Things I’ve Learned From My Mama

Mother’s Day is a good time to reflect on lessons handed down.

Illustration by Anna Thornton

Excerpt from the book “They Call Me Orange Juice” by Audrey McDonald Atkins

This is not going to be one of those Golden Rule-y, “My mother is a saint living here on earth” stories. My mama is a woman of intellect and given to practicality and common sense. While she isn’t an “all your dreams will come true” kind of person, she did pass along a few pearls of wisdom that I think about nearly every single day. Here they are:

• If you can make a white sauce (bechamel to the hoity-toity), you can make anything. Cheese sauce, gravy, cream soups — all variations on the lowly white sauce. Master the basics, and you’ll look like a gourmet.

• Use eye cream every day and every night. Religiously. As if your life depended on it. You might be 18 now and think you don’t need it, but you would be wrong. Mama is, well, she’s not 18 anymore, but she’s as beautiful as any woman half her age. Of course, a lot has to do with inner beauty, but eye cream has played a big part in the outer beauty.

- Sponsors -

• Always have your own money. You might marry a rich man, but nothing says he has to share.

• Sometimes you just have to buck up. Mama has always been very sympathetic to my whining and pouting and gnashing of teeth — to a point. I know, however, that I have exhausted her patience and made an utter fool of myself when she finally says, “You just need to buck up.” She’s right. I do. And it has always served me well.

• There is no wrong time to eat ice cream.

• Often it is better to just keep your mouth shut. These days we feel compelled to “express ourselves” and have “talks” ad nauseum about every little emotion, thought, or perceived injustice that flits through our vapid little minds. However, there are things that, once said, can never be unsaid. Don’t say them. You will save yourself a lot of grief and drama. If you must say them or fall over dead, run out in the woods where no one can hear you and holler them out.

• If you have a tummyache, it can be cured by lying down in a dark room with a pillow on your stomach. Or eat a bread pill.

• Hens lay; people lie. (Refer to the paragraph above.) Proper grammar and usage is invaluable.

• Listen more than you talk. You’ll learn things.

• Lipstick is essential.

• Pay attention to the details. The devil is in them to be sure, but something worth doing is worth doing right.

• There is a lot to be learned from the Psalms. Take the time to read them when you need to find a little extra grace or the courage to buck up.

• Being a mother is not always easy or fun. But if you raise your children with the singular goal of molding them into the sort of adults you would like to have as companions — as friends — everything will turn out all right in the end.

Born and raised in Citronelle, Atkins shares stories about growing up and living in the South in her book, “They Call Me Orange Juice,” and at her blog

Get the best of Mobile delivered to your inbox

Be the first to know about local events, home tours, restaurant reviews and more!