1970, November and December: Letters from Marcy to G&H

A pair of handwritten letters—Marcy wrote most or all of the first letter here in mid-November, then three weeks later wrote the second letter here, then included both in the envelope. She put the second-written one first in the envelope, but after some waffling, I’m putting the first-written one first below.

The first letter is partly about the war in Vietnam (content warning for mention of some of the things the US was doing), and partly about materialism and Christmas.

The second one starts out in a similar vein, but then shifts into some unusually direct criticisms of Helen’s handling of a situation with Dobe (John). I know nothing about that situation, aside from what I’m inferring from Marcy’s letter here, and I have no idea what Helen’s response was.

Marcy was 25 when she wrote these letters. (Peter had just turned 31.) Helen was 62, George was 58. Dobe had just turned 22, and recently gotten out of prison.

Saturday night


Dear Grandparents

I just finished writing two letters—came home from a picnic to open the monthly newsletter of Another Mother for Peace, to find a picture of a prisoner—an American prisoner, a “prisoner of conscience” bowing his head before his days-old infant child. He could not be there at his child’s birth, nor hold his wife’s hand afterwards, because he was in jail for his patriotism. xxx—I wrote, at the newsletter’s suggestion, to nixon the noxious & secty of state Rogers, asking both to use their strength & humanity to end the war & its evils.

We also recieved a note from the Internal Revenue Service today, requesting the $5.26 we haven’t paid in federal taxes on our phone bill, as a protest against war taxes, & the war.

So here is what I want to suggest: no matter how we spend our money on Christmas gifts, some of it will go to support the killing of Vietnamese babies—the roll of organizations being boycotted because they are mainly war industries, weapons & systems manufacturers & their subsidiaries, is enormous! The taxes we pay go to pay the soldiers who drop the bombs!

Think of all the lovely things—toys, goodies, etc, you’d like to get for Jed & Joaquin, and us, too, and your other sons and daughter-in-law, and total them up. Think what Another Mother for Peace (for example) could do with that money—(they supported the campaigns of 15 Senators & 51 Representatives who voted & still vote to end the war—they xxx serve as a constant reminder that we can all work to show Washington our belief that “War is not healthy for children and other living things”)—and think about how happy each of us would be with one small gift—something handmade, by you or someone; something old—St. Vinnie’s can be a place to do Christmas shopping too—something wrapped in an old piece of pretty fabric instead of expensive Christmas paper.

Your Christmas packages last year were lovely ^^just exactly that the love & good wishes didn’t get lost in the presents, xxx as often happens to many people^^—full of little useful goodies and tiny toys, and Jed’s lovely ball that shrank—I know that your good taste has improved, even, and that he won’t be gorged on things from everyone. A trip to the snow (he’s never seen it) would make him as happy as any toy

We want to keep our gifts as simple and plain and calm as possible, because both boys enjoy everything (almost) and we want them to be able to use their toys instead of be entertained by them.

[I want you in no way to think of this as a xxx criticism of any past or present Christmas plans or any such—only an awareness that we will have something that not many families in the world will have this Christmas, that nothing can buy, that is beyond all value: we will all be together.

no gift can equal that—all else is only a token.

And I want us all not to be so involved in the material world of tokens that we forget our brothers & sisters who have neither the tokens nor the being together.]

Here is another thing I feel I have not explained clearly: on the material plane, neither boy has barely a need to consider. They both have large wardrobes of good clothes, vast amounts of toys—and here is the problem: Jed has gotten so involved in his toys and possessions and doings that he is going through a stage of being very fiercely jealous. He does’t let Joaquin even touch “his” chair or “his” cup, doesn’t want any company, to play with “his” toys, etc. Added in margin next to this paragraph: 3 weeks later this, of course, is no longer true. For some reason(s) he has become so xxx self-involved with his things that he is threatened by anyone else’s presence or touching. So I feel that at this time in his life he does not need more stuff to invest himself in—rather he needs to learn sharing & giving. For this reason I am going to make toys for his friends—beanbags or possibly sock-puppets, and have him help me—we’ll make one for him, one for Joaquin, etc—and this is what he will get (overtly) from us for Christmas. Actually, he already has his Christmas present, as we decided he was ready for it now—a set of Cuisenairre xxx rods, which are an incredibly fine teaching device for non-verbal math concepts.

I’m really not saying, and really don’t mean, that you xxx shouldn’t go & get any presents—especially because I know that getting them, and anticipating the reciever’s delight & use, is such fun—only I hope that no one goes on any expensive trips, or x any major investments in things—our major investments should be in how we feel towards each other.

That last paragraph was at the top of a page. After it, the rest of the page is torn away. On the back of the quarter-page containing the above paragraph, Marcy added a further note, written after the other letter:

the rest was irrelevant. This part of the letter was, of course, written long before the 2nd part, which is in the envelope first…



see you all soon

And the second letter:

5 December

late evening

Dear Grandparents

Its been so long since I started the “other” letter (enclosed) that I decided I’d better do it over, & send you the old one, too. Folding diapers, even, Christmas looms heavily as a time of potential problem and a realx source of joy for our kids, hoping to make it real for them, and not the commercial-jingle bells-si-o-lent night-bolster-the-economy problem it has become for our dying society. How to do this is to keep it pure & simple. Jed would love, I’m sure, to go to church (if it were a short service) probably just once—he’s never been to a Christian church that he remembers. He will love excitement, but in a very controlled way, as he gets very high & out of control quickly. And the excitement will be, for him, for a magic evening and day, and not for the expectation of Santa Claus & presents. The animals talking at midnight is much more real & meaningful for a child who can really travel into his fanasy world, than a gift-grubbing Santa Claus—not that the myth isn’t okay, but the give-me-everything-I-want part is just plain wrong—no good for him or any kid.

