1978, May 31: Letter from Marcy to G&H et al

Seven-page typewritten letter.

The only date on this is “May 31,” but I spent a while assuming that it was written in 1977. It wasn’t until I was nearly ready to post this letter that I figured out from internal evidence that it was instead 1978, which means that there was a nine-month gap between the previous letters and this one. [Updated months after posting: I said that because I thought that the February 1978 letter was from February 1976. I’ve now moved it to the correct 1978 date, so the gap between letters in 1977-1978 is much smaller than I had previously said here.]

Also based on internal context, I’m guessing that my uncle Paul and aunt Linda had been living in Alaska at the time of this letter, but were temporarily visiting George and Helen in Tacoma, so this letter was intended for P&L and their son Jason and their impending next kid, as well as G&H.

In this letter, Marcy talks in detail about a blood-related illness that she had recently had. This is the only mention of a blood-related illness in these letters so far (except for a mention of anemia in a 1977 letter), so I can’t tell whether she was dealing with leukemia before this and just not mentioning it at all, or whether she hadn’t been diagnosed yet. I’m finding it a little frustrating and stressful to read the letters from this period without knowing that.

May 31 already

Hi, folks.

Ain't it sneaky, the way I get to assuage my conscience twice as hard by writing to all five (or maybe six) of you at one blow, typing yet! I will NOt, she wondered, why not, but NOT, repeat, NOT apoligise for the postal silwnce of these x past few months. We all know how it is. Cept you, Grandpa, you rat. You and your neat letters, you keep making me feel guilty and wanting to apologize (it's a mighty poor person what cain't think o' more than one way to spel a word) and write every time we get a letter from you. At least Linda, you have the decency not to do it so often.

But your letters sure are a delight--I look at Jay's pix on our kitchen wall and feel like I've just had a visit with you. So here's a xerox of Quin's latest hit and a visit in return... as you may notice, I started a letter on the back but the attempt was futile--got caught up in work, or one of the headaches I seemed to have every few days while I was working and not getting enough sleep. Finally figured it out when I started sleeping more and the headaches stopped. Anyway, he was a big hit in the talent show. (He's a big hit anyway. Stacy kisses him about once a week, Tanya's friend Polly constanlty tell him "Didd you know Tanya likes you?" and Marnie writes on her "Happiness is..." xxx essay, "Happiness is having Joaquin come over to visit." And Vanessa always says "Hi, Joaquin" in that very special tone, but she likes Jason Jordan (who Stacy liked last year, way back in the first grade.) I think it must be some astrological configuration in the year all these second graders were born; I know other people with kids in entirely different schoolsxxx that tell the same stories; but it's only the second graders. Nothing like it in the fourth grade, tho they do tease about who likes whom, but no kisses or phone calls or gigantic valentines--and never have been, according to other mothers.) The latest number is, of xxx course, baseball cards--and Star Wars Cards and Close Encounters cards--if you run into any (I think they come in various foods as premiums) flip em on down. We're getting discount tickets to a Giants-Cincinnatti game, so I promised to take Joaquinx and the kid next door-but hopefully the boy's father will want to go and I won't have to.

Waiting for news of the car--after its rebirth with a new (used) engine, it has been hospitalized for a couple of weeks x We, (mostly Peter) put the engine in, only to discover that it needed a new clutch, so the engine had to come out again, this time by the service station. They also discovered water in the gas tank (how that happened we'll never know; the cap is always locked) and had totake it out and clean it, and on and on and on, and now that it's all set the oil light goes on when it runs for a few minutes. So we have to deal with the people who sold it (the engine) to us, and maybe it'll be operating by next week.xxx

Then there's news of Jed, alias the smartest fourth grader in Cotati and Rohnert Partk (how'd you get so smart, kid, when yer mudder cain't even type?) Everyone is very impressed with his test scores, including me (they testxed him at the top of his x range, I think.) In between Star Wars and telegraphs, he and his friends talk about stuff like, "Do you think the universe will ever come to an end?" "I dunno. What do you think?" Followed by a really abstruse discussion that I don't know enough to even remember. He's starting to get serious about playing the recorder, so we're setting up lessons, at first with Brad (our roomer) till Jed gets good enough to need more advanced stuff. (Brad teaches guitar and knows an incredible abount of music, theory and practice.)

