Snowy Camden memories

Dear Readers,

Last night my brother Bill and I talked about snow forts on Grant Street in North Camden in the fifies. Snow days!  We’d stay out all day in our snow suits–mine gray and Bill’s blue–and build snow forts against the front of our row house.  Neighbor kids, Butricas and Coppingers, were out there, too, with others whose last names I can’t remember. Somewhere we have black and white photos of us standing in front of the forts, grinning with our friends.

We came in the house for lunch, removed the wet newspaper stuffed into galoshes and put our wet mittens and socks on the heat register to dry.  My mom insisted on a sandwich and a little time to warm up, but we couldn’t wait to go back out.  How could we stay out all day with stinging cheeks and numb feet and toes?

One snowy weekend my good friend, Ruth, had planned an overnight and I couldn’t wait.  She came to my house and we climbed on the piles of snow that the men had shoveled from the pavements.  She slipped and broke her ankle.  My dad carried her to her house on State Street.  When she got back from the doctor (hospital?), she still had the overnight and I think it was three of us, Ruth, Gail and myself.  Ruth was suffering, but she remained a gracious hostess.  Perhaps we were in fifth grade because my family had not yet moved to Cramer Hill?

Walking in the snow was taken for granted. My dad’s parents lived on Fifth Street near the Ben Franklin Bridge and our family walked about six blocks to visit Nana and PopPop.  I remember that my grandfather warned us not to eat the snow because there might be radiation in the snow blown from faraway testing and visiting adults scoffed at his advice.  I had no idea what bad thing that radiation was, but I was sad that they disrespected what my grandfather said.  He might have been right.  No matter, I never put out my tongue for snowflakes again.

So many memories of snow…ha ha.  The little kid memories are coming back, but there are so many more.  One last …  walking with friends to Woodrow Wilson High School from Cramer Hill over the 27th Street Bridge that is over the Pavonia railroad.  The wind sure did blow.  Did I wear a polyester type scarf that could slip in spite of being tied tightly?  Did I carry my books in a plastic or a heavy brown paper bag so they would get protected from the snow?  If your books got ruined, you had to pay for them. Not every snowy day was a snow day so we did walk in the snow.  What?  Why didn’t we have book bags?

So, dear readers, I wonder what your snow memories are?

Love from Cramer Hill,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

P.S.  I’m laughing.  In 2016 part of my blizzard preparations are to charge my cell phone, Kindle and laptop.  How times have changed!

Be safe, my friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still here in Camden—thinking about it…

When I moved back to Camden after a hiatus of ten years in North and Central Jersey and Central Pennsylvania, I thought I’d stay a year in this brick HUD row house. This Cramer Hill split-level was next to my family and my daughter was a baby. It would be great for a year, maybe two, I thought.

My daughter will be thirty-three this month and I’m still in this house. We almost moved a few times—looked at houses, but never made the move. Why, I don’t know. Inertia? Was it too difficult to move? I’ve done other things that are much harder than moving.

My husband loves our house. (That’s him in the photo.) When he came from Cuba almost twelve years old, he thought it quite a grand home. He still does so he is not motivated to move.

I’m blessed to live next to my family. We don’t have to go over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house—we’re separated only by a cyclone fence. My neighbors are good working class people, family people, much like the people who moved into the Anthony Park Homes built in 1961.

Another Camden advantage for me when I worked was an easy commute. I drove three miles or less…when I taught English as a Second Language in Camden City Public Schools for more than nineteen years and when I taught ESL for Catholic Community Services in East Camden for about six years. How much more time was available to me if I think about those short commutes from Cramer Hill to East Camden or South Camden!

What makes me sad about living here is the reputation of my city. When I give my address as Camden, people look wary. Camden? For sure, there are things that are bad here. We hear noises late at night that we determine—car backfiring? Fireworks? Gunshots? Infrequent, but true.

Let me emphasize there is good, too. That would be another blog…maybe a hundred blogs. My years here have introduced me to great people who I have loved dearly—students, co-workers, neighbors. Most Camden residents are decent, but people outside the city don’t know about them.

I’m not saying I wouldn’t like something different for my life. I do love Home and Garden TV! Sometimes I’d like a bigger house in the suburbs, not a row house. Sometimes I’d like a bigger yard and more space to park.   But, hey, sometimes I wish I was eighteen and knew what I know now.

No matter what, I’m still here and doing okay.

 

 

What do you remember about past New Year’s Eves?

 

Happy 2016 to my dear readers!

Last night I tried to remember past New Year’s Eves. Since there have been sixty-five of them, many have disappeared into the black hole that I call my memory. Here are three that pop into mind.

