pastelitos…oh, the hot greasy joy…and emergency drills…

Dear Friends,

Sometimes I almost forget that I was an elementary ESL teacher in Camden City Public Schools for more than nineteen years. Three and a half years of retirement…  It’s very good.  To say, the least.  Ha ha.  Sorry for laughing, but it’s just so good.

When my husband brought home two pastelitos de pollo, fried turnovers with chicken, early this morning, my mind jumped to the little store across from my former school.  I bought these delicious and probably unhealthy snacks for lunch on days that I didn’t bring a sandwich from home.

I opened the newspaper at my dining room table and I bit into the first hot pastelito, the delicious grease ran down my chin and I remembered eating this treat at the classroom table that served as my desk.

However, the newspaper articles about the shootings of school children brought me back to a much less fond memory–those days of drills where another teacher or I would herd the third-graders into a corner during an emergency drill.  I “knew” it was a practice.  But, when I heard the principal’s voice calling out a code over the loudspeaker and saying, “There is a shooter in the building,” it was enough to make me wet my pants.  I didn’t, though.  Almost.

Some kids were cool and quiet–they figured it was a drill. Some let a tear roll from their eyes.   And, there was always one or two who kept whispering, “I’m not allowed to sit on the floor and get my uniform dirty.”

I’d put my finger to my lips and look grimly authoritarian, yet comforting.  Not easy. They had to be silent.  The heck with a dusty seat of the pants or uniform skirt…

In all seriousness, I’d thank God when the drill was over and I knew for super sure that it was a drill.

I had shoved most memories of teaching to the back of my mind after I retired.

The pastelito and newspaper yanked out those memories, one happy, one frightening.

 

Love to all my readers,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

Cramer Hill resident and former Camden City Public Schools ESL teacher

 

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Who should be celebrated on my birthday?

Dear Readers,

Today is my birthday.  I woke up and realized I was no longer sixty-seven.  I’m sixty-eight.  Officially a grown-up.  Probably a senior citizen?  Happy Birthday to me.

A friend of mine recently said that a birthday should celebrate the mother.  How can you take credit for being born? Your mom carried you and gave birth to you.  Ouch.

One year I did give my mom a card on my birthday and she loved it.  She loved cards.  She loved to receive them and to send them.  I do, too.  A funny kind of legacy.

My mother died on November 2, 2017.  She was ninety-three.  She won’t be here to celebrate.  She loved birthdays.  Especially the ice cream and cake…  Even in her last months of life when she wasn’t doing so well, she loved cake.  Me, too.  Another legacy.

She was an intelligent and feisty woman.  She managed her family, the budget and her house with a no kidding around competence. She had a soft and sentimental side that she tried to keep hidden.  However tough she could be, she was a mush on birthdays.

No matter our financial circumstances, we always had a dinner of our choice, cake and ice cream, a carefully chosen and sentimental card and the best gift possible.  We didn’t do dishes on our birthday.

We always said thank you, too.

I wonder, Mom, maybe you’re celebrating my birthday on a big cloud with Dad?

I hope you’re having a big piece of chocolate cake with chocolate ice cream with Dad.  You couldn’t eat your beloved chocolate when you got older so I hope you’re having a lot of chocolate in heaven.

I know Dad is saying, “Just a little piece of cake.”

You’re saying, “Cut me a big piece.”

Thanks, Mom, today for giving me life.  It’s been a good one so far.

 

 

***Photo         Wildwood, New Jersey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A happy ending to my day

September 6, 2017

Dear Readers,

I started out worrying terribly about people in the wrath of Hurricane Irma.  I forced myself to do something productive.  Set two goals, I told myself.

I’d study German and then I’d sort through a bag of papers.

My German textbook didn’t look inviting so I decided to put on a German-language movie and, at least, listen to the German voices while I sorted.  Since I knew I’d only understand only a dozen words, I would put on the English subtitles.  Netflix offered plenty of movies, but not many looked cheerful enough for this rainy Cramer Hill day.

I spied the 2015 Swiss film version of Heidi, based on the children’s book by Johanna Spryi.  The title brought me back to an illustrated version of the book that I’d loved and read many times as a kid in North Camden.   I remembered Mrs. Helen Faust, John S. Read Elementary, Grade Four,  gave me the sequel, Heidi Grows Up, on the last day of school because I had been the best speller in the class.  I hugged it that hardback book and floated home with it. (Thanks, Mrs. Faust. God bless generous, loving, thoughtful teachers.)

Fifty-seven years later, here I was, still in Camden, although in Cramer Hill, watching feisty Heidi, her aunt, her grandfather, her friends Peter and Klara appear on my TV, so familiar, long lost friends found again.

Amazingly enough, I have visited Switzerland many times because I have good friends there and so I have been blessed enough to have been to the Alps and the beautiful Swiss countryside.  Today I was experiencing Switzerland again.

I had to put down the bag of papers, half-way sorted, and let myself be drawn into the story of an orphaned child who loves the mountains  and those around her.  Those old receipts, ads and catalogs could be sorted tomorrow.

This movie made my day.  And, I even did recognize a dozen words in German.

Much love to all readers,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra, Cramer Hill resident

 

PS  If you like, please follow my blog. Comments are welcome.

