June 1: My New Year’s Day

Today is the birthday of both my grandmothers, my namesakes;
the Cal and Leah in Caleah, my middle name.

On the right, California June Curts O’Connell, the grandmother I never knew, who today would be 101 years old. She was born in Sutter Creek, was a barefoot girl in Ukiah and Grass Valley, came of age on Woodland Avenue in San Francisco, and graduated from Berkeley, an anthropologist who found her life’s work at the Legion of Honor.

On the left, Leah Lillian Brodsky Foreman, Canadian daughter of poor Jewish immigrants who was a girl in Dayton, Ohio, before she came of age on the streets of Chicago. At war’s end, she came west to her city of dreams and lived nearly 70 years by the bay, devoting her life to saving those persecuted for their beliefs.

One woman I knew so well I sometimes look in the mirror and see her; the other whose voice, poised and rich and Sylvia Plath-like, I’ve heard only on cassette tapes, but whose eyes follow me in the face of my brother.

June first is the first of the year for me: a day of memory and reflection of the women whose blood I bleed, and an honoring of their rich and varied lives.


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