NORTH CAMDEN—THE FIFTIES FUN     My dad and other neighborhood men put on ladies’ hats and bathrobes, red lipstick and rouge and danced on narrow Grant Street to “Oh, Dem Golden Slippers” that blared from speakers on someone’s porch. The women shook their heads at the nonsense. They took the night off, eating pretzels and chips, drinking coffee and smoking Viceroys. We kids ran from row house to row house, eating cookies and drinking Tru-Ade, jubilant to be up at midnight without supervision.

RUTGERS CAMDEN —1969. DOUBLE DATE   I thrilled to have a date with a boy who was tall, dark and handsome—I now regard a male of age twenty as a boy. About ten-thirty p.m., the two boys in their good suits suggested that we drive to New York City to ring in the New Year.

We nineteen-year-old girls doubted our mothers would let us, but we called them and the moms said okay.  Decades later, my mother told me she wanted to call back and say no, no, no! but we had called from a pay phone. (Remember when we had no cell phones?) Since she couldn’t rescind this potentially dangerous permission, she went into the bathroom and cried.

The other boy drove us to New York City, but we got there after the ball dropped. The four of us didn’t have much money, but we stopped at a pancake house and had coffee and pastries. Back we went to Camden—it was not the dangerous evening that my mother had envisioned, but how fun for us two girls to be cute in our mini-dresses, to go out with two nice boys and to say that we had gone to New York City for the start of 1970.

PENNSAUKEN Y2K—do you remember that New Year’s Eve when we thought all the computers would stop functioning? I almost stopped functioning because I didn’t sleep all that night. Thank goodness I was very young—six weeks short of fifty. The (forty?) kids in the GLEAM program that I directed wanted to stay up all night and since they were well-behaved, I let them. They played basketball and watched movies. Another church member and I spent the night washing dishes and leaving the kitchen one at a time to check on the kids. I felt jet-lagged for three days after that. This is a fond memory because fifteen years later, I know that I could not stay awake all night for any reason now.

 

Happy New Year to all of you!

Love from Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra, Cramer Hill

Dear Readers,

I retired so that life would go by more slowly. 2015 didn’t cooperate.  It’s about to end soon and HELLO, 2016.  What were my resolutions for 2015? I tried to find them and I found one–to write more. Here I am home in Cramer Hill–trying to fulfill my resolution!

According to WordPress.com, there were 5,012 views of my blogs in 2015. I asked my daughter about this number and she said, “Don’t worry, Mom.  Some people probably clicked on your blog by accident.”  Gee, thanks.

2015 proved to be a good year.  My granddaughter, Nora, was born. Frabjous joy! Callooh! Callay!  I didn’t make that up–it’s from Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll.  It’s a bunch of goofy words, but they seem to sum up the dizzying joy to have a grandchild. How I love her! When she claps, when she smiles, when she high-fives, when she speaks baby talk, when she eats, when she drools, when she breathes…when she does anything…I’m a mess of happiness.

Next, but maybe I should have said this first–Thank God, nothing terrible happened this year to my family. I can’t take that for granted.  You never know. What a blessing to have a normal year with my husband, pets, mom, brothers, daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter!  I’m grateful. Very, very, very.

I look forward to writing more in 2016.  Who know how many more viewers will click on my blog by accident in the New Year!

Love from Cramer Hill,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Good King Wencelas in North Camden

 

“Good King Wencelas” played on the radio and bam! I thought immediately of piano lessons. I grew up in North Camden until I was eleven and I took piano lessons for one year at Holy Name School at 5th and Vine Streets.

However, I was a public school kid (John S. Read Elementary) and not Catholic. You wouldn’t think that would be a problem.

But, it was a problem with other female piano students who didn’t have a piano at home and who had to practice on the ancient upright in the second floor hallway. Each student had a special day (or two?) and a half-hour practice that the nuns scheduled. I adored the lovely and lively Sister Michael Fidelis and I didn’t want to tell her that girl bullies didn’t let me have my time.

“You’re Protestant and you don’t go to Holy Name so you have to wait until we finish,” the girls told me. They were bigger than I was so I accepted it. I found a photo of myself at that age so you can see I wasn’t tough…

I sat sadly with my music books while they stumbled through their practices. What was the worst? Being bullied, listening to their mistakes or knowing that I’d go home in the winter dark?

When they left, I would practice my lesson without anyone listening to me. Nice. Then, I realized that I could get more than the allotted thirty minutes. No one else was there that late.

I could play not only my lesson pieces, but my favorites, especially “Good King Wencelas.”   I remember imagining the king’s young page in a terrible snowstorm and how he kept warm walking in the footsteps of the good king on their way to give alms to the poor. I liked the old use of  English and the thought of the Feast of Stephen, December 26th–something different for me.

