I imagine y’all know this already, but just in case: I strongly recommend not taking anything in these letters as medical advice.
Content warning for some comments about food and bodies and health.
This is a three-and-a-half-page mostly-typewritten letter from Marcy, followed by a four-page handwritten letter from Peter that I assume was mailed in the same envelope.
At the time of this letter, I was about two and a half years old, and Jay/Joaquin was about six months old.
Dear and GrandParents
Oh, what terrible messes we have been working in, and how awful and unreasonable not to have acknowledged, even, your generosity, and how grand to hear from John of September 11 (but no word yet from David…hope it's that he hasn't told us yet of good news…) So many hassles and complications and strange events and purifications, and more to come, it looks like. But these few days
xare a breathing space,and writing to you has loomed so heavily over my head that I almost can't do it. The more delay, the worse it gets, but the more things to tell…so I'll start at the beginning, when we got your package:
'Twas lovely, the package. Joaquin looked grand and gentlemanly in his clothes (since then he's gotten some romper-pants, and looks like a little kid, 'cept for his baldity, instead of a little baby) and they were just right for the summer weather we have a day of every few weeks. (Yesterday was one; the sun shone from dawn till sunset; today it was back to fight-the-fog-till-noon) and the larger pair of shorts just fit Jed. But he's very definite about not being interested in pants with straps, so he decided to"save them for Baby Joaquin to get bigger." The Squeaky mouse was magnificent: Jed had been running around telling us to call him Squeaky Mouse for days and days; we'd been saying things like "Oh, Squeaky Mouse, where are you now that we need you?" and "Squeaky Mouse, come back to us
x, we need you……" and he loved it. (It's hard to be just Jed-o who gets scolded and hassled by his little brother playing with his toys and like that, and Squeaky Mouse and his brother Squealy Mouse were only good-time guys, never hard times.) So it was a real mind-blower for Jed to have an honest-to-goodness squeaky mouse, and, oddly, it led to his abandoning that game and becoming Little Cat (with his brother Pussy Cat and Mama Cat and Peter Cat.) This is still happening, to some extent, but he's now able to handle being all sorts of imaginary persons, mostly the --something--man (e.g. the gas man, the typewriter man, the 'parpment man (our neighbor, in the next apartment,)the train track man, etc.)
The apron was just fine; I'm going to make a skirt of it, as it fits well enough at the waist, as soon as I find the right fabric for an extra panel. Having a skirt with all those pockets is just too much temptation.
By the way, I'm making table napkins out of several of the hand towels you gave us, in an effort to save paper. Not just the money, but the pollution from more waste paper, dye, bleach, and not to mention the trees that have to die so we can have paper napkins!!
What happened then? Ah
x, your letter and check. Well, neither Wards nor Penneys nor the local discount department store had the bike we needed (gears and foot xbrakes,) so we now have twosecond (or third or so)-hand ones, one in a state of disrepair and the other somewhat better. One has gears, one foot brakes. Well, as we received that letter, I was beginning to have a small boil on my right thumb. It was a little sensitive so I figured I wouldn't irritate it by jarring typewriter stuff, but would thank you and send a decent letter in a few days when it was better. After a few days it got worse, and then I couldn't even hold a pen to send even a postcard. Then I couldn't even put diaper pins in… after a xwhile I couldn't even carry Joaquin on my right arm, and at its peak, one night I xcouldn't even fall asleep without Peter channeling Johrei to me to relieve the pain,continuously, till I fell asleep…Then I discovered Golden Seal, and at the same time decided to puncture the thing instead of waiting for it to pop, as I'd wanted to. (If you can wait, a boil like that brings out a prodigious amount of poisons that have no doubt been collecting for a long long time. For me, there were a lot of poisons because I hadn't menstruated for a long time, and that is one extremely potent release for accumulated toxins in a woman. But I coundn't no more wait, so I speared it with a boiled needle). Golden Seal (root, powdered) is a magnificent remedy for infection. A poultice of the root, a gelatin capsule filled with it, a tea of the leaves to drink and bathe the infected area, and all began to heal in very good time. Of course Johrei helped, too. Had I gone to a doctor, it would have been xlanced, and all that hard work my body was doing to rid itself of poisons wourld have been for naught. (nought? Nawt?*)
All this was very discouraging. Managed to write to Kristi to thank her for her Canadian $5 bill. Which was very pretty, but took us forever to trade it for U.S. currency. ("Oh, we only change money as a service to our customers") snooted several banks. But could not seem to manage to sit down at the machine and communicate with anyone…
Handwritten note in margin: Even my mother. I suppose the longer I let it go the harder it got.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Other news: Peter has a
xscholarship (fee deferment) and possible NDEA loan. The 28th is registration and day to take test to exempt him from required Freshman English…Jed can finally pedal his trike. Today his school started, I taught him to recognize 1, 2, 3, and 0, and to know when two things say 3 or 2 or whatever…He is so lovely and helpful, and nearly over his temper tantruming as I've been able to give him more of the right kind of attention,. Joaquin is makiing fantasic progress. He's crawling all over the house, all by himself, learning not to bop himself on the head with xeverything he holds, manages to get some food inside when he feeds himself cheese and fruit and bread and crackers and such, can pull himself up to standing, get back down again without skull crackings, get sitting up and back down to crawling again, control himself rolling over and over, and play wonderfully with Jed. Jed is very careful of him, too,. Another recent trick is to wake up, get up and play for a while; We come in to the sound of him crowing…Jed knows when he's tired, tells us he xneeds a nap (or tells me I need a nap, when I'm tired and cross)…he's learning to play and share with the other kids in the courtyard; Joaquin just loves to gaze at the other kids, then he tries to walk too, but only gets as far as his feet-with- xxxhands.
