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The Marriage Trance

(by Patsy Whitely Beckett)

Throughout my childhood, my Southern African-American Baptist mother often came to loggerheads with my father, a Jamaican-born West Indian prophet. My siblings and I avoided any conversations that led to challenges of their belief systems—anything about the birds and the bees, other religions, or the practice of medicine and why none of us had visited a dentist since any of our initial required school entrance checkups.

Our meals were nurturing, with plenty of collard greens—familiar and comforting. My mom was a mama's girl, and my grandmother was always present, a huge stable presence. When we weren't eating at home, we were at Grandma's house, just two blocks away. Mom took pride in cooking her Southern recipes because they were her mother's and sister’s. Cooking was never a drudge or chore for her, except when my dad required certain things due to his "dietary restrictions." She imagined some woman/women in the background advising him and being critical of her cooking, either a relative or love interest, but certainly someone she didn't trust.