After my lovely solitary hour on that old piano, I’d button up my coat and walk in the dark and sometimes snow to our row house on Grant Street, humming that old song and arriving home with the last verse, “Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.”

 

Hoping that you, dear readers, are well…. Back again to you.

 

Love from

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra, Cramer Hill

Gratitude from Cramer Hill 2 & 3

Dear Readers,

Here’s some gratitude from Cramer Hill Day 2 & Day 3   Tuesday and Wednesday.  Some people post a gratitude message for every day of November, the month of Thanksgiving—

I’ve started late. Better late than never?  By the way, the photo is from September–my mom enjoyed her birthday cards.

Day 2 My mom is ninety-one and unusually clear and talkative today. I’m grateful for her clarity and cheerfulness because she’s mixed-up or a little sad sometimes. I almost dreaded coming over today because Mom has shingles and I feared it was going to be a miserable day, but she’s happy as could be.

We’re at her dining room table in Cramer Hill and she is telling me stories about her mother-in-law, my dad’s mom, Anna (Bade) Wunsch. Mom reminds me how Nana loved guests and put on a pot of coffee and cut thick slices of homemade apple pie. Mom is smiling and saying how everyone liked her mother-in-law and how Nana liked everyone. She says that Nana was a good Catholic and loved to go to Holy Name Church in North Camden.

Nana had thirteen children (my dad Number Four) and lived by the State Street Bridge in a house that reached (truly) over the river and later, they lived on Vine Street in North Camden. Her last home was a big house with marble steps that she scrubbed often—warring with the dust from the nearby Ben Franklin Bridge.

Now Mom is telling me about her sister-in-law, Vera, (Number Three of the thirteen Wunsch children.) My Aunt Vera asked my mom to visit the ladies’ section of a taproom near Broadway where “the people looked decent and upper class.” Aunt Vera had never been in a taproom and didn’t want to go by herself.   She wanted to see what it looked like. (I think she’s talking about was later called The Grill.) My aunt didn’t know what to order so they looked at a menu. My mom ended up with a Manhattan and my aunt a beer. This daring foray of two nice young ladies might have been in the 1940’s or early 1950’s, but she’s not sure.

She’s switched to talking about where she went to church, Centenary-Tabernacle Methodist Episcopal Church at Fifth and Cooper Streets. She says how nice the Sunday School and Bible School teachers were. She says that it was wonderful to see the sun streaming through the stained glass windows in the church.

It was a gift to have my mother so perky and clear. Can’t take these occurrences for granted!

 

Day 3

 

I’m doing Day 3 before the hours fly away as they did yesterday!

  1. I’m grateful for this sunny Cramer Hill day—no rain, no snow, no ice.
  2. I’m grateful that I get a phone call from my lovely, funny daughter every morning. I don’t take this communication for granted.
  3. I’m grateful that I have a Kindle (love my Kindle and “real” books, too) and that the latest Stephanie Plum book appeared yesterday. The books in this series are definitely light, but I enjoy the humor and the Trenton setting. The latest even mentions Camden, although not very positively.
  4. I’m grateful that my mom introduced us to books as infants and that voracious reading has been a happy part of my life.
  5. I’m grateful that I have a laptop—being able to use a computer is another happy part of my life.

 

 

Until tomorrow, dear readers,

Love from Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

A Cramer Hill grandmom’s gratitude Day One

Dear Readers,

Although the world might seem bleak, I am grateful for so much.

  1. My seven-month old granddaughter smiles at me and laughs with me.
  2. My little grandgirl loves me so much that she tried to put her pacifier in my mouth.
  3. My sweetie claps….ooh, what is cuter than a baby clapping?

Yes, in case you have guessed it, I’ll confirm it.  I’m babysitting.  Baby Nora is jumping in a bouncy contraption and is saying like Yee-haw!  

I thank God for this precious time.  Love continues to make the world go round.

Love to all readers,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra, Cramer Hill resident

Feeling loved, loving and grateful for my precious granddaughter

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

Paris

Dear Readers,

It’s a beautiful cold day here in Cramer Hill.  I got to sleep late, talk to my husband, play with my dog, enjoy a hot cup of tea with lemon and visit with my mom and make her brunch.  Brother Ken and I had a good chance to talk about McDonald’s fries, my mom, my Florida vacation, Baby Nora, the prospect for a new pastor and Paris.

Paris.  I can barely believe what happened there.  Here in Camden my life is peaceful.  Camden is no Paris.  But, I feel safe here.  I’ve been to Paris a few times and I can’t count the times that I’ve wished that I could go there once (or twice) again.

