By Cheris Hodges
Nina Richardson on Thanksgiving:
Have you ever been the one person who disappoints your family when you offer to bring a dish to Thanksgiving dinner? Unfortunately that’s the story of my life. I’m the youngest in my family and thanks to my oldest sister, Alexandria Richardson, I didn’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen. That’s what she gets for being so over protective after I turned the oven on once when I was three years old.
Granted, I could’ve burned down our family’s historic bed and breakfast, but to be banished from the kitchen was rude. And I have to say, I suffered for it. All of my sisters can cook. But they can’t cover sports like I do. My father, Sheldon Richardson, took the time to explain football to me when I was a little kid. If you ask my sisters, I only watched football with Dad because I didn’t want to do chores. It’s not a total lie, but I wanted and needed to be close to my Dad. I lost my mother when I was really young, eighteen months old. And I needed to hold on to my Dad. Alex treated me like I was hers, until she realized that I wasn’t a doll. Then she tried to run my life. But she never taught me how to cook.
That leads me to the day that a family legend was born and destroyed my reputation. At least when it comes to cooking. Before I started freelancing, I’d come home for Thanksgiving. When I was living in Atlanta, I wanted to surprise my family with breakfast. We love shrimp and grits. I thought making grits was simple, like instant rice. And I got distracted as I was measuring the grits and the water. I mean, the Atlanta Falcons were firing a coach mid season and the one person in the newsroom who didn’t have a relationship with the front office was going to cover the story. And he couldn’t get anyone on the phone. So, of course, he called me and wanted to know if I’d share a by line with him. Of course. I was all about building up my portfolio.
So, while I was tracking down my sources, I read the directions wrong on the package of grits. Poured more water than I should have and we don’t even want to talk about how I dropped a whole pan of shrimp on the floor and I buried them in the trash. I wasn’t about to deal with a lecture from Alex about food waste. As I worked on my half of the story and decided that bacon and grits were a good surprise. I noticed the grits were a little watery. Okay, a lot watery. Before I could figure out how to fix things, here comes Alex and Yolanda. And that’s how I got kicked out of the kitchen. Thankfully, my husband Clinton Jefferson has more patience with me and we cook together all the time now. And I’ve only burned two dishes so far. He also makes me leave my smartphone in the other room when we cook grits.
Robin Richardson’s Christmas Wish:
I’ve been dreaming of a white Christmas since I was seven years old, but I grew up in Charleston, South Carolina and went to college in New Orleans. I clearly didn’t think things out properly.
When my husband, Dr. Logan Baptiste and I celebrated our first Christmas as husband and wife, we skipped the Richardson family celebration because he had a surprise for me. Of course, my older sister, Alexandria, was complaining. Our family does Christmas pretty big, we celebrate with the staff at the historic bed and breakfast that my mother and father built and then we watch The Wiz. Nina, our baby sister, loves that movie. We’ve always tried to make Christmas super special for her because she never got a chance to know our mother Nora Richardson. Mama loved Christmas so much. When she’d start playing Donny Hathaway and the cookies were baking, you could feel the love. I miss that even as an adult. So, I was wondering what type of surprise my husband had for me.
We got in the car and drove from New Orleans to the North Carolina mountains. I don’t recommend that long drive, but we were a lot younger back then. Wouldn’t you know when we got to Sugar Mountain it was 75 degrees. The resort owner couldn’t even make fake snow. But since it was so unseasonably warm, Logan and I were one of three guests at the resort. We ate, made love and walked in the woods. He’d said that his surprise was going to be a white Christmas, but God had other plans. We stayed at the resort until New Year’s Eve and started our trek back to Louisiana.
Of course, I couldn’t be in the Carolinas and not got to Charleston to see my family. The day we started backing, a cold front came in and the snow started. I’ll never forget kissing my husband as the cold flakes hit our faces. I’d love to feel that again. But I don’t think Logan and I will ever get that back. Not after what he did.
Yolanda Richardson: You really can’t tell me what to do
People don’t get me. But when you’re the shortest of your three sisters, like even your baby sis is taller than you, you have to be a little creative with your life. That’s why I love fashion. I even like the clothes that a certain quarterback wears, just don’t tell Nina. She’s still mad about the sweetheart thing. When I graduated from Spelman College, I wanted to become a designer, but I was afraid. That is until Alex told me I was wasting my time. So, I started designing but didn’t share my sketches with anyone but Nina. Then I decided to do something practical and start my own high fashion boutique in Richmond, Va. My dad, Sheldon Richardson, was my first and only investor. He told me something that stick with me to this day: “You’re really more like me than anyone else and there is no way you could work for anyone other than yourself.”
That’s my badge of pride. I’m more like my Daddy than my sisters. The boutique was so popular that I had a lot of imitators. But no one can do what I do. Nikki Giovanni was right when she wrote that line in my favorite poem, I’m so hip, even my errors are correct. I kept telling myself that I needed to go to Virginia Tech and meet her. But I was too scared. That’s one thing that people don’t realize about me, I’m not fearless. I talk a good game, but there are many things that I’m afraid of. Just don’t ask my college friends, because they’re just going to tell you that I walked around the quad naked and only a fearless broad would do that. Truth is, I did it because my ex told me not to. That’s the only thing that gets me out of being afraid of something, if you tell me I can’t do it, then I will. Maybe that’s why Alex and I fight all the time. She’s the exact same way.
Alexandria “Alex” Richardson: I’m not Bossy, I’m the boss, kinda
I’ve always been the responsible one. I stayed close to my Dad learning the hospitality industry and attended Johnson and Wales in Charleston because I knew Daddy needed help with my sisters after my mother, Nora, died. Losing my mother really changed me. Not that my Dad asked for my help, I gave it freely. And my sisters, at least Yolanda and Nina, called me a smother mother. Knowing Yolanda, there was probably a Samuel L. Jackson word that came after it. But I was trying to do the right thing and instill some of the same qualities that Mom instilled in me. It worked with Nina, she’s so much like Mom it’s scary. Sure, I tell people what to do all the time and I will do whatever it takes to protect my family and the legacy of the bed and breakfast. But these days, watching my sisters live their lives and me sitting here wondering if there is more to life than long work days, it’s time for me to do something for myself. I can almost her Yolanda screaming: “It’s about time.”
But it’s hard to start having fun when your life has been about taking care of everyone else. It’s not as if Robin, Yolanda or Nina plan to take over the bed and breakfast when time comes. But maybe I should stop looking toward the future and start living in the present. But I’m still not eating Nina’s grits. I don’t care if Clinton has been working with her in the kitchen.
A refuge in good times and bad, there’s nothing the four very different Richardson sisters won’t do to sustain their family’s legacy–a historic bed-and-breakfast in Charleston, South Carolina. Now, as one sister celebrates new love, another’s heart is sorely tested…
One night only–that’s all Robin Richardson-Baptiste will give the husband she once adored. She thought nothing could shatter their storybook marriage–not illness or a life-saving operation that left her unable to have children. For her husband, Dr. Logan Baptiste, told her in a thousand unspoken ways their love was all he needed. But now, in the face of overwhelming evidence, his co-worker, Kamrie, claims Logan fathered her son.
Logan can’t recall what happened with Kamrie–and DNA never lies. He does know he’s never stopped loving his gentle, courageous wife. But doing whatever it takes to uncover the truth, and save his marriage, not to mention his career, will challenge them like never before. And one night of undivided attention and desire may be the only thing to heal their hearts, reveal all–or shatter things beyond repair…