The Journey Continues: Letters Home from Philosophy Studies, 1965 – 67 – Part 10
The January 2nd letter begins relating the busy Christmas singing schedule bringing joy to many in city community! It also describes his last Christmas at the Mount. ‘Fun’ seems the operative word to describe it. Curiously, the January 26th letter concludes with reflections on ‘eating’ and a request for a recipe for making cheese perogies.
Mount Saint Michael
Spokane, Washington 99207
January 2, 1967
Dear Mum and Dad,
Let me begin this letter by wishing all of you a very happy new Year. May God bless all of you with health, prosperity and an abundance of spiritual favours during this coming, or should I say, this year.
After a beginning like that I don’t know what to say. Perhaps the best thing is to tell you that I had a truly wonderful Christmas. This year I had the opportunity to go out with the choir two days to all the hospitals and homes and convents, and this in itself was a rewarding experience and an excellent preparation for Christmas.
It was wonderful to see the happiness in the faces of the old people in the old folks home, the elderly sisters, the sick people in the mental hospital and the hospitals in town, and especially the crippled children at the shriner’s hospital when we sang for them.
The kids would sit or stand with mouths open and wide eyes and then give you their shy smiles. It was so easy to sing you heart out to them and Ed Reese, our choir director, had to constantly remind us to take it easy on our voices because we still had many more places to go.
Both days we left at 8:30 a.m. and got home late in the evening. Both days, the only meal we ate at home was breakfast. It was extremely tiring, but it was worth it all– bringing Christ’s peace and joy to all these people. They rewarded us a thousand-fold by their genuine warm response.
The decorations here at the mount were magnificent. The chapel was simply beautiful, and the dining room was done in exquisite taste. You should have seen the tree in the dining room. When they set it up they found out that about in the middle there was a big empty space that was unsightly.
Finally one lad came up with an idea. They trimmed off the branches all around the tree at the empty space, then decorated the top part as the main tree with bright lights and made a card board pot for the empty space. They decorated the bottom part of the tree with blue and green lights, and in the end it looked like the little Christmas tree on the top was balancing on the green shrubbery below.
There were decorations at the end of every hall, each floor trying to make their display the nicest– and they all were beautiful.
Then came Christmas eve. As in the past years the choir began touring the building waking people up with their singing at about eleven o’clock. At 11:30 we had a bible vigil in the chapel. As usual there were many people up [from the city] for the Christmas liturgy.
You should have heard the choir help me sing my song– I hope you like it. While we were touring those two days, every time I sang my song the choir began to hum softly and try to make up some harmony. In the end they had some lovely humming harmony for the verses and then would burst out with me in the “rejoice” refrain and the result to (to my ears) was wonderful. I wish we had recorded it.
I was so tired after Mass that I did not open my gifts till the next morning. A couple others came to my room with their gifts and we opened them all together. It was a lot of fun.
But what can I say about the gifts– mum and dad, you really surprised me. The watch is really beautiful and the wonderful thing about it is that it needs no winding. All you have to do is set it once and off it goes all by itself. It’s really handy to know what time it is all of the time.
Thanks also very much for the cigarettes and all the cake, cookies, nuts and chocolates. What with all the edibles from the girls, I really had a fine selection and could have opened a small shop here in my room. Since many of my handkerchiefs have worn out or become lost, Rosemarie’s and Matt’s gift will be used with rigor.
All the gifts were beautiful, Marlene and Ed’s Paper Mate pen, Bernice and Herman’s after-shave and T-shirt, Socks and pictures from Lil and Bill, and the lovely French cuff shirt from Myrna and Charlie. Viv and Alex sent me a Christmas card with a family picture in it. I have it under the glass on my desk with Lil’s pictures of Blaine and Kim.
It is too bad about their other gift, but now I will still have another parcel to look forward to. Aunt Eva sent me five dollars also. I hope I didn’t forget to mention anything.
Did you get the tape? I hope so and that everything was recorded right so that you weren’t disappointed. Again let me say thank you. You are too wonderful.
After Christmas we went to villa for three days. Unfortunately there was no snow so we couldn’t get in any skiing, but we had much fun anyway just being together playing cards, talking, watching TV, playing games and just relaxing. The rest of the holidays at home were a lot of fun also.
On New Year’s Eve I went out to dinner with the family of one of my class mates and had a lovely time. I felt a little guilty doing it though because they spend a small fortune eating out, but they asked me twice, and the second time the whole family was there and so I couldn’t refuse.
There were eight of us in all, and I’m sure the dinner cost at least five dollars per person, so you see what I mean. They must be quite well to do, and they certainly are generous.
But there was an element of sorrow to the holidays, for when we got back on New Year’s evening, we found out that Robert Foliot’s dad had died of a heart attack that day on his way to church. (Bob is a year behind me.) So he flew home to Montreal late that night.
I sent them a letter of condolence. It was a difficult letter to write because I also wanted to thank them for sending two packs of cigarettes at Christmas time. They were up here a couple months ago and we stopped into the parlor to say hello, and our singing group played some songs for them.
