1971, April 17: Letter from Marcy to G&H
Seven-page handwritten letter on 3-hole-punched lined paper, just catching George and Helen up on what the family had been up to.
Content warning for a detailed description of a goldfish’s visible injuries.
Dear Grandpa & Grandma
Muk’ka tusan tuk for your letter and goodies. Jed invested his in some magnetic letters (which are collecting on frig, stove, sink, shower, under beds, in pockets & mouths & empty bottles…) & Joaquin got some bubbles & whatallever. Ours went into the bank where it was certainly appreciated. (We’re still recovering from that washing machine & had to buy tires with the NDEA money this quarter.)
Written in margin next to first line: my editr says munga tusen tuk
We are doing so much, so fast, I am going to just list ’em in no order to give you some idea:
– Easter Egg Hunt in the courtyard. First for kids & me, too. Joaquin “found” one, nice bright delightful colors, very disappointing to find icky ol’ hardboiled egg inside. Jed got two, one of which he’d hid himself…
– Great huge Villager taking incredible amounts of time this month. Peter working on it too. Using up our ton of scrap paper on an article written specially to cover extra ads. Next month will be even more so. (My salary as editor is $10/month)
– Consuming quantities of Vichysoisse [boil potatoes w/ leeks
xxx& bay leaf in soup stock, (up to 1 hr to develop flavor) blend or put through food mill, add buttermilk, cream, sour cream, yoghurt in any combination to desired thickness, heat, add herbs (basil, herb xxxbouquet, whatever) chopped broccolli or parsley, salt, pepper, lemon juice if you like, serve very hot or very cold.] as everyone (all 4 of us, imagine that!) loves it.
– Nursing a sick goldfish through a particularly vile bout with fungus. Most fascinating study. He’s been rallying greatly after nearly a week at death’s door—borrowed a 10-gallon tank, lots of salt, lots of prayer and Johrei. Really game little goldfish—two of his ribs were bare, & some small intestine, but he’s pulled through & is his own perky & beautiful self, long graceful fins & tail, smart as can be.
– Jerky handwriting ’cos of Peter typing at the same table.
– Peter is taking Phyysics (3rd of 3 qtrs; he got A+ the other two quarters) for bio majors, Projective Geometry, & San Quentin project—he’ll be there for first formally accepted time on Tuesday.
– We lost a battle with the Department of Environmental Control & our house will be sprayed for roaches, also next Tuesday. Fish, birds, snail, plants, and us will be vacating for around 24 hours. And they’re raising our rent as of July 1, to $70. Yucky, as our friends on Sesame Street say. (The TV now works for about 40 minutes at a time—we watch Sesame Street & Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood about once a week.)
– Got a whole shopping bag ful of scraps & planning to succumb to the temptation to have Jed around while I sew them so he can watch the whatever-it-will-be growing.
– Went to a Tupperware party and bought six “tumblers”—feel like my Introduction to Middle America is quite complete, now.
– About to launch a campaign to move the cities—or at least their boundaries—and have Albany Village become a part of Berkeley, instead of Albany. Or at least we hope so. Probably all 980 families in the Village would for once be unanimously for it.
– Tomorrow morning (amidst rain & cold) the Village gardens open. Hurray!
– Last weekend we went to Modesto for a most lovely wedding. In a new Catholic Church, built in the round, like a clamshell,—altar, then low stairs, with rings above for closing off w/curtain, then audience–er, congregation, also w/possibility of curtaining off in a ring there, too.
Each had one attendant, in blue—bride & bridesmaid (her sister) wore identical-style dresses & white daisies. Jed was telling his friends afterwards that ”the princess was talking to me” All were barefoot, flutes & guitars, readings from Khalil Gibran—in a Catholic Church! The refreshments at the reception were:
xxxavocado-& sprout hors d’eourves, also peanut butter-honey, mushroom, xxxscallion, etc.; wedding cake xxxlooking like a 3-layer-wedding cake, w/ banana cake & carrot cake inside. All made with honey except icing. And organic apple juice and champagne.
– Peter’s major is now Math for Teachers (instead of general Math), geometry, number theory, history of mathematics, all just exactly his interests. Tra la!
– No word from John. David says he’s (John) in Puyallup. Pyuallup? The Blueberry Capital of the World? What about school? & parole board & all.
– Never did thank you for the inflatable chair. Unwrapping & inflating were the most fun. It gets used as a hat or climbing
xdevice far more often than a chair, but that’s fine…
– And, quietly, I am going to sleep. Quickly. The end.
Love from all
Chester, & Frederic Douglas
- “Muk’ka tusan tuk”
- I gather that in Norwegian (roughly translated), takk means “thanks,” tusen takk means “thanks a lot” (literally “a thousand thanks”) and mange tusen takk means “thanks very much” (literally “many thousand thanks”). I suspect that by “my editr,” she meant Peter.
- “washing machine”
- I’m assuming this is a different washing machine than the wringer one that Marcy had mentioned in a previous letter, but I don’t know.
- “the courtyard“
- I vaguely recall that the apartment building we were living in was two or three floors arranged in a rectangle (?) around a central courtyard. Marcy notes that this was her first Easter egg hunt; she was Jewish.
- “Villager” and “Village”
- We always called UC Berkeley’s married-students-housing “Albany Village,” but its official name appears to have been University Village. The Villager was the neighborhood newsletter that Marcy was co-editing (as mentioned in a previous letter or two).
- …Years after living in the Village myself, I became a fan of the TV show The Prisoner. Coincidence? I think not!
- “Math for Teachers”
- I didn’t know that that was Peter’s official major until I read this letter. About twenty years later, he would go on to get a Master’s in math and another in education, and would finally become a professional math teacher.
- This was a favorite dish of mine as a kid. I almost never have it any more, but I like it when I do. Reading this letter almost made me want to make some, but I suspect I will instead just buy some pre-made.
- “smart as can be”
- …I wonder if this is the only time in the history of the world that a goldfish has been described with that phrase.
- …Then again, I suppose she might have meant “smart as a goldfish can be, which isn’t very.”
- (…OK, fine: joking aside, apparently “Goldfish are […] smarter than you think.”)
- I don’t remember having a goldfish, but I do remember remembering having a goldfish.
- “San Quentin project”
- See previous letter; I guess this means that San Quentin did allow Peter to teach there after all.
- “Fish, birds, snail”
- Until I read this letter, I would have said that we never had birds when I was a kid. And there’s no other mention of these birds anywhere else in these letters.
- I’m tickled by the little drawings at the end, showing us and the pets. I especially like the Peter and Marcy cartoon faces—they nicely capture a simplified version of what Peter and Marcy looked like. (The ring around Peter’s head is a headband.)