It’s terrible what happened in Paris.  But, what is more terrible is that horrible things are happening all over the world.  Why can’t we humans learn to be okay with each other?  We exploit each other.  We injure each other.  We kill each other. It’s happened since the dawn of civilization and we humans never seem to learn that we need to help each other, not harm each other.

I pray that someday soon that we humans will be peaceful and good to each other.

Feeling thankful that my loved ones are safe and praying that the rest of the world will be safe someday soon,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

Camden, NJ

Autumn Leaves … Thank you, Miss Wyatt, Veterans Memorial Junior High School Teacher, Cramer Hill

Dear Readers,

Whenever there’s a fine fall day in Cramer Hill and the leaves fall on our little front yard and down the block on Von Neida Park, I think of Miss Wyatt, the music teacher at Vets. She taught us the song, “Autumn Leaves.”   I loved that song when she taught it to us in the Sixties and wished we could sing it again and again…

Later, I heard it in French and I love it in French, too. When I played it this afternoon on my computer, I was thrilled that it was as wonderful as I remembered.  The original song is French and came out after WWII. Johnny Mercer wrote different lyrics in English, different, but equally haunting.

If you look up this phrase online, Autumn Leaves, the Story of a Song, you can find the original French words, the literal translation in English and Johnny Mercer’s lyrics and you can read about the history of this song.

Want to have a few beautiful minutes today? Go to YouTube and hear Nat King Cole singing this song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gnp58oepHUQ   Your heart will flip over.

Then, if you’d like to hear it in French, click on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xo1C6E7jbPw and hear Yves Montand speak 45 seconds in French (skip ahead if you like!) and then he will sing, Les Feuilles Mortes. Another flip for your heart.

Like a lot of the French I learned, I forgot Miss Wyatt’s first name. Was it Dorothy? Maybe. I was in awe of her. She rarely smiled, but when she conducted the choruses for the Spring Concert, she did smile and her face became beautiful.

I wish I could tell my Cramer Hill music teacher how I remember her every fall and I would like to thank her for the song she taught us about the autumn leaves of red and gold.

Love from Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

Cramer Hill

Photo by Lori Nguyen, my daughter’s goddaughter

Back to Cramer Hill, Back from Florida, Back to Blogging

Dear Readers,

I left Cramer Hill for six days in Florida and…

I didn’t overpack! I didn’t forget my wallet!! I didn’t eat too much!

What did I do?  I went to spend time with a cousin and a friend…trying to fulfill some retirement goals.

I met my Cousin John when he was an infant in Gloucester City, home from the hospital, and I was a teenager. He doesn’t remember that day. When I was a young bride and he was a preschooler, he played “Here Comes the Bride” on his little organ. He remembers that day! He’s a musician in Stuart, Florida now.   Cousin John worked on genealogy with me for hours. We traced our German ancestors to the 1700’s. He showed me The Riverwalk and we dined in Sailor’s Return and watched the Stuart sunset.

John and his friend, Linda, drove me to West Palm Beach where my friend Antoinette has retired. I promised to visit them again. A wonderful cousin reunion.

I met my friend Antoinette when she kept taking my time card by mistake when we worked at Western Union Telegraph Company in Moorestown. Too vain to wear her glasses, this new employee would take my card instead of hers.   She looked at the number of letters in the name. Marguerite Wunsch, 10-6. Antoinette Chicca, 10-6.

Antoinette stamped me in early every day, but the supervisor finally told me who was doing it and that good luck stopped! We both remember that—1983!

We shopped at the Publix Supermarket near her new home and I bought chicken empanadas, yucca croquettes and guacamole. She picked up Cuban bread. Later that night, we ordered take-out from Havana (the restaurant) and feasted on arroz con pollo and other Cuban foods…and, the flan!

Her family and I ate at Don Ramon’s in West Palm Beach and the ropa vieja (old clothing!—really beef) was the best ever. In case you wonder if we stopped eating, no, we did not. We lunched at Rocco’s Taco’s on Clematis Street and the guacamole, the chicken tacos, the mushroom tacos and the homemade chocolate ice cream made me sad that I was going to leave West Palm Beach.

If you think that we didn’t eat enough, don’t worry. We ate much more than what I’m telling you, but we didn’t overeat.

Antoinette’s extended family spent time with us and it was good to see everyone after many years. I’d seen the younger ones on Facebook and I got the chance to see them in person at last. It’s funny to have seen their beautiful faces often on Facebook and then get to meet them —they seemed so familiar.

