1975, March 7: Letter from Marcy to G&H

Ten-page handwritten letter on lined three-hole-punched paper.

Content warning for a bit of self-fat-shaming.

Note written at top of page by Helen: Beautiful letter

Note written at top of page by Marcy: intrasubstantiary is the word Jed is currently asking about - it’s in a book called Bedknob & Broomstick . . . . .

7 March 1975

Dear Grandma & Grandpa

What a huge gorgeous amount of stuff has come from you of recency. We are overwhelmed and stuffed - and wiped out! and as pleased as can be. Also delighted. Also impressed with all the work - xxx acquiring, washing, folding, packing, & sending. A new Christmas! And couldn’t have come at a better time. Both boys were home with the discomforts.... not bad enough to stay in bed, but not good enough to go to school. Turned into German Measles (George had brought ’em home) by the next day. What a mess. Fortunately faded by now, at least their faces are clear. True to form, Joaquin got sick first & heavier and lasting longer, higher fever and more helplessness. Jed has been very good until today - he has the grouchy grumps because he feels okay - he says so why can’t he go to school.... Quin was so sad & funny - he knew he’d get a rash on his face but was appalled when he found it on hisx belly Rest of sentence redacted by Jed. There’s a croupy cough that goes with these measles, especially at night. So I’ve been getting up to administer vitamins and cough-mix tea and Johrei, and was getting a little tired of it. So last night, when the wind woke me, banging the vent fan in the bathroom, I was deeply grateful that the boys were getting a good night’s sleep, finally. Got up & closed the bathroom door, just dropping back to sleep when I heard a crash and much yelling from their bedroom. The window had blown in!!! I struggled & struggled, but finally Peter had to get up (4 a.m.) and go out and nail a piece of plywood over their window. Then we wedged boards in to hold it from inside. It was still drafty and they ended up in our bed. They’ll be ready to go back to school tomorrow - but it’s Saturday!!!

Too bad about the plywood, too. because the house has just been painted, a lovely white with avocolive (avocado or olive, depending on your eyes) on the bottom, trim, shutters, etc. The painting was done by Jack Simons, our neighbor 2 doors xxx toward Llano road, who is buying the house for an old peoples home. He has also xxx moved the door of our bathroom into the hall, and opened the original archway between the living room and the “bedroom” off the kichen. We moved the TV in there, hurray! So now we can enjoy the fireplace without benefit of commercials. He’s building a deck in back, planning glass doors off living room, “family room”, and our bedroom. Mrs. Simons will be able to retire from her job as head nurse at San Quentin Prison, and he has just retired from his as Highway Patrol Officer (Sgt??), so they can enjoy their heated swimming pool (even during the energy crisis!) and several vehicles and have their work two houses away and keep Mrs Simons’ 84-year-old mother, besides. What good fortune for them! Besides, they met our price.

We had a big to-do with some other people who wanted the house, too, for a foster home. They were ready to bid each other up, but we weren’t willing to do that. Seems like it would be tainted, somehow. It’s okay for auctions, but not when you get into the thousands of dollars. But the other people wouldn’t take no for an answer. They kept calling and begging and sob-story-ing. Peter and Jim, our agent, were nearly driven to distraction (lucky for me I was in school that day.) After many pleas, and much guilty feeling on our part (tho we knew we had decided right) they went and bought another house the next day!! Added in Peter’s handwriting: (That they had had on the line all the time...!!)

Now we are waiting for the money to get together so we can look for a place to rent, while we decide about going to Japan - which, if we do, will be as students - Peter will write you about that - We’ll be taking George & Ivan to our next house, provided it’s approved by the Dept of Mental Hygiene... we’ll let you know when that’s happening, of course.

School is wonderful. I’m behind, of course, but catching up. It always seems to be something urgent on days I’ve set up to study. This German Measles has been real trying.