When Robert Foliot gave the cigarettes to us he told us that his mother asked him to jot down all the names of the lads who had come in to meet them, he didn’t know what for, but then at Christmas he got a bunch of little packages with a name on each one of them. It was a lovely thing to do and was a very pleasant surprise for all of us.
I forgot to tell you about our Christmas party in the dining room on Christmas night. There was of course pop and goodies to eat and a number of items on the entertainment list. The first one was a skit about four “beat” angels who lost their way on Christmas Eve. The skit wasn’t too good because we didn’t have enough time to prepare. (I was one of the angels and never felt like such an — in a long time.)
The second item was musical entertainment provided by another singing group. They had gotten up a fine selection of Christmas music, but the third item was what everyone was waiting for, Santa Claus, of course.
Father Olivier, the Father who said Mass for us down at the shrine when you were here, was our Santa, for he had a natural build. He did a fine job of giving everyone a gift suited to that person. (He had a number of clowns helping him.)
His gift to me was a scout cub T-shirt, indicating I guess that I was a green-horn at my new job as beadle. All the other gifts also had a great meaning for each of the recipients. It was very much fun.
Well, it’s almost time to get this letter in the mail and to get back to school work, and wow! do I have work to do. Exams are coming up around the twenty-first and I have many papers to start and finish plus much studying to do. You know that exam I mentioned in my last letter, well, surprisingly enough it came back to me with a fat B plus on the top of it– so I guess it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.
Bye for new, and don’t forget to pray for me. You are always in my prayers.
Mount Saint Michael
Spokane, Washington 99207
January 26, 1967
Dear Mum and Dad,
I’m very sorry for the long silence, but as I’ll explain later on things were pretty busy here during the last three weeks.
Thanks very much for the letter. I’m glad the tape turned out alright and that you enjoyed
I’m looking forward to getting yours. Lillian and Bill are remembered in my prayers. I didn’t get a chance to send them a letter after hearing about the news, but I didn’t forget to pray for them. You also mentioned that I forgot to tell you I received your card and the money.
Sorry when the letter was written I knew that something had been forgotten but just couldn’t remember what. I still owe grandfather and grandmother a letter saying thank you.
I’m really tired this evening, the reason being much hard study and finishing writing the hardest exam, ethics, today. These last two weeks have been hectic. We have had many exams which finished off this semester’s courses. During that time we also had registering for next semester’s courses– I’m only taking three courses because my energy and enthusiasm for too much study is ebbing.
But since I have to prepare for the final oral exams my nine units of philosophy and 3 of a graduate course in English will keep me busy enough. I also want to do a lot of reading. This past semester has been so busy I have had no time to do any extra reading in English or enjoyment.
The marks this semester should be alright. Since I sort of peetered out at the end of this semester, my A marks will probably come to B’s. I’m still hoping for two A’s however.
Right now I’m looking forward to teaching. After six years of constant study, further study does no look that enticing. As yet no indications have been given us where I’ll be sent, but Father Provincial is supposed to be coming in February or March and will probably tell us then.
Although things have been very busy, I’ve taken out some time to exercise. Skiing again has taken a bite on me, and I’ve gotten my exercise weekly (on Saturdays) plunging down the slopes at Linder’s, a ski lodge halfway down Mount Spokane.
The lodge is closed to the public, but the family allows us to come up and pack their slope for them and ski on it as often as we can. It is a pretty good deal, for we can drive out there in about 45 minutes on Saturday mornings and spend most of the day there.
It’s a God send for me because it’s the only exercise I get in the week. They do play basketball and swim down at Gonzaga U during the week but these just aren’t my sports. (I have a tendency to catch cold quickly after swimming, and I don’t get any satisfaction from basketball because I’m just not any good in it and it takes to long to develop any proficiency in it.)
Besides I have to get some fresh air. Another reason is that my afternoon nap is essential. . over-tired people don’t study too well.
A couple of weeks ago I received another invitation to go out to dinner. This invitation was from the uncle and aunt of the same lad whose parents took me out on New Year’s Eve. They took three of us to the Black Angus– the most expensive restaurant in Spokane.
I still can’t justify spending as much money as they do just for eating out but they are fairly wealthy, and I guess they have nothing else to spend their money on. I told them how I like plain wholesome home cooked meals one time, and told them about your “cheese noodles” (You know the ones that you make a big piece of noodle dough, cut it into squares; put a ball of cottage cheese in the centre and fold it into a triangle.)
Well, I was asked to ask you to send me your recipe, so’s they could try to make them. Could you do that for me? And include your recipe for everything– the dough, how you mix your cottage-cheese, and also how you fry the bread crumbs. I want it to taste exactly like you make them because that’s best. (Make the directions as full as you possibly can make them because I’m not much of a cook.)
The reason I told them this was because I ate at their home once and they had all kinds of exotic things you could think of. I kidded them about it and told them a “simpler fare” was much tastier.
Well, I’d better sign off now. Tomorrow we’re leaving for a few days at Priest Lake and if I don’t get enough rest tonight, the trip will just add to my weariness. I hope this letter doesn’t give you the idea that I’m way down and out. I shouldn’t write when I’m tired.
You’re ALWAYS in my prayers.
All photos courtesy of Frank Obrigewitsch, SJ