1973, March 25: Letter from Marcy to G&H

Typewritten, but as usual I’m not gonna use typewriter font.

There are a surprising number of uncorrected typos in this; as she notes in the letter, she was tired while writing it.

25 March 1973

Dear Grands,

Here it finally truly is. At least the first line. Now you will know what it is, and was, that those recalcitrant buggers at this end of their rope (wha??) have been doing for the past three months. And maybe you won't be so glad you asked? (bear in mind that it's after my bedtime again. No time else to write.... not becos I'm so phenomenally busy but just that's the way my brain works...cept tonight it's a tad xout of order, so please to not feel like you can't understand. Whatever it is I might say that's wierd, I mean. I feel like I expect much thereof. )

Let us begin, for the sake of insanity, at the end:

The house reeks of fish emulsion. Especially my hands. Which formerly aromed of bleach, xxx as we are at the beginning of a great venture: ridding ourselves of the great and loving and expremely friendly family of pinworms that I believe first came to live with us whaen Jed was in Nursery School last spring. They were very subtle and reticent for a long while, pretending to be gone for months at a time but finally they reached all of us with their gregarious ways, patent medicines failed, garlic oil did the trick forxxx mamas and papas but failed to crack the eggs, so finally we went to the doctor (a chinese lady of 62 who passes for 45 and still makes house calls, practice as general as ranging from geriatrics to delivering babies. Just delivered our landpeoples' daughter) who gave us all a stiff perrescription (Peter's insurance would cover all of that but it hasn't gone inot efect yet) and told me to boil or bleach all the sheets, pillowcasexxxs, towels, underwear every day ofr seven days....all our purple and copper and striped and printed and otherwise died and decorated goodies xxx are slowly slipping back to the pallidity from whence they came..... looking to get a big galvanized tub to boil the things like big bright towels that would be expensive to replace...the Madras bedspreads would simply roll over andx evaporate in bleaced water. .... .....

On Wednesday last, we were routed from our getting-out-quick routine by a notice server, the most mealy mouthed ever encountered, noticing that we had three days to "xxx quit" the premises. Thatthey had awakened our landlady at eleven the night before to tell her that "they" had slold her house was not even mentioned at the time.....evidently, the Mortgage company's computer started having bad dreams at around the time Beverly was married and moved out, renting the house to us, and at the same time we changed mailmen, her new address slip was lost, and all her mail was sent back to everyone marked "unknown".....fortunately for her, she has her cancelled checks to them, but the whole situation is costing her a lot of tine and money (her lawyer has to file suit to get it all straightened out. Our lawyer (the husband of one of the ladies in the Rising Sun Ladies Auxuliary) advises us that they can't throw us out before 30 days and by that time the whole thing will be settled


at that point, after a couple of fades in and out and a stiff neck, I decided not to be so stiff-necked and get some sleep.... woke up with a headache, which I enjoyed all day yesterday ("that time of the month" which has been wierd for me since having my tubes tied) I managed to get into today, in which we took Joaquin to the dentist (who could fin nd nothing wrong with a tooth that's been bothering him) shopped, went to Tracy and did two puppet shows, got home in time for Peter to go to lecture by Philip Slater (author of IN PURSUIT OF LONLINESS, which we sent you once) bleached, washed and dried the sheets, made dinner, guided Jed through his first letter (to my mother, asking for the unabridged version of Pinnochio I had as a child...you'll be hearing from him in a few days; now that he's got the writing bug I could hardly get him to quit to go to bed.) and finally got back to this, wherever it was....

and thinking that at this time five years ago I was just sending the company off as I finally realized after a day of contractions that had been passing for the local form of dysentery that that wasn't what they were at all, and that in fact I was going to give birth to a baby, whatever that was. who, me? Wasn't till welll after Joaquin was born that I finally got around to believing that it really for sure was me.......

Anyway, back to the further adventures:

Here's how the puppet show got started: Ther's a gal named CeAnna who lives in Tracy with her husband of six months and three kids by former marriage, who used to be a junkie, spent years on the street and in jail, and is now militantly ardent in her zeal to keep people from getting into trouble with drugs. Her second grade daughter brought home the news one day that some kid had brought some "reds" to school. These are barbiturates; the prescrition ones are bad enough for kids that size (not to mention their parents) but street reds are often cut (read adulterated) with strycchnine, enough to kill a second grader. So they went to the school and searched the playground, with no success.; they assumed that an intervening rain had melted them....since there were no succeding reports of poisoned kids, that's probably what heppened.....She reailed and raged at the principal, with no success, so came down to the Sun and railed and rageda at Niel (the director) and Peter for a few hours, they intorduced her to me and we began to plot and plan some far-outies. The principlals had had a meeting at whicch Peter was present and invited by two or theree of them to do drug abuse programs at their schools, but it became clear after a while that what they wanted was a puppet show like the one the San Joaquin County Pharmacy Associatio n Ladies Auxiliary puts on, telling about Little Jill and the Devil, and how she gets into her mommy's purse and takes some pills, claiming "the devil made me do it." At this point I xxx raved and rantedx for a long time too, as I refused to do any such mickeymouse garbage as that, especially since it perpetuates the cruel trick of teaching children to fob off thier deeds on some convienent (convenient) scapegoat, which helps to undermine any latent sense of responsibility any such overprotected beasties might have developed.......So we came to a standstill over Christmas, till one midnight or 6 a.m. or sometime, Peter concieved of a plot that still wipes me out with its sheer mad cleverness: to have a puppet show teaching about hownot to be a puppet. A few all-nighters of tyoubg, err, typing and some friendly words with our crotchety neighbor whose son just married and left her xxx his collection of marionettes, hand puppets, and a dummy, and we had a real live puppet show. Starts with discussion of different types of puppets, how they are imitations of people ("pretend people" for younger kids) and can't think for themselves but always have other people's words in their mouths, then how people can think for themselves and make theier xxx own decisions, but sometimes we get txricked or trapped into acting like pupperts. as in "Look up, look down, see my thumb; gee, you're dumb." Which they all appreciate, rememberingx how they felt wehen that was first pulled on them at age 4 or so. ("I was so mad. I wantda kill im" "Ifelt dumb" etc.) Then to the puppet show, which we've revised since the version we sent you, whcih we had interrupted to explain some of the action; now the tape is one continuous piece, withx x a puppet announcer doing continuity. All the puppet actors are stick puppets, made by a woman in Tracy named Bunny who is now my friend and J & J 's frequent babysitter when I'm doing the shows. There's a crew of six women from the Ladies Auxiliary who do some of the shows, they run about half an hour each, and we've done them in Kindergarten through sixth grade in all six of Tracy's public schools...finishing up this week. Takes two people to do one show; Peter and I have done about 40% together, and the rest divided equally among the six women and the two of us in various partnerships.......oh yes; after the xxx puppetshow part (very short) we discuss "what Huckster McGreedy (we almost called him McPigg or McHogg, but chickened out)