And now for the presents - first, before I forget, the potholders. How do you always know when I’ve burned up the last of the last batch of potholders? Your timing has been perfect about 3 times so far! Jed & Joaquin were just delighted with the clothes - the pants were a little too big for Joaquin, but Jed’s were perfect. Needed, too. I’m not sure yet how they’xll fit when he gets his normal pot belly back after this measles siege, but I don’t think he’s lost more than 2 or 3 pounds. Anyway, they are full to the brim on button-down shirts (they recieved another batch a few days after yours, from a boy who grew out of 10 at one time, and like J&J also has doting grandparents with impeccable taste), so they’re well shirted for the next 6-8 months. Pants, particularly jeans, go faster and are harder to mend. And socks are always handy. (or footy)! (ouch)

Margin note from Helen next to the line about button-down shirts: No more buttondown shirts

Margin note from Helen next to the line about grandparents with impeccable taste: So nice!

There there’s pajamas. I love pajamas, and so do they, but when it comes to wearing any - well, we all sleep in our shirts and underwear. Just as well, less laundry to do. And no, it really doesn’t get the shirts any dirtier. They actually prefer putting a clean shirt on at night and getting it “comfortable” before going to school in it. Of course, not button shirts, but pullovers.

(We’ve had another subtraction in personnel - Mark has give to live with another foster family in Sebastopol - they charge less than we do, and are much more appropriate for him - interested in sports, located in town. He’s pretty happy, tho the details of living with them are harder. He has to eat whatever they do, and keep his hair short, and they insist on a lot more neatness than we do. Having just George and Ivan is pretty neat, tho a bit impoverishing.)

Ivan got the deck of cards - probably went out and won some money with it. He bitched a little about why nobody ever sends him nice stuff, and we explained about writing thank you letters (for the ninetieth time) but he’d rather complain than write a letter any day. If you do run into things, Ivan wears size 16 boys shirt and 29-30 - or is it 30-29 ^^yes!^^ pants. George wears size 20 boys’ shirt and can’t remember the pants, but they’re in the mens’ department (automatic $200 price rise over the same in boys’.) I think its 29-32, but not sure. They both like those awful large-plaid numbers, and jeans, and cords. Ivan always splits his at the crotch - I’ve become an expert crotch-patcher, and George does in the zippers a lot, which is a drag because I don’t have a zipper foot and have to fake it, and by the time I get to it he’s generally outgrown the pants. He also gets knee holes quite a bit; I’m lazy about those, too, especially in xxx strong jeans with double seams, because you have to sew xxx through so many thicknesses to xxx put the legs back together that I break needles and get very impatient. I guess I need to get leather needles, if there are any that will fit this machine.

I recieved a bunch of clothes at once, too - the ones you sent and several pairs of jeans from a friend. I really love the pants you send, Grandma, just plain smooth line elastic top - but this last pair was (were?) just too small to get into. I was mad atx them, too, ’cos they were just what I needed, and they had to be just too tight. They even had lovely hems in the legs, but the essential adjustment wasn’t possible. I think I’m a bit bigger than you think I am - the stuff in this box was in general a bit tight on me. But what doesn’t fit is always good for trading - several friends and I always keep each other in mind. You could watch out for long skirts for me, and full-length dresses particularly - no, no particularly, except not very heavy ones, as I’m xxx already thick enough. There’s a place in Sebastopol that x recycles blue jeans into fantastic vests, jackets, shirts, pants, and skirts - the skirts of two styles. one, they cut the inseams of legs, then attach panels in the middle, with different shades of denim in the panels. The other is a wrap-around effect, with gores of different colored denim. Extremely pretty. The first style is pretty but very unflattering to a round-belly like me. The second I haven’t tried on yet. But of course the prices are absurd. Can’t imagine who would pay over $20 for a skirt to just wear around-? They’re just not for dressing up! But lots of people do. You’d never catch me doing errands in a $23 dollar skirt! I think they’re mostly for rich teenagers to wear to school - and plenty of ’em do! I’m glad the people who make ’em are doing so - they buy used denim by the ton, sort it and sell what they can as is (after laundering) so their store is filled with piles of neatly stacked and labeled blue jeans - for $3 and $4 a pair (that is what they used to cost new - try to get ’em now for under $1100!) Not as cheap as Goodwill but a lot more reliable in quality.

