At last! The long anticipated reunion happened last Saturday night. Now I can go back to eating bread. You know I just had to fit into the little black dress I bought for the occasion.
The reunion was great–and I mean it. I could have eaten that bread. I could have eaten a chocolate birthday cake every day for weeks. I could have bulged and popped out of my dress and no one would have noticed. Everyone was so happy to see each other. Many of us hadn’t seen each other for five decades.
No kidding–the friendliness and happiness in that room at Braddock’s Tavern just glowed, absolutely glowed. I hadn’t expected an atmosphere that warm and lovely. Frankly, I’d worried it might be awkward.
I wish the reunion could have lasted all weekend. (Reunion committee members–don’t faint!) I didn’t get to talk to as many people as I wished and somehow I missed some old friends who were there. (Cathy Manning! I didn’t see you until I saw you on the Facebook photos.) The four hours flew like four minutes.
My reunion with Ruth Ostermayer, the girl with the sweet smile next to me in the photo, filled my heart. We’d been best friends from kindergarten to sixth grade in John S. Read School in North Camden and then my family moved to Cramer Hill. Sixth grade was an unhappy year for me. Everything was new–new neighborhood, new school, new church. So much familiar and loved seemed to disappear.
My mother had decided that a new townhouse in Cramer Hill was her dream come true. She could choose the color of the kitchen tiles, wallpaper, the bathtub… Everything new. Good-bye to our tiny old rowhouse in North Camden!
Mom loved that we would be up the street from Von Neida Park and a relatively few blocks’ walk from grocery stores, a florist, a 5 and 10 (Binkley’s), church, school and a bus stop. We had no car. Even two friends of hers from North Camden would buy across the street. She had instant good friends. Cramer Hill looked like heaven. She would have to pinch pennies, but managing my dad’s factory worker pay was her expertise.
Somehow she got my dad to agree to leave North Camden and somehow with a two-week-old baby and two reluctant elementary school kids, she got us moved. I was so, so sad. I didn’t want to leave, but, in those days, kids didn’t have any input. I also wasn’t able to understand that this brand-new house was important for my mother. (She would never agree to move from this house and she stayed there in her dream home until she died in it last year at age ninety-three.)
I was especially sad to leave my very best friend, Ruth. I was sad to leave other friends, too, but I’d spent years with Ruth and her family. I worried that our friendship would survive, but it wouldn’t be the same.
Ruth and I kept in touch, but those years of childhood best friendship became a wistful memory. We went to high school together, but we ended up in different classes. I worked in the Woolworth’s and I babysat. Not much social life. However, we persisted with Christmas cards and occasional letters and e-mails, never forgetting our years of jumping rope, going to Brownies, roller skating, making cookies, reading Highlights, comic books, Bobbsey Twins and the World Book Encyclopedia, telling stories, drawing, singing at her piano and walking home from school together.
When we saw each other at the class reunion last week, we were delighted to be back together in person and we talked for as long as we could without ignoring the rest of the class. Ruth told me that she had been devastated when I moved. Even after all those years, that news almost made me cry. I hadn’t known that she, too, had been upset. She seemed to be okay with other friends. I never knew that she missed me, too.
We talked about her family’s three-story house on State Street. We recalled every floor, every room. What good memories we shared of that house. I’ve even dreamed about that house.
Ahhh… I forget where I put my keys, but I remember perfectly those years with Ruth and her family.
What a blessing to be able to sit next to Ruth at the high school reunion and to have a reunion of our childhood–in person.
Thanks, dear readers, for reading this account of a bit of my wonderful reunion.
Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra, Class of 1968, Woodrow Wilson High School, Camden, NJ
PS I’m sure this is one little story of hundreds from the reunion. Sincere thanks to the reunion committee for hunting up the class members and getting us to attend. Great job. It was a night to remember. Thanks, too, for letting us know what members of our class have passed away. That list broke my heart, but it reminded me to be grateful for every day. All in all, it was a super evening and I loved seeing so many friends. Again, I wished it could have been a weekend.