While on music: had an experience the other night that you would have appreciated, Grandpa. I went to channel Johrei to a blind man who employs a very good friend of mine. We got there just at dusk and of course it was dark in his house as he was home alone. He was playing his organ--he has a huge one, with all the rhythm and backup and drums and what-have-you. The keyboard was lit up so you could see his hands and body, and it was quite an experience. Very interesting man, a Mormon and former contractor, becoming a perennial student and unfortunately rather apt to blame others for his situation and problems. I had a good time arguing with him about religion and education and various other stuff; he enjoyed it too.

Lots of summer plans: there will be a two-week summer school program right after the fourth of July, and several two-week swimming classes, and hoping to go to LA with the kids for a few days around mid-July. Also, Brad is thinking about driving his VW camper that his folks just gave him to Portland for two weeks sometime during the summer, and I flashed that maybe you'd like to have the boys (no, not the Alaskans, the Tacomans) for what would amount to about 10 days. This is very vague and not at all definite, so much depends on his timing and whether he can afford to go a t all, and what our schedule is. But think about it, and we can discuss it if it looks like happening, and if you're interested.

We're also thinking about moving. The rent is going up here, and the freeway is so ubiquitous, (not really, it's only in the back yard) but it costs a lot to move and to get into a house. Also, I am getting to know the schools and the staff, and the kids are finding a place for themselves, and moving is such a drag. But we'll wait till after June 6 to be certain; if the tax reform act passes it'll probably take Peter's jobx with it, which would be a bit of a blow. (I don't think it will, though. There's a milder, government-sponsored tax package also up for vote, which will probably carry the day. Jarvis-Gann is extremely popular, though; and well it should be; the property tax situation is unbearable for almost everybody--including renters, who pay indirectly. but quite distinctly. But passage of the radical program will shut down libraries and innumerable small-town facilities, eliminate museums and recreation programs and any and all school "frills" like programs for gifted and disadvantaged and EH kids and welfare workers and countless numbers of other county-funded jobs. What a mess. But I think it needsx a 2/3 majority to pass, and that it won't get. 51% is possible, though.) (nope. it needs only 50.x% to pass. yeek)

Peter's work is going well; he struggled for weeks with a program that was ordered by a bureaucrat with no clear idea of what she wanted, and set up for him to program by an incompetent analyst. He finally got it done, only to find that the analyst had misinterpreted one essental aspect and all his work was for nothing. With the new specifications, he and his boss worked till nearly midnight on a Friday night and all day Sunday, got the revised program running, and alll was well. Then someone else was checking some data on it, and xxx discovered that they had all misconstrued the concept of stanine to mean the same as percentile (the concepts are related but hardly identical; just what a stanine is escapes me at the moment--Grandpa, I expect you know) and they had to do it all over again. This time, they were not admitting their error to the beaurocrat, who already had two copies of the program, so they finessed her out of them by offering to re-do the print-out on heavier and more durable paper, and bringing the data up-to-date while they xxx did so. This story omits all the x days he spent trying to reach the bureaucrat on the phone, and assuage her anger, and listen to her promise to spread all her data out in the halls and have her assistants crawl up and down filling it in, and suchlike. Now you know all about what a computer programmer does, and aren't you sorry you didn't ask sooner.

