At the top of this letter, Marcy indicates that she started writing it on “Monday, 12/28??”, so I’m guessing it was really Monday the 29th of December. So this letter was written at roughly the same time as the previous one I posted, but I’m putting this one after that one because this one was finished after midnight on January 1. But the other one may also not have been finished until early January, not sure.
…This letter also appears to have been written on paper from the same 7"x9" pad as the one Peter was writing on.
Monday night, 12/28??
Dear and Grand Grandparents
Wow! We only just got that third package (third package!) (gee!) today and it’s almost gone – only about a third of the Yulekakke & the two packages of candy are left. The carrot pudding was simply magnificent – dare I ask for the recipe, or is it a closely guarded secret? Jed just loved it – tho he only had a tiny bit as he’s had a stomach flu for about a day – he hasn’t been eating anything but puffed rice crackers & mint tea, but he still loved the carrot pudding. Very similar to date-nut bread, at least in shape & texture, yes? We thought about making a sauce for it, but it was gone before we had chance to consider it seriously. The fruitcake & Yulekakke were lovely – next year, I vow, I’ll trade you fruitcakes – almost did this year, but for noticing on about Dec. 12 that the recipe said it needed 6-8 weeks of ageing, so I gave up in abject meekness.
The cheese was just a delight – the brie disappeared right away, and even the Limburger is almost gone by now – my cousin & her husband were here for dinner last night, & he showed us how to eat it without smelling it – really tastes fine. Jed loved the gouda, with its skin, tho he’s a bit fussy about the cheese itself – likes it best, or rather exclusively, melted.
The two giftie packages arrived on Wednesday – Jed found his ball & loved it immediately, then was captivated by the drum, which he literally did not put down for 24 hours except to sleep, then switched to the ring tower, which he still loves; he can almost differentiate by himself the “pupple one” and “brooo one” and “tangowine” for orange. Sometimes he even tells me which they are with no help. He just was so pleased at the ducks; they are his favorite animal right now, and he talks about some we saw about 2 weeks ago constantly, saying “memer [remember] … ducks … swimming … swans … popcorn” (a man was feeding them dried corn & other grains) The rest of the presents are temporarily stashed, as it would have been too much at once, and he was already getting a little drunk on the abundance of new things. I know he’ll be really happy with the pounding bench, as he had another one, but it was kind of well-used, with broken pegs, and he really loves hammers & hammering noises. The puzzle we tried out, but it was a bit too old for him – perhaps in another month or two at most, he’ll be ready for it. And the crayons I’m saving for next time it rains and the two of us begin to go mad together.
I was so glad to get the flannel-y material. Just realized at the birth of a friend’s baby that I have no baby stuff yet, and I’m about to get busy collecting things. And all the rest – handkerchiefs, scarves, stockings, pencil sharpener, etc., are finding their proper places and good uses. The capo is inspiring us to get some guitar strings – it’s really a beautiful one. Is it from Mexico?
We had decided not to have a big commercial Christmas (accounting for the simplicity of our gifts to you) (one installment is still coming, delay due to vagaries of photo labs—) and didn’t even want a tree, as live ones are so expensive & I just couldn’t help to perpetuate a system of growing trees on tree farms for the express purpose of cutting them down to decorate a living room for two weeks. Perhaps because I don’t come from a tradition of having Christmas trees, it was easier for me to make such a decision. (A friend and I had our first Christmas in California, and it just broke our hearts to watch it die in the living room right before our eyes.) Well, what finally happened was that Susan (she & Jeff are the couple we share the house with) was walking past a Christmas tree place near here, & convinced them to give her one they couldn’t sell. It was “topless,” more of a bush than a tree, but there it sits greenly in our living room, bushy & warm & friendly. We’ll burn it in the fire place when it dies, a more honorable death than some trees attain.
I’d been very sad about Christmas time, all the loneliness I could sense in the commercial gaiety, all the people that I knew wouldn’t feel much like celebrating anything at all, let alone Jesus’ birthday. Then we got your Christmas letter, which at first made me even more sad, thinking especially about David & John, and about your feelings about them, and about their being away, and all…… then I began to realize that with all the richness you’ve had, at Christmasses and other times, which can’t be touched by present absences or problems, that you could remember with love rather than with longing, and still have that richness. I also began to realize that the material sharing is only an expression of the love that has been built up (in the Hartman family & in so many families) over many years & many Christmas times, and as such is very beautiful, and not at all to be deplored. (The deplorable part is still evident in the stores and advertisements, but no longer such a disturbing element to me – and the real tragedy of the despoiling of our planet is not really much worse at Christmas than any other time; and certainly as humans we need our human-scale rejoicings, against whatever cosmic backdrop may be there) So – by the time we recieved your lovely packages, I was much more in tune with whatever used to be idealized as the “Christmas spirit” than I had been. There were momentary regrets that we had not done more in terms of presents, but then I realized that what one shares is what is there in abundance — and material abundance is hardly our strong point at the moment. Yet every night when we channel Johrei to Jed & to each other, we feel so strongly & clearly how rich we our, how full of love & happiness our home is – and this is what we have and have to share. Thus the preserves – as I made them, I thought about all the loving feelings in our kitchen, all the good food and enjoyment and good work that happens there all the time, and that is what we really sent in those jars. Other than in that way, I think hard to work out ways to share the abundance that is our special share. Not just for Christmas but for every day sharing. How to communicate the feelings of many hours spent tickling and teasing and singing and reading stories, the love in a little voice saying “kiss — Peeder — hug,” the growing love inside a growing tummy – these are what we have in copious quantity and don’t really know how to impart, especially over distance and through paper & pens & telephone wires and such.
Ah well, and it’s happy new
year to you all, and our landlord-
neighbor fires his gun
and it’s 1970.
Time to go to sleep, as I already have about thrice during the course of writing this letter, the last and first of the year. We wish you well, and all the best of it, for 1970 and the 70’s and always –
love, love –
Peter, Marcy & Gentle Jed.
p.s. Peter is in the process of another letter, coming soon
- Norwegian Christmas bread. For more, see previous letter.
- I still generally prefer cheese to be melted. :)
- my cousin and her husband
- ??? I have no idea who this could have been. Marcy had only two cousins who I knew about, both male. I think I know pretty much who everyone was on Marcy’s mother’s side, so I’m guessing that this cousin must have been a niece of Marcy’s father Jack’s. He did apparently have siblings, but I know almost nothing about any of them. Odd that we had so little connection with that side of the family when I was a kid.
- differentiating colors
- It wasn’t until maybe ten years later that we found out that I’m partly color-blind.
- abundance of new things
- I still really enjoy new things. :) (As opposed to new experiences, which I’m hesitant about.) But I’m not so fond of hammers and hammering noises these days.
- Apparently around this time, Peter and possibly other family members were trying to learn to play guitar. I have no memory of a guitar around the house, and Peter never played one in my memory.
- I don’t come from a tradition of having Christmas trees
- It belatedly occurs to me to wonder whether George and Helen knew that Marcy was Jewish, and if so, what they thought of that. I don’t know whether Marcy’s family celebrated Christmas (in some treeless way) when she was a kid—I’m not sure whether her phrase “had our first Christmas in California” means her first Christmas ever, which happened to be in California, or whether it’s just the first Christmas that she had in California. …I also don’t know how religiously Jewish Marcy was at this point, or for that matter at earlier times in her life; I think not very, but I’m not sure.
- The deplorable part
- There will be many further thoughts about presents, and the importance of not giving extravagant ones to me and my brother, in a later letter.