My mother, Marcy Hartman, died of leukemia in 1980.
A couple years ago, I found a folder containing 38 letters that she wrote to her parents, dated from 1964 (when she was a college student at Antioch) to 1968 (not long after I was born). I don’t know who gave the letters to me or when.
My friend Kathleen digitized them, and I decided to post them here. At some future point, I may add other material about Marcy, but for now this site consists entirely of her letters home, plus a couple of related adjunct items.
When I post old family photos on Facebook, it seems reasonable to post 5 to 7 of them at a time, once a week. But I felt like posting 5 letters on a single day would be a bit much, and any less than that each week would’ve meant that posting all the letters would take a long time. So I ended up posting one letter a day for about three weeks, and then added one or two handwritten ones a day for another week or two.
(I know that I could’ve compiled a “best of” set of excerpts instead of posting all the letters in their entirety, much as I’m curating which of my old family photos to post. But I think it’ll be nice to have the whole set of letters available in one place.)
This page is a table of contents, with links to all the individual letters.
The majority of these letters were written on a typewriter. We’ve mostly cleaned up typos and spacing issues, except where they’re referenced in the text or look like they might be intentional or I just decided not to change them. One or more xs usually indicates letters or words xed out. Capitalization is all the same as in the original.
The rest of the letters were handwritten, and I’ve been freer about fixing misspellings and such with those.
- #1: 29 December 1964
- Typed on a plane en route to a teaching position in Keams Canyon, Arizona.
- #2: 31 January 1965 (postcard)
- A brief postcard showing Navajo rugs.
- #3: 31 January 1965 (letter)
- In which Marcy buys Navajo rugs. “The Hopis are very beautiful people in every way.”
- #4: 20 February 1965
- A detailed description of Marcy’s life and work at Keams Canyon. “[Mr.] Russell is an inept incompetent impotent idiotic ass, and I’m not just name-calling, I’m describing.”
- #5: 8 March 1965
- A postcard from Keams Canyon. “Sorry to hear you had to stop smoking, Daddy. hope you find something near’ as good.”
- #6: 11 March 1965
- Final letter from Keams Canyon, a general update about life and teaching.
- #7: 31 March 1965
- Back at Antioch, getting back into the swing of things at school. “the bill, tra la, is enclosed.”
- #8: 5 June 1965
- Preparing for the end of her junior year, and for the summer. “don’t really know anyone else in the city with a very long beard. But then, your definition of a very long beard is probably about three feet shorter than mine.”
- #9: 8 July 1965
- Starting summer quarter at Antioch. “[The music professor is] kind of upset with us; here we are, all grown up and adults and don’t even know that music is the most important thing in the world.”
- #10: 17 July 1965
- Another letter (a brief one) from early in the summer quarter at Antioch. “Just finished my syllabus for an independent study in how modern math is taught in the elementary schools.”
- #11: 29 July 1965
- General life updates from a couple weeks after the previous one. Includes a potentially squicky comment about eye surgery. I couldn’t decide on a single pull quote this time, so here are a couple of them:
- “Fear not, you are about the last letter to be writ on this nearly-illegible typewriter ribbon.”
- “say, is [your new beard] straight, like your father’s was, or curly? I can see you with a little ol’ tailored goatee and a prayer shawl. If you let your hair grow you can be a prophet, maybe.”
- “I’m not really mercenary, it’s just that I like to be taken out to dinner and not paying for myself.”
- #12: 9 August 1965
- Some followups to previous letter, a couple of weeks later. Also a kind of squicky bit about 10th-century eye surgery. Also: “woosh, some of the ideas they had about delivering babies: if it didn’t come out at the right time it was the foetus’s fault, and they considered smoking it out, starving the mother so the baby would be hungry and come out for food, and singing it songs about the glories of the outside world.”
- #13: 31 August 1965
- A response to a sensationalized Reefer Madness-style article that her parents had sent her. “we are some of the few people in the country to be in a position to know about marijuana legally, having studied it for academic credit.”
- #14: 23 September 1965
- A brief postcard from Sausalito.
- #15: 28 September 1965
- A month after the last full-length letter, Marcy is living and working in Southern California, and writing about her aunts Sara and Stelle. “of course, 90 billion years of age is a bit old to start asserting your independence and turning over a new leaf.”
- #16: 19 October 1965
- In which Marcy gets a new apartment and listens to jazz radio. “month-to-month lease, meaning I can leave when I want, no sweat, no hangups, no muss, no fuss, no mess, no nasty after taste.”
- #17: 31 October 1965
- Life updates from Southern California. “this guy never has heard of some of the most important people in my world, never read some of the—most, all, I guess, of the most important books there are to read, nor seen any of the films that have been meaningful to me, nor appreciated anything other than a limited stratum of light classical music. A fine mind just going to waste, really sad.”
- #18: 17 December 1965
- Marcy’s last letter from Southern California. “really sorry I believed all those proselytizers who still keep saying it never rains here, drowning in the puddles (there are no drainage facilities as it never rains here) while in the midst of saying so.”
- #19: 10 January 1966
- A very brief note from around the time Marcy returned to Antioch post-SoCal.
