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  • My mother looked like Myrna Loy. I could see it in this picture although I had only seen one of her films. Was Myrna Loy as bossy, imperious and pragmatic as my mother? My mother ran our extended family like a tight ship. It strikes me now that her heavy-handed “I am right” control of our family may have been in reaction to her obsequious submission to outside systems. Her endurance of a radical mastectomy at the early age of 36, being “put out” for her three births with suffocating drugs, her calm assertion that her cancer pain at the end of her life was a “10” on a scale of 1-10, were the only times I can think of her being submissive, although she was forced to submit to her granddaughters, aged 4-5, just laughing in her face when she told them what to do, which was certainly not how her children had reacted!

    I realized that her legacy was under no conscious control by her- on the contrary- her place, home and environment could trump any efforts of coercion or punishment or instruction she meted out on her children and grandchildren. She was ignorant of the lead paint in the crib both she and I slept in and the possible long term health effects that may have been caused by it. Her lifetime of dosing herself with hazardous chemicals (named Chanel #5), the astonishing manufacture of war equipment within a close radius of her home in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1940’s, all could have inadvertently, involuntarily caused cancer and birth defects over three generations in our family.

    No one was breastfed in my generation- we were all born drugged and substitute suckled with cows milk, sugar and lead from formula cans. Women who do not breastfeed have a higher propensity for breast cancer, like my mother’s.

    My mother believed in immutable facts- like the dates of births, marriages, divorces, also illnesses, wealth and death. She knew all her San Francisco friends’ lineage of immutable facts. She didn’t count on the environmental effects on those facts; she would have been astonished to realize that those supposed truths were influenced by her childhood home, her adolescent perfume and the kind of birthing and the lack of breastfeeding her children. She lived her life by “the Right Rules” and they ended up being empty and useless- her ethos betrayed her and now we live with her legacy of toxins, personally, intimately.
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