A 7-page letter, handwritten on lined three-hole-punch paper. The first four pages are in Peter’s handwriting, the other three in Marcy’s.
Content warning for mention of the US bombing Japan during WWII.
In many of the letters I’ve previously posted, Helen underlined or circled various words or phrases, I assume when she wanted to be able to find them again easily. For example, she underlined or circled info about everyone’s clothing sizes, and sometimes lines about stuff we had done, and sometimes lines that said thank you.
I haven’t been mentioning those markings from Helen. But starting around here, she seems to have started writing annotations in the margins as well as continuing to circle and underline things. So I’m including her comments, but not the circles and underlines.
Ages of the kids referred to here:
|Jay (a.k.a. Joaquin)||nearly 5|
our street address
Santa Rosa, Cal. 95401
January 23, 1975
Dear Parents --
We are very sorry to be so unconscionably late in sending our gifts to you -- especially since we had finished making them by 12/20 or so, but have been as busy as a gaggle of whirligigs, mostly running around in circles...
Helen underlined the phrase “a gaggle of whirligigs,” and wrote in the margin: “typical of P—”
I guess you know that Larry & Robert are no longer with us ... very likely by summer Mark & George will be gone too ... Alameda County (Oakland) doesn’t want to pay our fee anymore for Mark (they think he’s too sane), and George becomes more & more unbearable & unmanageable every day -- a real yo-yo.
But we are probably going to stick with Ivan: we can set up an arrangement called guardianship--you’re probably both familiar with it, it’s almost like adoption, in that we can go anywhere with him, without asking permission, and would not have to live in a home passing the Dept. of Mental Hygiene standards, such as 144 sq.ft. bedrooms, each with an outside exit, etc. However, we would continue to collect the $400 per month for his support.
Well, we considered very carefully your advice that I should “get a job” (whenever I hear that phrase I’m reminded of the Coasters’ great hit of 1955: “get a job, ya-da-da-da, ya-da-da-da-da, get a job...”): anyway, we came to the conclusion that you’re right: we were getting stuck in a rut, staying home all the time, never punching a time clock, and collecting all that tax-free money! (in 15 months, we spent about $28,000, yet it worked out that we owed no state or federal income tax ... incredible!)
Helen underlined the phrase “we considered very carefully your advice that I should ‘get a job’”; in the margin, she added: But only “considered”
So I’ll be looking for a job, while we sell the house, find a new one to jump to, get Marcy established in her new school-routine (she starts on Monday, taking (1) “California Archaeology”, (2) a senior-level anthropology seminar about scientific revolutions & radical shifts in Weltanschauung, and (3) “Archaelogical Field Methods” ... (14 credits) at California State College, Sonoma (in Cotati (about 8 or 9 miles from here).), and continue through it all to take care of the five kids and maintain a nurturing home for them.
In Marcy’s handwriting, in margin: I’m an "unclassified graduate student” in the Anthro dept.
I do have one job offer so far, in fact it’s a double one -- I would be teaching mathematics and English in a college, and Marcy would be teaching English as well. There would be many fringe benefits such as: being allowed to participate in some of the exciting physics & parapsychology research being done there; being supplied a house or apartment (in a city where living-quarters are scarce and expensive); being allowed to use the medical & dental facilities at the college, for free; and especially, the privilege of learning a foreign language and coming to know & appreciate another country’s culture: because, as you may have guessed, the college is Kyu-Sei College, located in Kyoto, Japan, which is known far & wide as one of the very most beautiful cities in the world (U.S. bombers purposely avoided Kyoto during the War, for this reason...)
But we have not accepted this offer yet: we’re still thinking and praying about what we’re supposed to do next.
Another possibility (I think I told you already) is moving to 150-200 acres in Mendocino, there to take care, with 6-8 other counselors & their children, of 10-15 disturbed teenage boys, also maintaining livestock (chickens, goats), gardens, orchards, and a school. This enterprise would bring in about $120,000 to $150,000 per year, which would suffice very well to pay the bills, salaries, allowances, mortgage, and all expenses. Also, it would provide a very healthy emotional & physical environment for a 30-odd member survival community (though some of the 30 would be pretty odd!...)
Anyway, we are confident that God will reveal to us, at the right time & in the right way, the right thing for us to do, with the right people, in the right place--right? Thank you for your prayers, & support, & beautiful gifts... Love,
Peter & Marcy & Jed & Joaquin*
In margin: *also Ivan says hello--he liked you both very much when you were here, & often says he’d hopes to see you again... I guess you have a foster grandson...
The next page is in Marcy’s handwriting, and starts in mid-sentence. I assume that sentence was meant as a continuation of Peter’s phrase “& beautiful gifts...,” above.