By this time, it's nearly time for John to arrive--I'm finally able to type when the kids are awake, which is much better than trying to sneak it in when they're sleeping, and have to stop as soon as anyone wakes up……Peter told you in his letter about our imminent juicer changeover; that's the most exciting thing. Also, I am managing editor of the village newspaper (which this will hopefully be enclosed in) which, as you see, ain't much, but it's gittin' better all the time. I'll probably be editor one of these times, which is a lot of work for the same pay. ($15/month, or $10, depending on whether the paper is in the red or the black.) Joaquin is currently on the verge of getting trapped in the bottom of his high chair (convertible-to-table variety, painted blue, $4 from a family that moved) while Jed is singing his favorite song (words in caps are SHOUTED):
she sailed aWAY on a bright and sunny DAY
on the back of a croc-oh-DI-'L
"you see," said she, "he's as tame as he can BE,
I'll sail him down the NI--EL."
The croc winked his EYE as she waved her friends good-BYE
She was wearing a happy SMI--EL
At the end of the RIDE, the lady was inSIDE
And the SMILE was on the croc-oh-DI-EL !!!!!
Waaaah ! Goodbye ! We love you……
Handwritten: P.S. We are surviving adequately financially at the moment (saved $700+ by surrendering my driver’s license for 4 years – won’t drive again without insurance) (i.e. by refusing to pay damages in that accident) tho welfare dept would like to cut us off as they don’t like students in this county. –
Also, my latest plan is to get my MA while Peter is still in school.
So all will be well no matter what. ¡Amen!
Attached to that letter was a four-page handwritten letter from Peter, undated.
well hello parents——
here it is, a letter from down home; i worked my ass off hauling two inch slabs of walnut this afternoon —— getting more & more down with the fellows who’re doing this wine-shop-cum-glass-recycling thing; also washed labels off beer, wine, whiskey & peanut butter jars & crashed (trashed!?) all those un-reusable…we sell the crushed glass for 1¢/lb… it’s a virtual education, hanging out in Roger’s wine warehouse, talking with the buyers & sellers & aspirants… his wine-shop is blessed… the floor is made of hand-laid brick, with watts-tower-[i wish you’d see this sometime —— the work of an immigrant to l.a. —— he built out of steel re-inforcing bar (“re-bar”) & concrete a BEAUTIFUL structure reminding one of a clipper-ship: high masts, 100 ft. high, re-bar covered with concrete; after, city council told him he couldn’t put it there, it was too dangerous, it might fall down & injure passers-by; he says, “ok, pull’er-down”…they brought in cranes & tried…couldn’t pull the son-of-a-gun down, tried & tried…it’s inlaid with 20? yrs. work of ceramic mosaic, an artistic re-cycling of broken saucers, plates, tiles,…,…,…: beautiful…]-style ceramic mosaic of suns & moons & eyes & a back-room-office hidden message: “…and I saw a new heaven and a new earth…”…
o, thank you so much for $50… we now have a bike w/saddle-baskets… & thank you also for clothes, etc., package… so good! anyways… just wanted to write & tell you’all we love you as much as ever, hope you will learn to love yourselves as
muchwell… stop detesting your bodies! cut down on: refined sugar, refined flours, alcohol, meat, dairy-products and starches, and see how good ^^great!!^^ you’ll feel! behind it!