While Antoinette entertained, her grandson and I marched through Wal-Mart and filled a cart. Adrian teamed up with me to shop for Antoinette’s new house—she hadn’t had time to shop for chair cushions, dish towels, pot holders, place mats, smoke alarms, espresso cups or a tea kettle.Since I packed so lightly, I hadn’t brought enough clothing, so I bought a package of T-shirts. My first time for not packing enough clothing.

Antoinette’s son-in-law, Ramon, took us on a tour of West Palm Beach and Palm Beach and we ladies resisted asking him to stop so that we could shop with the rich and the famous.   I had not forgotten my wallet, but I dared not to open it in those shops.

Antoinette’s daughter, Janette, invited me to see the fox collection of her daughter, Rosalyn. Foxes of every size and shape!  This pretty girl comes from a family of collectors—her mom, Janette, collects figurines from all over the world and her grandmother, Antoinette, used to collect giraffes. What fun!

After downing my last cup of sweet Cuban-style coffee, I left West Palm Beach.My daughter, Kim, picked me up at the perfect moment at the Philadelphia International Airport. My husband, Carlos, and my dog, Finn, welcomed me back with open arms and lots of barking.

What a great vacation and I guess that I didn’t eat too much. I guess.

Love from Cramer Hill,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra, feeling blessed

Our Finn marks his one-year anniversary in Cramer Hill, but what should I do?

Dear Readers

What should I do? We’re about to mark Finn’s one-year-anniversary of his life with us in Cramer Hill..

If I send out invitations, rent a hall, secure a caterer, get a DJ, and buy Finn a custom-made tux, I might be overdoing it. He’s a year old. He would run around the legs of the guests and would try to follow his favorite friends into the restroom.

No kidding, he would sit at the feet of the soft-hearted friends and family and would beg for a piece of his huge sheet cake made of Natural Balance Sweet Potato and Salmon dog food that says, “We love you, Finn St. Maarten Ferra! Happy One Year!”

I can only imagine Finn ripping the bows from his gifts and tearing up the wrapping paper as we take videos. He would be thrilled with the dog biscuits, collars, winter coats, stuffed toys and balls that he would receive. What should he play with first? Would he remember to say thank-you?

When the DJ plays Who Let the Dogs Out or How Much Is that Doggy in the Window or, You Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog, would he appreciate how carefully the playlist was chosen or would he ignore the music and tear around the reception hall chasing his feline siblings, Reina Anne, Lovey Anne and Bello?

The cats would jump on the feline-friendly folks only table and would look down at him with cool disdain. However, later, at home, they might have let him sneak a taste of their cat food, one bite only, to say, “We love you, bro!” on his special day and they might give him extra room at night when canine and felines snuggle together on the queen bed.

I doubt our Finny would let Carlos, my husband, and I have a slow dance during Paul Anka’s And They Call It Puppy Love because he barks, jumps and tries to separate us if we dance in the kitchen. Could we hope to permit us to enjoy the dance for his doggy dad and mom? Just once, Finn? (By the way, he would make a good chaperone for anyone with a teen-age daughter—call me if you’d like to hire him. JOKING. He’s too young to work.)

Would he write the thank-you notes for his party or would I, the doggy mom, get to buy them, write them, address them, stamp them and mail them at the East Camden Post Office? I know that job would fall to me. What a production his party would turn out to be.

And, our doggy boy’s adoption anniversary is only a few days off. Maybe it’s too last-minute to get it together.

With love to my readers from Cramer Hill,

Marguerite Ferra, blogger, writer, dog lover, cat lover and people lover, too…

Thank you to the people on the beautiful island of Sint Maarten who saved our dog son from life as a feral puppy looking for food in dumpster…the names I know are Team Golden Dog, Dr Jeff Sochrin, Island Radio 92, who is involved with the foster volunteer organization on the Dutch side of SXM, Alexandria Rose who found our dog and his two siblings and later fostered the puppies and Melissa who accompanied him on the plane. There are probably so many more—THANK YOU, Sint Maarten people!

Sincere thanks to the people in New Jersey who helped our dog so much, ALL THEY NEED IS LOVE, the rescue group, especially Emily and Cari. Much love and thanks to all of you, especially our very dear friends, Dawn and Miguel, who loved him when they met him on the island and later fostered him here and who brought him to our house for his trial overnight.  AGAIN, I thank those people whose names I didn’t mention! God bless all of you.

Finn Sint Maarten Ferra, a.k.a. Maarten and Max, is living a great life here with us and he brings us a lot of fun, joy and affection. He might be the most kissed and hugged dog in the state of New Jersey and while he was not a kissy dog at first, he now gives us lots of kisses, too.