...beautiful gifts most especially The Galloping Gourmet thingie. I really love it, use it for everything. Haven’t seen ones like it or the pictures, here, but it sure beats traditional wooden spoons. Spurtles, huh?
And the trains. They were about a 3-day wonder till George used the transformer for a slingshot and then we packed ’em up till next year. They were a super
Peter loved the jigsaw puzzle. He put it together then the boys (particularly Mark) dis-assembled it in sections and re-assembled it.
The clothes were great, as usual. Particularly famous is the woof shirt for Joaquin. Another box of clothes came at the same time, so I’m not clear exactly what was what. Quin wears size 4 pants
xand shirts, Jed size 7 shirts (long as possible to cover the tummy) and 6 or 7 pants, depending on the waistline. Both could use sox (size is so variable I can never recall) and long-sleeve pull-over shirts, and Jed needs pants. There was a black pair you sent that he’s worn nearly every day since then. That’s the way he wears clothes - he’d wear the xxxsame shirt & underwear every day too, if I’d let him.
On big kids clothes: their taste is so incredible, and
xit has to be a certain style - different for each kid.
Ivan: western shirts, size 16
jeans or bell-bottoms, waist 28, length 29
Mark: corduroy pants size 16
football or other athletic shirts size 16
George: pullovers & jerseys, plain colors size 20.
prefers turtleneck, long sleeves
pants size unknown
for sox, they all insist on these awful tube sox, with colored stripes at the top, tho George will wear plain colors. But they go thru ’em so fast it’s incredible.
Mark also loves those Hawaiian shirts - he appropriated the one you sent for Peter as fast as I could get it off of Peter’s back. I can’t stand ’em myself, and Peter was teasing me by insisting he was going to wear it every day. I don’t
xxxmind if Mark wears ’em, but not Peter.
The brown look-alike sweaters were great. ’Cept I wear the large one and gave the small one away. Then Peter inadvertently washed it. Haven’t tried it since. Got lots of compliments for it too. Of the nature of “That looks nice—It must be a gift.” (like, “you would never pick out anything like that...”)
I’m so excited over school starting that I can’t see straight. Three courses I’ll really love, 14 credits which will get me a full
xxxlifetime teaching credential in California and a total of 22 towards that elusive xxxM. A. in whatever it will be. I already have a job offer from a former neighbor who’s now a field anthropologist, when I know enough.
David & Karen’s visit was lovely but far too short. Somehow, we’ll have to get up there next summer. The pear butter was devoured, of course.
The house is for
xxxsale - a banker is coming today to appraise it for a loan for some people who want to have a group home for 7 kids, and want it by March 1. I frankly don’t think it’s going through, but I do have to go help clean up.
So I’ll stop with a repetition of thanks for the lovely presents, and a wish for a Happy Birthday, Grandma, in case our combination package doesn’t get there in time.
Interjected in Peter’s handwriting: “Omedeto Gozaimasu” (congratulations) & Happy Birthday! & many happy returns, Mother...
Amusing Google Docs OCR error:
- Mother: Matharina
- foster kids
- I’m struck once again by how blase Peter sounds (to me) about the foster kids. Two kids who had been living with us for a year were gone; he says nothing about them other than that they’ve left. He calls George a “yo-yo.” Even regarding Ivan, the one who Peter and Marcy apparently liked enough to want to become his guardians, there’s no warmth or other indication of how they felt about him. Peter refers to needing to “take care of the five kids and maintain a nurturing home for them”—but I think this is the first time in over a year of foster parenting that Peter has said anything about the importance of nurturing the foster kids, and here he says it only in the context of (I think) being snide to his parents.
- “Get a Job”
- The song was sung by The Silhouettes, and released in 1957. (YouTube.) The Coasters were a different group; they don’t appear to have recorded that song.
- I’m reading Peter’s response to the “get a job” line as being pretty snarky—I think what he’s saying is essentially “I’m too busy to get a job.” But then again, he says that he’s now looking for a job. But maybe that wasn’t serious? Not sure.
- “new school-routine”
- For a bit more about the grad-school thing, see next letter.
- Kyu-Sei College
- I’m guessing that this was a school affiliated with our church, but I don’t know.
- I had no idea until now that Peter and Marcy seriously considered moving to Japan. I wonder how different my life would have been if they had pursued that.
- “moving to 150-200 acres in Mendocino”
- They had mentioned that in a previous letter, so I guess this too was a serious option they considered.
- “Galloping Gourmet thingie”/spurtles
- Turns out that a spurtle was a sort of wooden spoon/paddle that was popularized by Graham Kerr’s Galloping Gourmet cooking show.
- David & Karen
- Peter’s brother David and his then-wife Karen.