Remember that Vatican guard? I should have asked her.

Dear Readers,

Today I came home from an afternoon and I felt filled with smiles. Kandy Lippincott, an artist, a good friend and former co-worker, invited us to the art reception she was sharing with Joanna Patterson, photographer. I took my husband and told him that we’d stay only a few minutes. I expected a pleasant event. Instead it was a joyous event.

Many friends who had worked with me in the Camden City Public Schools system greeted me. I can’t help but remark that retirement makes everyone look younger. No lesson plans to be done on Sunday night for Monday morning approval?

I glanced at the laughing and talking crowd and – what! I recognized immediately my dear friend from Rutgers University, Camden. Sue La Pierre! We’d met on the very first morning of college in 1968 and we would share a room for the summer of 1970 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

We hookied one Friday from the University of Lausanne where we were studying French and we flew to Rome for a weekend—the U.S. dollar was favorable forty-five years ago. We walked out of the airport terminal to find the pension where we would stay. Cars skidded to a halt on the streets and men called to us, offering us a ride, “Bella! Bella! Bella!”

The attention of the Roman men was thrilling, but after a while, it became almost scary. I’d never experience that level of admiration again after that trip to Rome. Maybe for Sue—some years later she would win Miss Tall International.

I forgot to ask my friend if she remembered how the guard at the Vatican wouldn’t let us enter—an elderly lady in a black scarf and long black skirt waved her arms, screamed in Italian and pointed to our legs. The guard had to acknowledge sadly that our skirts were short and he turned us away.

Our years at Rutgers Camden, the summer in Europe and many get-togethers in our twenties and thirties had bonded us and the decades in which we hadn’t seen each other evaporated.

I knew that I’d like seeing Joanna’s magnificent photos of Burma and Kandee’s whimsical block prints. But, I didn’t expect to see my former co-workers and to get to hug them and to say how great retirement is. And, I really didn’t expect to see my college friend and fellow traveler there!

That’s what I call serendipity.  Don’t you love it when you have a good time?

Love from Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra, Cramer Hill

Still smiling from such a lovely afternoon


2 thoughts on “Remember that Vatican guard? I should have asked her.

  1. Dear Marguerite,

    What an incredible coincidence. I stumbled on your blog and happened to read your story about your stay in Lausanne Switzerland in 1970. I immediately recognised some persons you were mentioning and realised that you were describing one the most wonderful periods of my life, too. What a shock to hear, that my friend Stanley Straiges died many years ago. I still have his letters of our correspondence after you returned back to the States.
    I am one of the Swiss students of the course. Together with Marco and Bruno I stayed in a tent at the camping site in Lausanne. I do remember the American girls of the class discussing over a European map, whether to go to Rom, Paris or elsewhere. Whenever I hear Simon and Garfunkel hits or see Asphalt-Cowboy with Dustin Hoffman I feel a revival of this wonderful time.

    Unfortunately I can’t remember you personally. But you definitely were part of the group that was staying at the Hotel Hotel Alpha-Palmiers at the Rue du Petit-Chêne. I often met Claire Wimpling there. I fell madly in love with her. I took her often for a ride in my Renault 4 to show her the landscape around Lausanne and my family at Cham in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. It was a wonderful time that never will come back. After you returning to the States Claire an me were exchanging letters for more than a year. At that time she was living in Moorestown, Chattham Road 108. In those days we wrote our letters in French, as I didn’t speak English at all. My friendship with her motivated me to start learning English. By now I am more familiar with English than with French. It was unthinkable for me then, that our friendship would break. Somehow the script of my life made another turn. Although we promised to be always friends the communication broke down. I am now married and grandfather like you, but I would appreciate to get in contact with Claire and to look back at a wonderful time. Can you remember her and do you know anything about her whereabouts? I would really appreciate you giving me a hint.
    Thank you so much for this wonderful reminder of wonderful shared experience. You describe it with wonderful words.
    Kind regards,
    Ernst Elsener, Albisstrasse 3, CH-6330 Cham Switzerland

    Liked by 1 person

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