In honor of his adoption, next week we will send a donation to ALL THEY NEED IS LOVE and a donation to ROOM TO READ. We love human kids, too, so we’ll help them out as well. Some people think that animal lovers don’t love people, but that’s not true in our case.

Make new friends, but keep the old

Dear Readers,

I didn’t recognize the phone number on the text.    Who could it be?  Yes, it was from my old (as in many years of friendship) friend Linda Rezende Mundy.  Her son, Marcus, had urged his parents to celebrate their fortieth wedding anniversary, not to let it pass unnoticed.

So, we celebrated at this impromptu festivity at our favorite pizzeria/restaurant, Carollo’s in Pennsauken with pizza and good memories.

Forty years!  Congratulations, Linda and Dennis!  What an accomplishment!   My husband and I rued that we might not make forty years–not because we’re going to break up, but because we would be in our nineties if we make it to our fortieth anniversary.  We can try!

Linda’s dad, ninety, is sharp.  He remembered me well, although I might have changed somewhat over the decades.  (He hasn’t!)   He joked and told us how people tried to set him up with women, but he had no interest.  He’s a widower.  His wife was the loveliest, kindest woman and I saw her sweet face in Linda and her sister, Madelena, the two of his daughters at the get-together.

Madelena and I share a love of cats and I appreciate her Facebook posts with the cutest kittens ever–friends of felines bond!  It seemed like yesterday that I had met her at their home in Riverside when Linda and I were college students.

Linda and I share memories of Rutgers University in Camden–Dennis and she picked me up at my house in Cramer Hill for school and he had a sports car with an eight-track system.  We spent time together in French classes, cafeteria lunches, parties and a summer at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland as roommates.  I remember when my beautiful friend marched, grinning, into our room in the Swiss hotel with her purchase of her first bikini–red and white.  …Then, there were graduations, engagements, weddings, babies, kids’ parties, vacations and so much more.

I must mention Linda’s wedding.  What an exquisite bride with her long dark hair and big dark eyes!  Dennis was a little late to the wedding, but worth it.  He looked great in his tux with his blond hair and blue eyes.  What a good-looking couple!  I was a bridesmaid and, amazingly enough, Linda had sewed most of the gowns for the girls in the wedding.  At the time, I took Linda’s wonderfulness (is that a word?) for granted, but looking back, I have to say, “Wow!”

The years roll by and sometimes we don’t see our old friends for many years.  We get caught up in life.  That’s too bad.  But, when we have that reunion–it’s great.

I had such a happy time at the celebration of the fortieth anniversary of Linda and Dennis Mundy.  Thanks for the impromptu invitation!  God bless you and …wish you forty more.

Love from

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

26 magical letters! Share them!

Dear Readers,

Today I noticed a quote on Facebook — saying that every book you read is composed of only twenty-six letters.   Well, of course.  And if your book is in English!

But, think about it!  Twenty-six little symbols make magic.

I love to read. I’m crazy about the alphabet!  I can sing the song, too, and my daughter and I sing it to her baby all the time.  I can’t wait until my granddaughter gets a bit older and I can teach her to read.  In this “old” photo, she’s four months old, not yet reading, but loving to touch books and to snuggle and to listen to her mom or dad or me read to her.

How grateful I am that my mom read to us on our porch on Grant Street Street in North Camden and that I was able to take books from the Cooper Library, the Broadway Library and the Dudley Grange Library as a kid and teen-ager in Camden!  My Aunt Vera bought bags of second-hand books from Leary’s in Philadelphia and shared them with me.  Mom and Aunt Vera were my reading mentors because they liked to read and they provided me with books and the idea that reading was important and pleasurable.

So, today I ask all of you to read to someone. If you can’t do that today, promote a bit of reading.

Take your bank card and donate ten or twenty dollars to an organization that promotes literacy.  My favorite mini-literacy donation? This is fun.  Surprise someone.  Choose a book or a magazine subscription on Amazon.com and send it to a child.  Send it to a teen-aged niece or nephew! How about a sister or brother or aunt or uncle, grandmom or grandpop?  A good friend, near or far?

Share the magic!  Share some literacy love today!  It’s fun.

Best wishes to all my dear readers who love the alphabet, too.

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra, Camden resident

Retired Camden City Public Schools ESL Teacher

Wife, Mom, Grandmom and Booklover

Cramer Hill Great-Grandmother Celebrates

Dear Readers,

The rain is beating on our metal patio roof here in Cramer Hill and I’m thinking about what should I write?  What’s on my mind this quiet morning in Camden?  Maybe it’s how can I believe that my mom turned ninety-one? That happened so fast.