In margin: (& tobacco, of course)
Also in margin: [p.s. i quit tobacco! (cold turkey!)(6 weeks ago!)]
i’m selling my carrot-juice business to a health-food store (“good-natured foods”) (we’re getting a home-juicer & -blender out of it…)
i may get a n^^ational^^.d^^efense^^.e^^ducation^^.a^^ct?^^. loan… got a dean’s scholarship paying tuition…register [late] on Sept.28]… taking computer science & math & physics… we may be cut off of welfare in a month because of moving to a different county… but it’s o.k., whenever we need money, it seems to mysteriously APPEAR (“God moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform…”) (we prayed for you-all last night at a joh-rei meeting —— only two people came…it was groovy)
hope you, father, can dig this issue of ramparts, it’s heavy!…
yes, john’s coming! through! HURRAY! HURRAY! HURRAY! (3 cheers!)… So we’ll take care of him righteously, & relay him, & not delay him & not belay him… he’s having dinner w/gail hartman one evening…
your grandchildren are virtual wonders… just grand… so fine… outasight… super-far-out… love from us all,
- “to hear from John of September 11”
- I assume this means that Dobe (then known as John) was getting released from prison, but that they hadn’t heard yet when David would be released.
- “Squeaky Mouse” et alia
- I have no memory of any of this, but later I was a big fan of Mighty Mouse.
- “Golden Seal”
- The American Cancer Society said, in 2015: “Available scientific evidence does not support claims that goldenseal is effective in treating cancer or other diseases. Goldenseal can have toxic side effects, and high doses can cause death.”
- boils and menstruation
- …I’m not an expert, but I know of no evidence that boils and/or menstruation are the body’s means of gathering up poisons from all over the body and expelling them. Quote from a 2019 NYT piece: “There is a very common—but false—belief that a period is necessary to remove ‘toxins’ from the body. Consequently, many people worry that a lack of a period (or a very light period) leads to some kind of toxic build up of waste products[…] A period does not remove anything from the body except the endometrium (uterine lining).”
- “even my mother”
- I have no record of Marcy writing to her mother after early 1968, but I know that they talked on the phone regularly. I’m not sure whether this indicates that she was still writing to her mother and I just don’t have those letters, or whether she meant some other medium.
- Presumably registration for classes at UC Berkeley, where Peter had just become a student (if I understand the timeline right).
- “exempt him from required Freshman English”
- In retrospect, this is foreshadowing for something that would come up a year or so later. More on that when we get to it.
- “she sailed aWAY”
- I have almost no memory of this song. I went and looked it up and found various recordings of it online, but none of them sound particularly familiar. Example: “The Smile on the Crocodile,” by Sharon, Lois & Bram (1-minute audio recording).
- “surrendering my driver’s license”
- !!! I don’t know any of the context for this. Sounds like Marcy was driving without insurance and got into an accident, and refused to pay damages and so lost her license? That seems like a lot of backstory to casually refer to this way, and especially to casually frame as a money-saving measure.
- “to get my MA”
- She did go to grad school, but I don’t think she started that until a few years after this letter.
- No idea why Peter was so enthusiastic about this wine shop. Possibly just yet another of his momentary strong enthusiasms. Or possibly he was high when he wrote this.
- “learn to love yourselves”
- I don’t know whether this was in reference to something that George or Helen had said in a letter about their bodies, or whether Peter just decided that because they weren’t going along with the dietary ideas he was espousing, that by definition meant that they hated their bodies.
- “whenever we need money, it seems to mysteriously APPEAR”
- …I feel like that was a little disingenuous of Peter, given that quite a bit of the money that mysteriously APPEARed did so because Peter or Marcy wrote to George and Helen and asked them to send money, and George and Helen did. I mean, yes, as documented in an earlier letter, sometimes other sources of money appeared unexpectedly. But even so—this letter was in part a thank-you note for G&H having just sent them $50 (in response to a request for a bicycle), so it feels a little weird to me to blithely suggest that money was just magically coming out of nowhere.
- “this issue of ramparts”
- To quote Wikipedia, “Ramparts was a glossy illustrated American political and literary magazine, published from 1962 to 1975 and closely associated with the New Left political movement.”
- Gail Hartman
- Gail was Peter’s first wife.