In the margin next to the word stanine, written by Marcy I think: all has to do with education testing

And what am I doing? Well, this morning I noticed that the world was kind of polluted, so I cleaned it up and polished it, and now it goes around quite merrily. I put a special shine on Alaska for you, and wiped the international date lihe particualrly well. I had always thought God made the world, and was a little surprised to find it said Rand Mc Nally down in the Pacific Ocean. Been fixing bicycles and reading a lot and cut up my muu-muu to make a shirt for Joaquinx. His class did Hawaii in the International Day program. Jed's class did Japan, and I was the honorable advisor. I learned a lot, and got in my time as a classroom mother. I don't much care for Jed's teacher, but he's wanted me to come in, as I have been helping out in Joaquin's classroom. (His teacher is excellent.)

A circle and an arrow drawn on the page clarify that “he’s wanted me to come in” means that I, Jed, wanted Marcy to come to my class. (Without that, the pronouns are a little confusing, especially because my teacher was a woman.) Another circle-and-arrow indicate that “His teacher is excellent” refers to Jay’s teacher.

Worked hard on a phenomenon called the Spring Harmony Festival at the college. We had a booth and Johrei'd lots of people. They had lots of booths set up by peoplw of various spiritual persuasions, healing groups, consciousness raising, yoga, massage, psychic readings, natural foods, crafts, et cetera. There was also lots of music, mostly of calm and harmonious nature, and a lovely time was had by all. Except the organizers thereof, who lost their shirt--misjudged the financial state of their intended audience., and failed to advertise in the right places.

Trying to get back to about 90% raw foods again, gradually. Feeling pretty much okay cept I nneed lots of sleep, and my blood count seems to be holding on at a fairly high but acceptable level. Had another disease for a while, they think, called--now get ready for this one: ideopathic thrombocytopenic purpurae. (you think I carry that name around in my head? no; I'd have to have examined it...huh?..) What it means is this: How normal white cells work is that when there's foreign matter in the blood (germs, viruses, and similar baddies) the white cells attach little markers to 'em, called antibodies. As the blood circulates thru the spleen, the spleen catches all the little baddies with their antibody flags, and removes 'em from circulation. But I have too many white cells that are immature (I think they're called granulocytes) who haven't learned yet that the good guys always ride white horses, and they seem to think my platelets are baddies, even tho their horses are the right color. So they attach flags to my poor friendly platelets (these are the cells that cause clotting in a cut—or sometimes where they ain't supposed to, hence coronary thrombosis. I believe another name for platelets is thrombocytes.) and my spleen knocks 'em off. ("I was only doin' my job.") In other words, I was making an antibody to my own platelets. One of my friends describes this as sociological decay, with my body as the community and these juvenile delinquents (the immature white cells) getting into trouble all over the place. Oddly enough, the cure for this dissease, if it gets really bad, is splenectomy. Which sounds to me rather like cutting your nose off if you have hay fever, which I was about to sound off about when they kindly informed me I don't have it any more. end round 6.

Corrolary to the "how it works" theory above is another theory, that all the component parts of our bodies started out, way back in evolutionary history, as separate units, and some began living in symbiosis with each other. (mutual back-scratching) Perhaps others were parasitess. Anyway, they began to survive better together than apart, and eventually started reproducing together. (sounds sort of like the inheritance of acquired characteristics, which has been more or less totally debunked, but I think on those simple levels DNA exchange is possible.) (or something) So that's how we come to have separate kinds of things like platelets in the blood, or bacteria in the intestines and my white cells nistook the platelets for furriners which indeed they used to be. This is all just theory, y'understand, but it beats some of the articles in the newspapers, no?

Just think, if I'd written last week I could have saved two cents. Well, a costly mistake.

