The power, simplicity and love found in Rubyeâ€™s biscuits
For Dell and Bob-Bob
While the sun and her children slumbered, Rubye Victoria moved gently about her quiet little kitchen. She reached beneath the sink for her favorite mixing bowl – the ceramic one with a bright red cherry painted in the bottom. She removed the cloth that covered the bowl and the remnants of yesterday’s batch of biscuits. Her hands moved instinctively. There was no need for measuring or guessing. Rubye had been making biscuits since she was seven or eight years old and her routine was as natural as breathing.
She poured in fresh flour and pushed it toward the sides, creating a little crater at the base of the bowl. In the crater, she dropped a ball of Crisco and a splash of buttermilk. In the hush of early morning, her hands moved in a familiar dance that kneaded the elements into a smooth dough. Flour covered her fingers and crept beneath her nails as she rolled the dough into perfectly shaped balls and placed them onto a large pan. Rubye then “autographed” each biscuit by gently pressing her knuckles into the top.
As the aroma of baking biscuits filled the house, Rubye poured a cup of coffee. She enjoyed these few hushed moments when, before the children arose, she enjoyed her own breakfast – a freshly buttered biscuit that she gently dunked into her coffee. The rest of the biscuits were left in the pan on top of the stove. She covered them with a cloth so they were ever-present for anyone who wanted a touch of a true Southern delicacy during the day.
Rubye did far more than bake biscuits, of course. She was a wife and mother to nine children. When her husband died far too soon, Rubye was left alone to raise her large family. If she worried, she never let her children know. She took a job with Uniroyal in Hogansville and worked the night shift as her children slept. During the day she cooked, sewed, ironed, and cleaned. She made jams, jellies and canned food to last through the winter. Perhaps her favorite moments were quiet ones spent in her vegetable garden. She loved planting, weeding, and making things grow. Quite often she softly sang a favorite old hymn: I come to the garden alone . . . and He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own.
Rubye was a hard worker and maintained this life for the better part of a century. But her body began to weaken and, in her eighties, Rubye fell and broke a hip. Her health declined rapidly after that. Her mind declined as well. There were times when Rubye did not know who she was or even recognize her own children. In a few short years, she had completely lost her way. When it was no longer possible to care for her at home, Rubye became a resident of Christian City personal care facility.
Each year, though, the family celebrated Rubye’s birthday. One year she spent the day at the home of her oldest daughter, Dell Kerr. As Dell prepared dinner that night, she said, “Mother, I thought I would make some biscuits for supper. Would you like that?” Dell set her favorite mixing bowl on the table.
Silently, Rubye rose and moved toward the table. She reached for the flour and poured a proper amount into the mixing bowl. She pushed it to the sides and hollowed a small crater. She dropped in Crisco and fresh buttermilk. Then her hands, gnarled and creased, began a dance learned long ago – a dance as familiar to Rubye as breathing. She kneaded those simple items into a smooth dough, shaped the dough into small balls, and placed them onto the baking pan. Rubye then autographed each biscuit by gently pressing her knuckles into the top of each one. Dell’s eyes filled with tears as she watched Rubye celebrate her own birthday by doing exactly what she wanted – making biscuits for her family, just as she had always done.
Later that night, Rubye sat on the edge of her bed. Though her mind was broken and fragmented, she raised a strong voice and, unfalteringly, sang words that she would forever remember: I’ll stay in the garden with Him though the night around me be falling; and He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own.
Rubye Victoria was a simple lady who lived in a mill house in the quiet town of Hogansville. But her impact was extraordinary because she found her greatest joy in giving to her family.
No matter our age, most of us still crave the warmth of “mama’s” hug and her assurance that everything will be alright. And it will be alright, because we are God’s own. God’s love will guide us through life on earth and into eternity. It will guide us as we are reunited with those we have loved on earth. We will witness this love when, in our own time, we join the great chorus singing praises to the true Bread of Life.