learned etiquette and started participating in pageants. I also developed a love for agriculture and technology and joined both 4-H and the Technology Student’s Association.
The great thing about a good night’s sleep was waking up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee, hot grits, sizzling ham, and homemade biscuits so flaky you knew they’d melt in your mouth. Because my stepfather worked about forty minutes away, my mom, my two sisters, and I usually ate breakfast without him. During these sacred times, we talked about everything from church to personal projects and school. My mom often tried to figure out the reason the three of us screamed at each other every morning as we got dressed. Looking back, I know why: three girls and one bathroom.
I realize how frustrating life must have been for her. She didn’t have cable, tablets, or mobile phones to keep us occupied while she tidied the home or studied for tests in nursing school. Most Saturday nights, she spent her time washing, braiding, or pressing our thick hair.
“Kasha, Tan, Erica, it’s time to get up,” she said the same way every morning when she came into our room to wake us up for school. We didn’t suffer the screaming, stressed-out mom, rushing us off to school because she woke up late. To this day, my mom is steady and deliberate in her actions.
Her intentionality is how she spent so much time with us when we were children. It seemed that her entire life revolved around her girls as she collectively called us. She made sure we were confident, well mannered, well-dressed children who loved God.
We saw her accomplish things. As a young wife and mother of three, she went to school to become a nurse. My mother’s spirit is resolute. You tell her she can’t do something; she’ll prove you wrong every time.
That’s what she did when she decided to go to school. My stepfather, the admissions officer, and a few other people told her that she would fail. Deep down inside, I know she was afraid, but she pushed it aside and pursued her goal anyway. She studied hard. She bugged my uncle for math help. And, she used her learning experience to teach us how to study. When she finished, my oldest uncle, who had not wanted to discourage my mom, told her that he thought she would quit because so many of her classmates dropped out of the program. She smiled and said, “I was scared too, but I had to do this for me, for my girls.”
Even with her degree, nursing license, and job, the homemade biscuits and time for us never stopped.
One Valentine’s Day, my sister’s and I requested biscuits for dinner. While she mixed dough in the kitchen of our two-bedroom apartment, I hovered anticipating not the buttery goodness my mom toiled over but whether or not Brandon Adams (named changed to protect the innocent) would show up on our doorstep with a gift. I didn’t like him. He made me uncomfortable.
Soon after Mom started rolling out the dough, someone knocked on the door. My middle sister answered it and said, “Kasha, some boy is here to see you.”
My heart dropped. I was only thirteen and knew that dating was expressly against house rules. At the same time, relief filled me with the hope that I’d be free of this guy for good.
My mom looked at me. Sensing my discomfort, she wiped her hands on a towel and straitened her clothes. “I’m going to nip this in the bud,” she said under her breath as she made her way to the door. “Makasha is too young to date. Go on now. Leave here, and leave her alone,” she said, not allowing Brandon to speak before she closed the door in his face. He never talked to me again. Thanks, Mom.
I grew up. I went to college. I got a job. I got married. And, had children. Many of the values my mom instilled in me are now part of the value system I’m imparting into my family. One of the values is being a present parent. Although I appreciated the time my mom spent with me as a child, it wasn’t until I became a mom myself that I understood that time is more than time.
Being actively present in a child’s life allows the parent to be intuitive about the child’s needs. Countless times my mom has met the unspoken needs in my life. Just like she did when Brandon showed up at our front door uninvited and unannounced, Mom encouraged me to follow my gut as I sought to figure out what made my son unable to be in crowded, noisy places.
Because I spent so much time with my son, it was easy for me to know that he needed help in a few areas. He was smart, mobile, and curious, but public places often rattled him. My husband and I were persistent about advocating for him, but we kept running into walls. Fortunately, my mom took a stand in our corner, loved my baby the way grandmothers did, and told me to keep pressing. That’s what I did.
My son benefited from our diligence and is on the road to living a healthy and happy life as all of us learn how to help him thrive on the autism spectrum.
And, like my mom, I prepare homemade meals for my boys. While I don’t make biscuits as often as she did, we visit Mississippi often so that my boys can bask in the love of their grandmother while enjoying the buttery, flaky goodness she sets before them at breakfast time. My heart swells when my boys get to see her. Most of all, I enjoy the conversations with her over biscuits as we talk about boys, my babies.