Well, if you haven't xaready hatched, Lin, which I expect we would have heard if you had, we'd like a phone call when you start contracting in earnest ^^if it’s not too busy^^. Have someone call person to person collect for you and we'll know you're in labor, and we’ll keep praying till we get an arrival anouncement. Was talking to a friend last night who's been having contractions for a week, none of them worth even a deep breath, let alone timing. She's getting kinda bored. Hope yours is fast and easy. My favorite fast-an-easy is an old acquantance who was pregnant around the same time I was with Joaquin. She and her xxx old man were in the checkout line of the supermarket when she said, "I think we'd betteer go home right now." Twenty minutes later (at home), there was Bob standing there with a baby in his hands trying to make a loop in the umbilical cord and stick the baby through it 'cos he'd heard you were supposed to tie a knot in the cord. TWENTY MINUTES!!!!! may it be an inspiration to you.

It is time to stop this letter. Have a good visit with each other, and a wonderful birthing, and a happy new home, and the best of all possible worlds.....


from all of us



In this context, refers to my cousin Jason, who was nearly two years old at this point.
talent show
In that talent show, Jay (my brother, not Jason) performed “I am the very model of a modern major general.”
“fourth grader”
This was my first year ever in public school. I had attended public school for I think a week or so at the start of kindergarten, but then I switched to Redwood School, the “free school” that has been mentioned several times in these letters, and stayed there for four years, over the course of three addresses. But I aged out of Redwood School, and I vaguely think that maybe the associated free school for 4th-grade-and-up (Nonesuch) shut down around this time? At any rate, I was in public school (Thomas Page Elementary School) for the 1977-1978 school year. (Jay was also in public school, but 2nd grade was at a different school from 4th grade.)
During that year, I made some good friends (one of whom I’m still/again in touch with), didn’t do much math (because I had been doing 7th-grade-level math at Redwood School the year before), was in the 6th-grade-level reading class, learned the rules to various sports (such as flag football) as a sort of defense for the fact that I couldn’t play them well, and so on.
I was also assaulted by the class bully. (He was a 5th-grader; it was a mixed 4th/5th-grade classroom.) (Content warning for a threat and semi-assault with a knife.)
Star Wars and telegraphs
I was not nearly as much of a Star Wars fan as a lot of people my age were. I only saw it once in the theatre, and I was confused by some things (Like: What does the name “Old Ben” have to do with the name “Obi-Wan”? And: Are the stormtroopers robots?), but I think mostly I wasn’t that impressed with it as science fiction, because I had been reading science fiction from my father’s bookshelves for a couple of years by this point.
I don’t remember being particularly into telegraphs, either, but I think that I wrote a school report on Samuel Morse at some point around then.
“starting to get serious about playing the recorder”
That’s not how I remember it at all. I did have a recorder, and I learned how to more or less play things like “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” but I never got past the thin intro book(let), and never got good at playing. I wonder if I really was seriously interested in it at some point and just don’t remember.
“not the Alaskans, the Tacomans”
In other words, she was offering to have us visit George and Helen in Tacoma, not offering to have us visit Paul and Linda in Alaska.
“tax reform act”/Jarvis-Gann/“radical program”
Proposition 13 severely limited property taxes in California, which had a variety of long-lasting effects (see linked-to Wikipedia article for much more on this).
My family was strongly opposed to Prop 13. I heard slogans—possibly even from teachers at school—like “Jarvis-Gann belongs in the garbage can” and “Prop 13 belongs in file 13.” (It occurred to me recently that I’ve never heard the phrase file 13 in any other context.) But the measure was quite popular; it passed with 63% of the vote (about a week after Marcy wrote this letter), and attempts to change or repeal it have failed ever since.
I don’t know whether it did end Peter’s job or not, but as documented in a couple of previous letters, Peter had already been looking for a job for months before this.
Huh, I had never heard of this before now. Wikipedia says: “Stanine (STAndard NINE) is a method of scaling test scores on a nine-point standard scale [based on] a normal distribution [that’s] divided into nine intervals.”
“ideopathic thrombocytopenic purpurae”
Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura is a blood disorder characterized by an abnormal decrease in the number of platelets in the blood.”
Linda gave birth to my cousin Jordan not long after this letter was written.

One Response to “1978, May 31: Letter from Marcy to G&H et al”

Join the Conversation