Category Archives: Writing

Letter to parents: Chetek — August 1973

After my grandfather died in July of 1973 my parents thought I should stay with my grandmother for a few weeks — to keep her company and help her out. Here’s a letter I wrote home on August 15, 1973.

I was almost 16 and entering my junior year of high school that fall.

Interesting thoughts on Five Smooth Stones, both here and in my journal. Not that I wrote a lot about it, but what I wrote was what I felt. It remains one of the few books that changed the way I looked at the world.

$70 a month from Social Security doesn’t seem like much — but maybe it was in 1973. According to the CPI Inflation Calculator $70 in 1973 has the same buying power as $368.09 today.

I write a lot about being depressed. I don’t think I was actually depressed — certainly hormonal — but I wonder if I were almost 16 now and wrote that to modern parents if they would send me to a therapist.

August 15, 1973

Dear Mom, Dad, and Kevin,

I’m eating lunch right now. I just took a walk to the Baptist Resort and on the way back I stopped and talked to the horses. There is a pure white medium size horse. I think it is a male. It is nice outside — the wind is chilly though.

Lori sent me a letter. I received it today. I wrote to her on Sunday — two pages. Then on Monday I tried to write to Cindy but couldn’t think of anything to say. I finally finished it last night — a brief one-page note. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t seem to tell her the same thinks I told Lori. Then I wrote a page to Carol in ten minutes. Oh well.

I wrote a few pages in my journal this morning. I was feeling depressed. I have bee quite depressed since I finished Five Smooth Stones, I have decided that the white race has little to be proud of. When that madman shot David I felt as if I were losing a loved one. I guess Daddy and Kevin don’t understand this too much.

Grandma is pickling some fish today. She put tons of fish from the freezer into the sink last night and has been cutting them up all morning. she also made some doughnuts yesterday and fried them today.

Mr. Carpenter called yesterday and invited Grandma out do dinner. She told him that we were about to eat. When she hung up she told me that he was “looped”.

Well, how’s Cinder and Franz? Did Ginny like the cat? Does Cinder-binder act like she misses me? (you can lie if you want).

Grandma and I went to town yesterday with Mrs. Lorenz. We have to go to Rice Lake tomorrow for something.

Yesterday we went to the co-op. When Grandma and I went through the check out there was a box and a bag. I helped the boy carry the packages out to the car. Wow!

It is supposed to rain tomorrow. There were a few clouds today.

Mom — did you remember to unplug my nightlight? Maybe my radio should be unplugged too because the light could wear out. Oh well, you don’t have to.

This morning while I was sitting on the dock I heard some noise over by the long water grass. I looked and saw some ducks. Later when I looked again all I saw were some tails sticking out of the water. It reminded me of a poem from Wind in the Willows. I’m feeling depressed again so I think I’ll go and run or something.

August 16, 1973

Hi again,

One more week to be sixteen (sweet?). I don’t have much to write about. We went to Rice Lake today with Mrs. Lorenz. Grandma had to go to the Social Security Office. It seems that she will get money from them — some seventy-odd dollars a month and two hundred something for funeral expenses which she can spend any way.

Mrs. Lorenz and I had a good talk while Grandma was in the S.S. office. Mrs. Lorenz has three kids who had contacts and she is “gung-ho” for contacts. She said that her daughter hasn’t had to have her lenses changed for 10 years. The other one had them changed once for only five dollars a lens. On that word — I’ll say goodbye.

Love ya all,

P.S. I think I may need more money. I have to buy school supplies and shoes and socks and maybe more. Thank you, Love Dona

Two other interesting things about this letter — I spelled my middle name “Leigh” instead of “Lee” on the return address and partway through the letter I started writing oddly, printing backhand with slanted crosses on my “t”s and slanted lines on my “e”s.

Old Writing Series: The Dancer

Weirdly, this is not in my handwriting — or any handwriting I remember. So perhaps I didn’t write this after all — or perhaps it was a long-forgotten collaboration with a long-forgotten colleague. It looks like it might have been a school assignment. Hopefully grade school.

If I did indeed write this, I wonder what my obsession was with girls whose parents would not let them attend dancing school.