I thought time would slow down in retirement and it has slowed down somewhat, but it didn’t stop.  It didn’t reverse and I haven’t woken up and found myself twenty-five, nor thirty-five, nor forty-five, etc.  (Sixty-five!)  Oh, boy!  It’s corny, but time marches on–although it marches a bit more slowly than the much, much brisker march when I taught school.  No slow marches in a teacher’s day.

My mom’s elder life marches much more slowly.  It took a while to persuade her to cut short her nap  to attend her party, but she got out of bed after much coaxing, left the house dressed up and looked forward to her special day.

We celebrated my mother’s birthday at Carollo’s Pizzeria and Restaurant in Pennsauken because the service is friendly, the food is good and the entrance is accessible for my mom who needs help walking.  There we were–four generations of women all together at Carollo’s–my mom, me, Kim and Nora–all strong-minded women–in the very best sense, of course—along with family and friends.

Our dear little baby loved my mother’s birthday tiara and she loved my mom’s nose, too.  She gave my mom’s nose a little squeeze as a gift that only a girl almost five months old could give a great-grandmom.

My Cousin Kathy brought a pumpkin pie to add to the birthday cake and that pie pleased my mom no end.  “I’ll have a slice of both,” said my mother calmly and she did.

******************************

Love from Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra and wishing all of you a happy day and a happy year.

Thanks to the people who sent my mom cards and sent her electronic birthday wishes.  She enjoyed them very much.

Good news Cramer Hill story! Friendship!

Dear Readers,

Oh, please.  I can’t take one more bit of bad news.  It’s overwhelming.  I can’t read even half of the newspaper.  So, here’s a good story for you.

Decades ago, my mom babysat to help out a young neighbor in our Anthony Park Townhouses in Cramer Hill near St. Anthony of Padua Church. We still live there.  That young neighbor, Georgia, moved out of Cramer Hill, but she never forgot that my mom babysat for her.

So, for all these years, Georgia makes sure to visit my mom even if she has to drive an hour to reach Mom here in Cramer Hill.  She takes Mom out to lunch.  But, this week I made lunch for us and we ate at Mom’s table that she has had before I was born…so the table is, at least, twenty-five?….no, I’m lying, SIXTY-FIVE YEARS OLD.  Lots of friends, neighbors and family have sat at that table!

We chatted and munched.  How great to catch up on old times together!

My mom might have forgotten what happened yesterday, but she remembered Georgia and her children and even her grandchildren.  She loved to hear Georgia’s tales of their talents and adventures.

Georgia cuts my mom’s hair on her visits and traditionally she won’t accept a penny.  This week, my brother, Ken, set out money to try, try, try, to pay her for present and past haircuts. I said, “You have to take it this time, please.  Ken’s going to be mad if I don’t make you take it.”

She laughed mischievously.  “Let him be mad.  I’m not taking it.”

Then, she paused at the door, went to the table and picked up the money.   I was glad, but surprised. I thought, “Good, at last!”

She handed the cash to my mom and said, “For your birthday this month!”

My mom looked surprised at the money and quietly counted it. (She was the queen of budgeting and handling money well.)  But, my mom doesn’t handle cash lately so having the bills in her hands  pleased her.  She folded them into her napkin, “I’ll save this money for Christmas gifts.”

Everyone hugged good-bye.   Mom counted her money again after Georgia left.  I know she felt rich–not only because of the gift of money, but she felt rich in friendship and rich in being appreciated after many decades.  God bless you, Georgia.  You never forgot your Cramer Hill friend.  We appreciate and love you, too.

Love from

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

Cramer Hill

I’m the proudest grandmother in Cramer Hill this morning!

Dear Readers,

Every day is special for me because I have a granddaughter, but today, this morning, topped them all.  And wow! Today my five-month-old grandbaby wrote to me –a private Facebook message, but I will share it with you.   Xffr gut a cnn, lx÷

Yes, can you believe it? She wrote Xffr gut a cnn, lx÷            

I admit that her mom opened Facebook for her and that the baby’s spelling is “invented spelling.”  (Thanks, Kim, for not correcting her work and discouraging your daughter’s fine effort.)  However, after years of reading “invented spelling” as a teacher, I feel that I correctly interpreted  Xffr gut a cnn, lx÷  to mean something like, “Dear Grandmommy, My love for you can never be divided.”

How proud I am. She used a capital letter, a comma and a mathematical symbol, the division sign. Now, wasn’t that an interesting sentence?

Perhaps she will grow up to be a writer and a mathematician? The best of both worlds!

My granddaughter’s first written communication to me—what a great day!

Ah, the insane bliss of grandmotherhood!

