1974, November 18: Letter from Marcy to G&H

Six-page handwritten letter on thin airmail paper, roughly 6"x8½", unlined.


Sunday morning

about 5 am


Went to bed early with a headache, now it’s gone & so is my desire to sleep. So I’m writing my monthly notes on the foster kids & having lots of good ideas of the kind you wake up with in the middle of the night & then forget by morning — or you find a pencil, write it down, & in the morning xxx find immortal lines like this one that Dorothy Parker produced:


Hogamus higgamus

 Men are polygamous

Higgamus hoggamus

 Women monogamous


pretty immortal, huh?

Anyway, here we are in good old old Philadelphia, the only city in the land with a proto-Nazi for a mayor. It’s really slow—we watch a lot of TV and I’ve cleared out two years’ worth of old newspapers from the living room. (My mother puts them aside to read thoroughly, and then spends all her time with her crazy dog—who is xxx fortunately in the kennel for the nonce — what’s a nonce? — and never gets to pick ’em up & read ’em — she saves the whole paper for one article, instead of clipping.)

Jed & Joaquin are having a great time — they love having an upstairs & downstairs, and there are good parks & woods & lots of science museums & copious quantities of bagels.

I’ve had the chance to look through all my h.s. & college notes, no trace of the one paper I wanted to look up, but there are some pretty interesting things. Quite a few books I’ll be needing.

Didn’t get a chance to thank you properly on the phone for the suitcase full of treasures. The collar & cuffs-&-collar set for the grey dress were terrific. I love that old blue and old lace — tho I’ve never corm anything like it before, I can’t wait to try. They feel very soft & gentling of one’s appearance. (does that make sense?) The boys loved the books. Jed finished Popeye in about an hour, and was mad for Tales to Tremble by — tho I think it was too sophisticatedly scary for him, & he gave up. Joaquin loved Popeye, too, and is delighted with the notebook. The rest of the clothes were lovely (particularly those slippers — what fun to have pointy toes!) but xxx mostly didn’t xxx fit in style or size — a lot were little girl sizes & I have some friends who were delighted with ’em. Another friend and I always share such goodies — she’s very petite & people give her stuff that’s way too big, while lots of people think I’m smaller than I am because I look so young. So we have a good & profitable partnership in that area.

Oh, the umbrella is so great! Only it hasn’t rained! And the suitcase itself is marvelous. You wouldn’t believe (maybe you would) the stuff I crammed into it. It was really heavy, too, but behaved itself perfectly well, easy to carry, a good traveler.

Do you know the Post Office deadlines for Christmas packages? I’d like to be able to get Paul & Linda’s in the mail so they’ll get it by Christmas. Probably will be too late by the time I get back — but maybe it’ll be a lucky year.

Hope you’ve had nice visits with all your various company. I’m sure Paul was delighted at the chance to visit — what kind of convention did he go to? Did your sister & her husband come for some special reason, or was it just a vacation?

Vacations sure are nice — nice when they’re over, too.

Oh, I forgot: I herewith (hereby? Herein? anyway…) return to you some of the airmail stationery you thoughtfully included. So thank you in a circle.

much love


Amusing Google Docs OCR errors:

  • pointy toes: pornity foer
  • Christmas packages: Cleathers paekaajes
  • much love: hunch line


Dunno why we were visiting Marcy’s mother—possibly a mix of just plain vacation and looking for the papers that Marcy mentions in this letter.
I suspect that this was the first Philadelphia trip that I (just barely) remember. Mostly I remember watching and enjoying the movie of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on TV, and some kind of game that involved Batman and riddles (? I think?), which was my first encounter with the riddle “What goes up a chimney down, but can’t go down a chimney up?” Which I was very confused by.
Huh—I too had heard this attributed to Dorothy Parker, but it turns out that (a) there’s little or no evidence for that attribution, and (b) it has also been attributed to a lot of other people, including William James. Also, (c) a common thread in the attributions is the written-just-after-waking aspect that Marcy was referring to but that I’ve never heard before: “A recurrent theme occurs in tales that profess to describe the construction of the verse. The composer experiences a hypnagogic state, sometimes drug-induced, and when he or she emerges from the state the poem is examined with anticipation followed by disappointment that is shown or implied.” For more about attribution, see a 2011 mailing-list thread.
“only city in the land with a proto-Nazi for a mayor”
Would that there were still only one such city.
old newspapers
In 1989 or so, iIrc, Grandma Ethel had a roughly three-foot-tall stack of newspapers in one of the rooms of her house.
“what’s a nonce?”
Coincidentally, I’m posting this letter only a week or so after learning that nonce, which is innocuous but old-fashioned in the US, is an insulting slang term in the UK.
“books I’ll be needing”
I’m guessing that this was because Marcy was planning on going to grad school.
…I don’t think that Marcy meant to write corm here, but I can’t tell what else this word might have been. Maybe she meant to write worn, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the word she wrote.
Tales to Tremble By
Tales to Tremble By: A Collection of Famous Stories of Haunting and Suspense. I remember the cover illustration, but I don’t remember reading the book. Also a little surprising that I was enthusiastic about it, because for as long as I can remember, I haven’t liked horror fiction or other scary things.
“your sister & her husband”
Both George and Helen had married sisters, so I’m not sure who this was in reference to.

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