- #20: 30 January 1966
- In which Marcy settles in for her final quarters at Antioch, and expresses disdain for Bob Dylan. “Like he has some damn fine and wise and perceptive things to say about where it’s at for kids and older kids, but he’s really a kind of crappy person, most superficial and successful and not terribly bright—this from two friends who knew him pretty well in new york last quarter.”
- #21: 5 May 1966
- Jumping ahead a few months to near the end of Marcy’s time at Antioch. “this is my senior project, and what it will be like a month from now I have no idea.....but, god, only a month to do it, eek, help.”
- #22: 18 May 1966
- In which Marcy asks for money from her parents, for a long and semi-amusing list of reasons. “Help, Help! This-here is the classic example of College Student Writing Home For Money, full of flimsy excuses and unavoidable reasons”
- #23: 4 June 1966
- Marcy’s last letter from Antioch, and her last letter before a long gap. “Lickety-split, trippety-plit, off to do last paper of college career, field comprehensives project on Creativity, ho ho.”
- #24: 6 July 1967
- A postcard mentioning the upcoming move to Mendocino. Over a year has passed since the last letter I have—during which time Marcy moved to California, met Peter, moved in with him, and taught for a bit at the Six-Day School in Sonoma.
- #25: 31 July 1967
- First mention in these letters of Peter and Marcy’s wedding; also, some discussion of the school they were planning. Also: “I have a sacred & holy mission: to ask you to ask Uncle Hyman for a recipe for good sour Jewish rye—no cookbooks have any real recipes that we’ve found—they’re all for Swedish rye or rye-whole wheat, or something, but about 6 of us would love to make good rybread, no matter how much work.”
- #26: 28 August 1967
- Marcy is now 24 years old, though she doesn’t mention that in this letter. Assorted thoughts about sourdough rye bread, bureaucratic obstacles to getting the Caspar Community School up and running, abalone stew, and various possible future plans. Including this: “How would you like a grandchild? (This is not a matter of decision I ask you, but just a preference: rare, medium, or well-done?)—anyway, we’re thinkin’ about it.”
- #27: 26 September 1967
- A long letter mostly about the school. “The kids are lovely and the school is tremendous and it really looks like I might be going to have a baby (April or May) and we are comfortable and happy and full of enough things to do and think about and work with to keep us that way.”
- #28: 17 November 1967
- A brief note from about four months into Marcy’s pregnancy. “passed some store windows in a section of town I never get near usually, so wasn’t used to looking at a pregnant woman reflected back at me—I really look awfully pregnant, but experienced friends tell me I ain’t even started yet.”
- #29: 28 December 1967
- A postcard, probably in reference to Peter having served a few days in jail because he couldn’t afford to pay some parking tickets.
- #30: 11 January 1968
- Another postcard with brief updates.
- #31: 15 January 1968
- Mostly about the Caspar Community School and various things connected to it. “Ah, the sun is shining, the cats are cowering (dog next door is in heat and her following grows larger daily—cats terrorized. (We have the same two we had in the city plus one with 22 toes, 12 in front and 10 in back. She is currently proving to herself that it hurts when you stick a paw in front of the typewriter keys and someone is typing), the ocean is leaping up with 10-15 feet of spray, and the baby is somersalting......all’s well with the world.”
- #32: 2 February 1968
- On latkes and baby prep. “I am so big I stare at my profile in disbelief—seems like someone else, which sure enough it is.”
- #33: 13 February 1968
- Another brief status-update note.
- #34: 27 February 1968
- In which Marcy and Peter prepare for the impending baby, and are given some “government goat.” Two pull quotes: “Then monthly check-up with dr., who, altho he doesn’t approve of our wanting to have the baby at home, will not stand in the way, and does at least want to be sure all is well beforehand.” And: “The venison made my teeth hurt, as I’m not used to that carnivourous chewing, and made us both feel heavy and ferocious and animalistic.”
- #35: 6 April 1968
- In which Marcy gives birth to a baby. (Hey, that’s me!) “The first two days after Jed was born, Peter was sick with an allergic reaction to some pollen he ate accidently in a honeycomb, then it turned into a cold and I caught it and Jed caught it and we were all an exhausted mess. We hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before he was born, as he wasn’t really expected any more...”
- #36: 25 April 1968
- An update from a couple weeks later. “it kept me in bed with an intermittent fever for about 2 ½ days—it was really nice—I couldn’t do anything—Peter cooked & took care of Jed & cleaned up.”
- #37: 2 May 1968
- A plan to move to Seattle, and a plan to visit Philadelphia. “A friend of ours has come to stay for a week or so and do housework for me and enjoy Mendocino, leaving me free to nurse the baby umpty-trillion or so hours a day without thinking about dinner or cleaning.”
- #38: 25 May 1968
- The final extant letter. Marcy was nearly 25 years old; I was nearly 2 months old. All that I have of her from after this letter is photos, a brief video, and a couple of audio recordings. And some memories. “Finally we did hear from Peter’s parents—they are much friendlier now that they have a grandson & Peter is going back to school…”