Nine-year-old Joseph Jackson taps out "Flight of the Bumblebee" like a young Mozart, his fingers confident and assured with the tap of each key.

Someday, he dreams of having his own piano, but for now, the $20 keyboard his grandma Betty Hyder found for him at Goodwill will do.

It’s not always easy to dream big in the cramped North Austin apartment that Joseph shares with his mom, Kizzy Jackson, his brother, Clarence, and grandma Hyder. But even when they’re barely scraping by on the wages Kizzy Jackson earns for the family as a server at a local restaurant, they’re always focused on the positive.

"We get by, but there’s times when we have to just count our pennies," says Kizzy Jackson, 38. "I just want to see them happy. That’s all any mom wants, for her kids to be happy."

Kizzy Jackson lived in Austin as a child and moved back in 2017 after flooding in Baton Rouge made it difficult to find work. Her mom, Hyder, 62, with whom she co-parents, joined her in Austin with the boys in December 2018 after Hyder’s brother, for whom she was caring, died.

Despite having extensive medical training including being a certified nursing assistant and medical assistant and having her phlebotomy certification, Kizzy Jackson currently works full time as a server at the cafe Hank’s Austin. Although she would ultimately like to be back in the medical field, she said she also loves her co-workers and bosses at Hank’s and appreciates the flexibility it allows her to be with her sons.

Both of her boys have needs that can make parenting a challenge. Clarence, 11, is autistic and nonverbal, showing his personality primarily through art, and Joseph has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety. Clarence shares a bedroom with Hyder while Joseph shares a room with his mom.

"The family support in Louisiana compared to what they have here, there’s a big difference," says Julieth Reyes, care coordinator with the nonprofit Communities in Schools of Central Texas, which has been helping the family through the transition back to Austin. "The special needs of each kiddo were a big challenge. That, on top of the financial stuff going on, really affected everything."

Even though the family is living paycheck to paycheck, they find ways to incorporate things that bring them joy, from the rainbow of markers that Clarence uses to express his feelings to the collage of family photos, inspirational messages and boys’ awards that adorn the walls. Outside the front door, Hyder has transformed a formerly small, drab stairwell into an elaborate garden brimming with plants that she dotes on.

"It’s my sanctuary," she says, looking over her garden with adoring eyes. "It’s where I spend all my time. I just love all of them."

In August, Hyder placed four Christmas presents on layaway for the boys at the Norwood Walmart. She hopes to pay them off by the December deadline.

"They’re very independent, and they’re also very giving. They don’t want to take if they don’t have to. You don’t always see that," Reyes says. "They’re always wondering, ‘Is there another way we can do it ourselves?’ They’re always concerned about how does this affect other people and the people around them."

Kizzy Jackson and Hyder dream of moving into a house with more space for the boys and the family’s two cats, Sugar Bear and Blaze. They also would love to have a newer car that would make it easier to get around. Mostly, though, they dream of a future when the boys know no limits.

"This one might be at Juilliard," Kizzy Jackson says, looking at Joseph, then turns to Clarence adds, "and he might end up being an engineer or an artist, as much as he likes to draw."

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