1978, October 31: Letter from Marcy to G&H

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

Dear folks

Here it is, the morning of Halloween, and this is the letter that was supposed to reach you by today. Also a package, which I had ready to mail last week, but something perched on top of it so it was un noticed.

We are beginning to feel like we live here - it’s slower for me because I’ve been gone a lot, first to help a baby be born in Sonoma County, then a number of trips for things we left behind, then Japan (and the three weeks before that when my consciousness was there tho my body was here) The kids & Peter go out every day and have this as their home base, but somehow I still slip and refer to Cotati as home occasionally.

Not that we’re not happy here. It’s really lovely! Suzanne, who we share with (also Ken & their little girl, Jezra, who’s seven) works in a nursery and brings home tons of bedding plants, so the yard is full of calendula, alyssum, ageratum, begonia, foxglove, marguerite & Shasta daises, impatiens, and others I don’t know the names of. Not to mention house plants, all of which thrive outside here. My pregnant onion is as as happy as a clam, and the princesses climb out of their pots like so many kittens. We inherited a bench, too. The previous tenants left lots of philodendron varieties, and about 10 jade plants, in various stages of disreputability. Also there’s a marvelous persimmon tree, and quince, fig & tulip trees as well. (The figs are terrible) - and about a dozen rose bushes, all colors, that have been xxx badly negleted, and Cannas came up in the rose bed when we started watering. I am going to get some bulbs in a week or so - oh, forgot to tell you the prize: a rose tree. My friend Mary says it must be a portobello rose, but I wonder if she’s not confused with Portobello Road, the antique district in London.

Japan was perfectly lovely. I had been feeling a little under-the-weather before I left, but was filled with energy once I got there. After we arrived at the sacred grounds I was able to climb steep hills up from the town, and to walk endlessly. I was hardly ever tired. It was really fine. I had to push to keep up with the regular people, but I was able to do so without falling to pieces. I had to spend quite a bit of money on fruit, unfortunately, as it is too expensive there for it to be fed to us regularly. (There were lots of fresh vegies, though. But most were cooked. I was able to get a salad at every meal by special request) There just is not enough space for orchards in Japan. But bananas were the same price as here - I believe they are imported from New Zealand, which is a reasonable distance from Japan.

I ate a lot of a fruit called nashi, which looks like a giant golden delicious apple, kind of a creamy gold, but it’s a crisp pear - indescribably delicious. (You can buy melons there for $15. I kid you not.) (and about a 2# bunch of alexandria muscat grapes for $14 was quite common! Seems like you’d want to save it for your heirs and not to anything so gross x as eat such a thing.

Kids are firmly settled in school. Both are to be tested for the gifted program. (Jed was last year, but the test they used in Cotati x is not recognized all over the state. It’s just as well - he tested too high and the teachers all went gaa-gaa over him and it was utterly ridiculous)

Small drawing of a mustache.
Small drawing of a mustache.

I am really happy with the Halloween costumes. Joaquin is wearing his suit with a bow tie, press card in his hat, and a camera and notepad, going as a reporter, his present lifelong ambition. Jed is a non-specific medieval/Renaissance type, with tights and a french peasant shirt of Peter’s (garters on upper arms & thighs) and a tunic made of an old piece of velvet, and a gold chain belt, and a French-ish x x sort of pre-beret hat of old brocade. For shoes I cut off some brown sox and sewed the toes into a point.

Drawing of Jed’s Renaissance-ish costume, with various parts labeled.
Drawing of Jed’s Renaissance-ish costume.

Next to the drawing, Marcy wrote: out of proportion, but it looks good. You’re not supposed to see the holes in the tunic or the tights.

Only thing I had to buy was Quin’s hat & mustache. (The latter went thru the wash, so I have to rush off & get him another one before the school parade this afternoon.)

I’m volunteering in both classrooms & the library, and enjoying it a lot. Quin’s teacher is a young man with wild hair and a very friendly classroom. xxx The kids call him Skip, which is unheard-of in the public schools. Jed’s teacher is more conservative, but very very good. She reminds me a little of you, grandma. Jed is her favorite, but he doesn’t know that, fortunately.

Peter will have to tell you about his job. It’s such a melee, so full of contradictions and excitements and frustrations. He’s off to Dallas next week for more IBM training.

Ken & Suzanne are looking for a place of their own, so we will be finding new housemates soon. We are so fortunate to have this place - we pay 260 for half the house, and one-bedroom apartments start at $300. Near where Peter’s office is you can rent a 2-bedroom apartment with deck and jacuzzi and pool for $2000 a month.

Yes on the suits. Really needed, and will be deeply appreciated. We’ve been studying the subject a lot lately, getting ready to buy one. They range from 180 to 380 for what Peter needs. Yoicks.

Off to Post Office, to mail your anniversary present, & Dave’s birthday present. Take care, have a good year, we love you. I promise to send at least a postcard every two weeks as an additional present.

Love, Marcy


October 31 of that year was George and Helen’s 41st wedding anniversary.
flowers and other plants
I was oblivious to all the flower and plant stuff. I’m a little sad in retrospect that Marcy and Suzanne didn’t teach me flower identification, but I probably wasn’t at all interested in it. (I know I could learn this stuff now; I just mean that it might have been nice to learn it as a kid, from the flowers that were right there in our yard.)
I had forgotten all about the pregnant onion.
I vaguely remember the persimmon tree, but not the quince.
I think Marcy was right about “Portobello Road”—I’m not finding info about a plant called a portobello rose.
I think I’ve seen nashi, a.k.a. Asian pear, in California grocery stores. I don’t recall ever eating one, but now I’m curious.
my costume
I asked my parents what I should say if people asked me what I was dressed as. They told me to say I was a “Renaissance man.” I had never heard that phrase, so I think I was a little confused when adults laughed when I told them that.
gold chain belt
I still have that belt! It’s a sequence of rings, each maybe 2" across; the last ring has a hook that lets you attach it to any of the other ones. If you put it around your waist and attach the last ring to (say) the 5th ring from the other end, then the extra rings hang down, as sort of shown in the drawing.
“Jed is her favorite, but he doesn’t know that”
It was clear to me that I was at least one of her favorites. Among other things, she took a couple of us students to a couple of Culturally Enriching Activities—concerts and such. (See a later letter (as yet unposted when I’m writing this) for one example of this.)
“$2000 a month”
I’m surprised and impressed at that. Rent in the Palo Alto area is still ridiculously high, but $2,000/month in 1978 dollars is the equivalent of over $9,100/month today, which is a lot more than most Palo Alto rental houses today. (There are some large houses in Palo Alto that are currently renting for more than that, but it looks like not many.)
suit prices
That would be a range from $800 to $1,700 in 2022 dollars.
postcard promise
I assume she didn’t follow through on this; there are only a couple of extant letters from her over the next few months.

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