The Dancer

There was once a young girl. Her name was Jennifer. Her parents called her Jenny for short; so will we. To begin this story I will start at her house in the morning. Well just after Jenny had gotten dressed she stamped down the steps and into the dining room.

She usually was happy but today, NO! Today there was no dancing lessons. Her parents did now want her to go to dancing lessons in the first place, but Jenny insisted so her mom and dad had to take her. She said that she would run away and she started to pack. But her mom and dad said to STOP! So she did.

She sat down on her chair with a plop. And the glasses trembled as her parents came in. Her mother said that she was a poor sport. Her father just sat down to eat and then there was a silence and it was broken when Jenny’s little sister came in the room and said, “I WANT SOMETHING TO EAT!” So her mother took her and put her on the chair and put a towel around her neck.

Jenny had nothing to do except to read. This was a Saturday that flew like it was not even in there. No dancing, no dancing, no dancing kept floating in her mind and she was almost crying. But she did not know what to do about her mom and dad.

So she decided to leave so she did. She went to dancing school and lived there for a little while. But she got lonesome for her parents.

So she went home and her parents sent her up to her room. Her sister’s dog licked her in the face and hands.

She had learned to dance. So her parents let her be in the play and that was all.

Some School Assignments

In a dust-covered box under the guest bed I found a treasure of memorabilia from my past. Several of the items are old assignments that I kept for one reason or the other.

The first is titled How to Type a Term Paper and I must have copied something for typing class because there is no way I wrote this in high school. It was for extra credit and I received red OK on it. I suspect I kept it in case I ever needed to type a term paper in college, then I would know exactly how to type it. Thank goodness the world’s students now have word processing programs.

The second was an assignment for my 9th grade English class and consisted of two paragraphs about the same house. One was written positively about the house and the other negatively. I think it might have been for our propaganda unit. I thought I’d blogged about that unit before, but I cannot find it through a search.

I do remember the teacher, who I liked except for this one thing, often had students grade each other’s papers. I didn’t know Mike well, but he always seemed to be a kind boy.

Mike Giardino [the student who graded the paper who sadly died recently]

                     B+ Because it is a good paper

English 3-4                                                      Dona Patrick
Period 4                                                         Oct. 12, 1972

Paragraph one -- for the house: 
     This house is a great buy! If you like older houses this is the one for you. In this twenty-year-old, two-story house there are six beautiful rooms -- including one large master bedroom, two other bedrooms, and a huge living room with a fireplace and wall-to-wall carpeting. It also has a double-car garage. Outside the house on the large, 150x200 ft., lot there is a terraced lawn, four tall fir trees in front and three lems* in back. This priceless gem is within five blocks of the shopping center; two blocks from the bus stop; right across from the grade school; and less than a mile from a picnic area and public playground. A doctor lives right next door. The heaters were put in very recently. The price is only $12,500.

*elms I guess [written in pencil]

Paragraph two -- against the house:
     If you buy this twenty-year-old run-down house you will live to regret it -- unless you enjoy fixing roofs and rusty, leaky gutters. You'd have loads of fun yelling at grade school children, telling them to not to cut across the lawn, break through the hedge, trample your flowers, and/or slide or roll down the terrace if you enjoy that sort of thing. There are four giant fir trees in the front that block the sun light from the house. They are a blessing though in a way because they also block the front of the house from public view while you are fixing the chimney and fireplace. You'll love your neighbors with eight children, two cats, and not to mention a dog who has marked your back lawn as part of his never-ending territory. The cost -- $12,500, new carpeting, all the changes will cost you a small fortune.

This last paper (for today) was from my psychology class in college. I vividly remember writing the paper and doing the research and experiment. It was some of the worst days of my life so far. I was painfully shy and this paper required us to talk to random strangers and recruit them to do an experiment. My partner was the opposite. He was a DJ on our local radio station and a few years older than I. He was outgoing and did not understand my fear of interacting with strangers.

The paper was titled Stimulus Sampling in a Discrimination Learning Situation. I earned a B on the oral report, An A- on the paper and an A- for the mid-term. I guess each of us wrote our own paper.