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  • I cannot remember how my mother's gift made its way to me nine hours south of my birthplace, San Francisco. But I remember the pink quilted interior and pink ribbon trim newly hand-sewn by my mother onto this crib. I recently read in my mother's own baby book that this very same crib was given to my grandmother by her mother (both named Katherine) for my mother, who was my grandmother's first child of seven.

    Curiosity about my mother and grandmother's maternal lives and childhood was what prompted me to read my mother’s baby book. I came to understand that it mattered where both of them had been born. It mattered to me and my life and to my health, physiology and psychology (possibly my happiness). It dawned on me that I had been in my grandmother's womb as an egg in my mother's forming body in 1912, 100 years ago. It seemed weird-why is the obvious so amazing?

    I read in my grandmother's convent-trained fine hand, "The wicker crib was white-enameled,” and it struck me that this heirloom, personal, lovingly handled and passed onto me for my first child by my mother, was covered with deadly lead. My inheritance of love and care was tainted. This crib had surrounded me, then my child, and it had rocked my mother with intrusive, inadvertent poisoning. I felt betrayed, invaded, outraged.

    How could a loving, carefully preserved legacy be the opposite of its intention? It suddenly became clear to me that it was not only my reddish curly hair and spattering of freckles, which I had inherited and passed onto my children, it was also my mother's and grandmother's total environments that are a part of my direct lineage. Their homes, places, choices of products and environment were intimately connected to me and my children and grandchildren. I embody their lives and so do my children and grandchildren. Was there something that could I do about this now?
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