One important thing I want to express x is that, without dampening anyone’s joy at giving, I don’t want him gorged on presents. Our food is, and will remain, simple, but I know that the delight of having him around will make everyone just want to give him things—and things are what he x simply does not need. He is a lovely and perfect gentleman about thankyous and you’re welcomes, but utterly strident & insistent about anything new for himself. This is not to say don’t get him any presents, but rather a request that you xxx give small simple things—his ball last year was just a favorite toy till the day it melted, and long after as well. He deeply appreciates books, and can handle any stories up to a 4 or 5 year old level—any AA milne books would be good; one of his favorites from the library is “The Little Drummer Boy” by xxx Harry Simeone, illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats. I don’t believe he’s ever heard the record it came from. He’d like to have some mittens, but needs no other clothing. (Though if someone could give him a thousand million pockets for all his clothes, he’d be overwhelmed with joy.)

Written in margin: Hop on Pop is the only Dr. Seuss I can abide.

Joaquin needs nothing but love to make him deleriously happy—no one could say that there’s a happier baby in the world. The only things I can think of to get him, thinking as hard as I can, are some cloth, non-toxic, non-tearing books (not the thick cardboard ones as little fingers can’t turn those pages) and perhaps a Playskool (brand Brand name) giraffe—a kind of a walker-rider-toddler toy that has wheels, and a learner-to-walk can lean on it, or sit & ride it.

Both kids get more fun from climbing, pots & pans, wooden and silver spoons, cardboard boxes, scissors-&-paper (for Jed), beanbags, soap-&-water, and like that, than they do with any commercial toys, so when I say they need nothing, what I really mean is they don’t need much of the commercial amusing/stimulating structured things.

I think I’ve said what I need to—hope you can get an intuitive grasp of what I mean, ’cos this letter is surely not very clear or logical.

Let me close with this quote Peter found in the paper:

Addiction can only be cured by a meaningful life.

Bear in mind that a meaningful life for a young man today is not just going to school and eating pure foods and keeping aloof from any impurity around him—to have meaning in your life, you have to share the love x inside with others

Grandma, I cannot tell you this too strongly, tho I wonder how you will hear me: John’s friend is my sister, though I don’t even know her name, as you are my sister, and she is your sister—as God is your father, you are my sister—and every woman’s—if you persist in your small idea of “I will only give to help My Own,” x your last chance of communicating with your children and grandchildren is gone—because we are starting to envision, and to find, a world where we are all brothers and sisters, where no man, no woman, is an island, but we are all together beads on the necklace of life. This has so long been a barrier that you will see more & more of young people bending over backwards to show their brother/sister hood with each other. And your idea of “own family” has plagued and hurt and frozen me for so long I have never before been able to reply to it. Now I must, as I see you destroying your own happiness with it, by alienating John and his friend and the rest of us, too.

Your moral objection to his relationship—well, that’s too bad, but that’s one you both are stuck with, and xxx (I believe) a poison you will someday be purified of—perhaps not in this lifetime—you xxx have my respect for sticking to what you believe. But this other idea, that we must all support only our xxx “own” families—though part and parcel of the same moral ancestry, is in and of itself a doomed and destructive idea—if for no other reason than the preservation of a loving, meaningful relationship with your sons, try to at xxx least consider that she is your family too, and Mario too (even more so, he and J & D are brothers through many shared experiences on levels so deep none of us can even imagine them, I’m sure…). Saying “I can’t help support you because I disapprove of your relationship with this girl” is very very different from “I won’t help you because she might inadvertently reap some benefit.”

Also (almost incidentally) please remember that moral disapproval does not mean cessation of love—don’t forget to love John—and consider the generation gap before you try too hard to explain to him what you think—for the emotional levels that xxx cloud every family’s hassles can be very very cloudy. Please, above all, remember that the only cure for addiction is a xxx meaningful life… xxx any kind of addiction at all.

I love you both—



Another Mother for Peace
For the organization’s history, see Wikipedia. I was startled to learn that the organization has been revived and has a website.
“secty of state Rogers”
William P. Rogers, Nixon’s Secretary of State.
“St. Vinnie’s”
Presumably Society of St Vincent de Paul thrift stores.
“Cuisenairre rods”
I vaguely remember having Cuisenaire rods as a kid. I also vaguely remember not parsing that phrase as two separate words—I didn’t know what Cuisenaire meant (turns out it was the name of the inventor), just thought of “Cuisenairerods” as what they were called.
“The Little Drummer Boy”
Huh—it turns out that the song was written by Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941, and first released in 1951. Harry Simeone’s 1958 recording became immensely popular, which must be why Marcy considered the song to be by him. The book appears to have consisted of the lyrics, plus illustrations by Ezra Jack Keats, though not at all in the style that I associate with him.
I vaguely think Mario was a friend of David’s and Dobe’s who was in prison with them, but I’m not remembering for sure.

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