Helen crossed out the entire writeup about the recycled jeans, with two big Xs across the text. In the margin, she wrote the following: I don’t like these one lil bit so not interested

As for Peter’s stuff - it was really neat. He’s going to wear the jacket to church tomorrow, and those green pants fit perfectly. In fact, all the pants fit. The tennis shoes were great but, alas, too big for anyone. George will probably fit them soon. Peter wears 11 or 11½ shoes. I wear 7. (no “heels”) (I have one nice neutral beige pair, and haven’t worn ’em in over a year!)

I enjoyed reading the prayers you sent. as for reaction - well, the whole worth and sense of a prayer is in the minds and hearts of the pray-ers. The finest sentiments can be lost in a saccharine gush or hypocrisy. So I think the only way you can evaluate that kind of prayer is to hear it and pray it and see if it rings true, and feel the energy of the people praying it. If everyone is reacting positively and strongly, you can feel that it’s just right - I’m sure you’ve experienced this often, I guess it’s what keeps a lot of people coming back to church.

Enjoyed hearing about your adventures. Must have been fun climbing in the window. We used to get hauls like that occasionally, living in xxx Albany, but nothing of that scope. (No one had room for that much.)

Joaquin had a lovely birthday. He decided to have a few friends and go out to pizza and home for cake instead of a big party. It was a big success, in spite of German measles the next day. His teacher gave him a leather pouch with a shell and an ancient Indian-chipped rock, added in Peter’s handwriting: & a Mexican coin, and he got a book of African stories and some beautiful old Japanese paints, and lots of motorcycles (a BMW t-shirt, and a motorcycle coloring book, and a picture of one from George, and now that he’s over the measles he’s picking a wind-up motorcycle and track as his present from my mother. He loved the puppet book - it was the first thing he wanted to do when he felt like doing anything again. He made a lovely potato head yesterday, all by himself, then gave it to Peter to eat x for breakfast. Now he’s wanting an omelet so he can have the shell. He can’t have eggs or milk till he’s all over the measle-sniffles, as they cause mucous, So he’s being patient. Jed is counting the days till his big moment.

Helen underlined “go out to pizza and home for cake,” and wrote in the margin: “Well!”

The valentines were great. The dollars went into respective banks, xxx (They have their own savings accounts now) and they loved the activities. “Doing dots” is Joaquin’s “fave rave” at the moment, and the racing set is still popular.

Oh, and Aggravation. It was just the thing, because I often don’t have time for Parcheesi, and this one is so much easier to win. (for the boys.) They’ve played it every day.

So a great huge multi-faceted thank-you on all fronts. Hope you get to thank us before long - the long-awaited packages are always pushed aside by catastrophes from measles to moneylessness, and everything between. It was really once Peter’s job, but he has been doing the whole domestic deal while I’m in school and studying. Take good care of yourselfs. Much love, Marcy.

Amusing Google Docs OCR errors:

  • another subtraction in personnel: mother subfractai yi feefornel
  • wears size 16 boys shirt: wens eigen gebrayan sheit
  • measles: sneastes


Bedknob & Broomstick
An omnibus of Mary Norton’s books The Magic Bedknob; or, How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons and Bonfires and Broomsticks. The books had been adapted into the 1971 Disney movie Bedknobs and Broomsticks, but I’m not sure whether I had seen the movie. The phrase “intrasubstantiary locomotion” appears to have been made up by Norton for those books.
German measles
I was unaware until now that German measles is another name for rubella.
“normal pot belly back”
I wish I had seen this line of this letter at the time; I might not have taken so much to heart my parents’ concerns about my belly that they expressed a few years later, if I had known that in 1975 they saw it as a normal part of who I was.
“sleep in our shirts and underwear”
I still do.
“another subtraction in personnel”
…Yet another instance of apparent lack of emotional connection to the foster kids. :(
“big moment”
My birthday was coming up three weeks after this letter was written.
Huh—I always thought of Aggravation as being essentially the same game as Parcheesi. But sounds like it was faster.

2 Responses to “1975, March 7: Letter from Marcy to G&H”

  1. 1975, March 10: Letter from Jay to G&H – Peter, Marcy, Jed, and Jay

    […] For more about the measles episode, see previous letter. […]


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