Handwritten at bottom of page: ca. 50 classes @ 30 each: 1500 kids (actually less than 50; less than 30 kids, too)

was really thinking about"adnd did you ever have any kind of experience like that? and who else tells you what to do? they usually come up with parents and other relatives, then we suggest teachers, and explain that sometimes they don't like the things parents or teachers tell them to do, but the parents love them and want to teach them things they need to learn (we use the concept of responsibility from second grade on up) and teachers want them to learn school things, etc etc. And how about friends? Sometimes friends get you to gdo good and joyful things like coming over for some cake and milk or playing together cos they like you, but sometimes the things they want you to do are not so good, like breaking rule X or rule Y (whatever's relevant to that school or class) and sometimes they might even tell you they won't be your friend any more. Then it's really hard, making up your mind whether or not you're going to do what xxx they want you to do, but that's what being a person instead of a puppet is all about. (She says brightly....) THEN we do role playing.....three kids act out manipulator, puppet and victim (e.g. M wants P to take ball away from V, or M wants P to get V's homework paper, or just M xxx wants P to beatx V up for some reason) then we talk about what they did. Somex of those fifth graders are sneaky, let me tell you. From one girl we got: M to P: Hey, remember when she (V) told you the wrong page on the reading assignment, and you had to stay in at recess and do the right one? Well, she did that on purpose so you coundn't come out and she could get to play on the basketball team. What do tyou think about that? P:That makes me mad. M: Why don't you go over and call her out? (= tell her off) as P and V get into a pushing fight, M slips back into her seat, straight faced, the "teacher" (one of the puppet show people) comes over to break it up, both blame the M who is sitting quietly and innocently in her seat. We sure learned a lot from that one......

The lines below are handwritten.

... asleep again

Going to get this into the mail; will tell about Peter’s salary excursions in next installment.

take care of yourselves

Love & tomatoes


Peter & Jed & Joaquin


I vaguely recall pinworms being a recurring problem during my childhood. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone outside my family mention them, so I’m surprised to learn that “Pinworm infections commonly occur in all parts of the world. They are the most common type of worm infection in Western Europe and the United States. School-aged children are the most commonly infected. In the United States about 20% of children will develop pinworm at some point.”
Ladies Auxiliary
I knew that Ladies Auxiliaries of various organizations existed (see also Woody Guthrie’s song “Ladies Auxiliary”—I had previously only known the opening bit, and wasn’t aware until now of the long irrelevant sexist middle bit in which he mocks women and their hats, sigh), but it wouldn’t have occurred to me that Rising Sun Awareness House would have had one. I initially assumed that Marcy was using the term jokingly, but then she used it again for the San Joaquin County Pharmacy Association, leaving me unsure how seriously she meant the term in either of those contexts.
The Pursuit of Loneliness
See also previous discussion of that book.
Marcy’s mother must have sent the book as requested, because I still have that copy of it on my bookshelf. Published in 1946 (when Marcy was 3); has Marcy’s name written on first page, but also an inscription from and to someone else, so I assume it was a used copy when Marcy got it.
“after Joaquin was born”
As Marcy was writing this letter, I was about to turn 5. So as I was reading and transcribing the letter, I initially assumed that she meant Jed there (so did Helen; she crossed out the word Joaquin and wrote Jed next to it); but on re-reading, I’m not so sure—maybe Marcy really did mean two years later, after Jay was born.
I continue to wonder whether/how much Peter was taking drugs (such as marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco) while he worked as a drug-abuse counselor.
“see my thumb”
I only vaguely remembered this rhyme, so I did TSOR to find out more about it. One page that I encountered suggested that more common versions have to do with threatening to hit someone with your fist, which I don’t think I’ve heard/seen before.
I now vaguely remember our having a family friend named Bunny, but I don’t remember anything about her, and hadn’t remembered even the name until I read this.
Huckster McGreedy
In 2014, I posted about listening to an old family cassette tape. One side of it was labeled “Huckster McGreedy,” but both sides had been overwritten by Jay and me (mostly me) playing with the tape recorder as kids. I had assumed that the original recording was Marcy or Peter reading a kids’ book aloud; now I’m thinking that it was instead a recording of the puppet show. Which makes me even more disappointed that I recorded over it.
…It occurs to me that there are probably on the order of a thousand people a few years older than me who grew up in Tracy, CA, and whose formative don’t-use-drugs experience was not “Just say no” but rather Huckster McGreedy and “Are you a Person or a Puppet?” Sadly, a web search doesn’t turn up any references to that character name.

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