A happy ending to my day

September 6, 2017

Dear Readers,

I started out worrying terribly about people in the wrath of Hurricane Irma.  I forced myself to do something productive.  Set two goals, I told myself.

I’d study German and then I’d sort through a bag of papers.

My German textbook didn’t look inviting so I decided to put on a German-language movie and, at least, listen to the German voices while I sorted.  Since I knew I’d only understand only a dozen words, I would put on the English subtitles.  Netflix offered plenty of movies, but not many looked cheerful enough for this rainy Cramer Hill day.

I spied the 2015 Swiss film version of Heidi, based on the children’s book by Johanna Spryi.  The title brought me back to an illustrated version of the book that I’d loved and read many times as a kid in North Camden.   I remembered Mrs. Helen Faust, John S. Read Elementary, Grade Four,  gave me the sequel, Heidi Grows Up, on the last day of school because I had been the best speller in the class.  I hugged it that hardback book and floated home with it. (Thanks, Mrs. Faust. God bless generous, loving, thoughtful teachers.)

Fifty-seven years later, here I was, still in Camden, although in Cramer Hill, watching feisty Heidi, her aunt, her grandfather, her friends Peter and Klara appear on my TV, so familiar, long lost friends found again.

Amazingly enough, I have visited Switzerland many times because I have good friends there and so I have been blessed enough to have been to the Alps and the beautiful Swiss countryside.  Today I was experiencing Switzerland again.

I had to put down the bag of papers, half-way sorted, and let myself be drawn into the story of an orphaned child who loves the mountains  and those around her.  Those old receipts, ads and catalogs could be sorted tomorrow.

This movie made my day.  And, I even did recognize a dozen words in German.

Much love to all readers,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra, Cramer Hill resident

 

PS  If you like, please follow my blog. Comments are welcome.

Donuts, coffee and small thoughts on a Cramer Hill Saturday morning

Dear Readers.

Today I’m at the kitchen table looking at the morning glories on my back fence here in Cramer Hill.  I’m feeling the contentment of a teacher who has been retired for three years.  Retirement is G-O-O-D.

Nothing much beats a cream donut, a jelly donut and a cup of coffee on a Labor Day Saturday morning when YOU DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT GOING BACK TO SCHOOL ON TUESDAY.  You might have to consider your damage to your calorie count, but not much else.

Yesterday I decided to ignore all non-life-threatening chores and to wander around Ollie’s Discount in Cherry Hill.  I didn’t have to buy anything for the classroom…no more poring though pencils, fun erasers, cute notebooks, crayons or glue sticks, no more paging through little books to give as prizes, no more choosing the best stickers and no more piling the cart with boxes of tissue and cleaning wipes.

Although in the throes of retirement joy in the middle of the store, a bit of wistfulness crept in.  I smacked that wistfulness away.  However, I allowed myself think of those first days back to school.  They were filled with anticipation and optimism for the new year, but always tempered with dread that I’d have to go to another school or even another classroom.  English as a Second Language teachers moved around as needs changed.

Retail therapy to the rescue!  I thoroughly retail therapied myself by buying books for my granddaughter…and myself.  Then, I spied a huge Thomas the Train puzzle for my granddaughter. What a big floor puzzle and what a discount, too! Win-win.

I popped into my daughter’s house to give the gifts.  My granddaughter’s sleepy face, just up from a nap, livened when she saw the puzzle box.

“Thomas!” she screamed.

We put the puzzle today, my daughter, my granddaughter and me. All forty pieces!  No, I lie.  Only thirty-nine.  The center piece was missing.  Oh well.   I wasn’t being observed on the activity and I hadn’t had to write plans for it.  I wouldn’t get a low mark for not having put the puzzle together first to make sure all the pieces were there!  We had a good time, Piece #40 missing or not.

Back to my morning coffee.  I have eaten the donuts.  I asked my husband to bring me one, but he brought me two.  Who am I to turn down two?  Would you want me to hurt his feelings?

I’m going to take my coffee to the window, look at my morning glories and contemplate retirement.

Love to all my readers,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra, Cramer Hill resident

P.S.  If you would like to follow my blog, please do!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blogging from Cramer Hill because of plums…

Dear Reader,

Plums!  Today I’m back to blogging because of freshly picked South Jersey plums.

The news has been so bad for so long that I couldn’t bear to blog for months.  I didn’t want to contribute to any reader’s distress with one more justified outcry about what is happening in the world.

I’m being a chicken.  I’m not going to comment on the news.  If you know me, you can guess what I’m thinking about what’s going on, so…

This morning in our Cramer Hill kitchen, I filled a bowl with cold plums.  I had to admire them.  These plums are beautiful and delicious. They made me think of a poem of William Carlos Williams.

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/just-say

How blessed I am this morning to have these plums, to have my husband, Carlos, who is holding the bowl, and to have my daughter, Kim, and granddaughter, Nora, and Kim’s in-laws, who picked the plums!  I give thanks to Kim’s mother-in-law who put dozens in a bag and pressed them on me to take home.

Today I’m happy to sit at my kitchen table with toast and tea and sweet, juicy plums.

I’m back to blogging and I’m going to write about loveliness in our often unlovely world.  I’m starting with plums.

Sincerely,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

Cramer Hill resident