Love from Marguerite Ferra, Cramer Hill grandmother

Cramer Hill resident writes to an old friend at ninety…

Dear Readers,

This morning after breakfast, my ninety-one-year mom and I talked about her girlfriend from Burrough Junior High School (North Camden) and Woodrow Willson High School (East Camden.)

How lovely to have good memories about friends from decades ago!

Mom laughed about the time that she bought a real fur coat (raccoon) and visited Mary’s’ house to show the coat and how the parents delighted in the coat.  I’ve heard the story many times.  Mom worked at Bell Telephone in Camden and she had saved her money for that special coat.

There wasn’t much fun during World War II, but wearing that coat made her happy.  My dad (her boyfriend at the time) was in the South Pacific.   The coat became the only extravagance of her lifetime and she wore it proudly for decades.

I brought over a notecard and wrote a message for her to send to Mary in Florida.  However, she deemed it too short and took a piece of lined paper and added a message in her own still fine penmanship.    When I first had asked her about writing to her friend, she looked dubious and a little confused.  That’s why I wrote the notecard, but Mom got herself together and started writing.  She remembered that she liked to write.  She could have been a blogger!

Before I asked Mom to write, I looked up Mary’s name and address online to make sure that Mary was still alive.  You never know.  When you are in your nineties, many of your friends have passed away. Happily, her friend is still alive and I hope she enjoys Mom’s note.  These girlfriends had phoned and corresponded and visited for many years, but not lately.  Old age and a bit of dementia can be limiting..

My mom’s birthday is coming up.  September 28th.  I think that is the day that Pope Francis comes to Philly.  I doubt that he’ll make it to Mom’s cake and ice cream.

I’m glad to report that Mom lacks for nothing–in fact, she has almost too many doodads that she has received from her many birthday celebrations.

However, she loves, loves, loves birthday cards and looks at them for months afterwards.

If you “know” me (in any way–blog reader counts) and would like to send my mom a birthday card for her NINETY-FIRST (!!!), please click on 91momsbirthday@gmail.com and I’ll reply with my home address so you can send her a card.  She loves flowers, especially pansies.  Sometimes the stores have lots of pansy cards–some years none.  Maybe she’ll get lucky this year!

Please identify who you are when you sign the card—  Your niece, Kathy,  Your daughter’s friend, Zana,  Your old neighbor,  Anna,  etc.

If you would like to send her a card, you could send it even today…  what a great month of September for my mom…receiving a card or two every day!

Thanks.  Enjoy this September day. Write a note to an old friend!

Love from

Marguerite Ferra, Cramer Hill blogger

Gift of procrastination?

Dear Readers,

Why, oh why, had I waited until the last day of August to take my Camry to Inspection?

This morning I got up early to be at the NJ Department of Motor Vehicles Inspection Station thirty minutes early.  If not, the line was going to be evener longer than usual.

I made sure that I had my license, insurance and registration, a paper cup of water and my Kindle so I wouldn’t be turned away, die of thirst or get too bored in the line.

I kissed my husband good-bye and told him that I’d run to Wegman’s after inspection and that I’d hurry because he would have to go to my mom’s to check on her for me.

Armed with all that I needed, I jumped into the car, slipped a CD into the player and turned on the air.  I felt pretty happy.  The last day in August used to be a little sad because I’d have to leave summer behind and go back to work very soon.  It might have been a day to fix up the classroom.  It wouldn’t be as “free” as today.

Then, my morning became EVEN HAPPIER.  Can you guess why?

Yes, my inspection was due in August, but August of 2016!  I glanced at it as I put on my seat belt.  Oh, boy!

I proceeded to Wegman’s, downed a cup of tea, read The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal (splurges!) and ate my all-time favorite food–Wegman’s double chocolate muffin.  What a life!  I shopped for food and birthday cards and waved good-bye to the woman who works in the bakery.

This wave is special to us–while she sliced bread for me one day and we chatted, we remembered each other from Sunday School in State Street Methodist Church in North Camden in the fifties.  Her lovely mom was my Sunday School teacher.  How crazy is that?  We never saw each other after I moved to Cramer Hill and we weren’t even BFFs.  But, how fun to remember each other.  Her eyes are still big and beautiful and I never forgot them!

I’d texted my daughter before I left the house to see if she wanted to meet me in Wegman’s–she’s often up early because her baby is up early.  She agreed to meet me, but when I called her from Wegman’s, she confessed that she was sleepy and the baby had gone back to sleep.  She returns to teaching tomorrow morning and it would be so good to sleep in one more time.  Of course!

How well I remember those precious few days before going back to teach…  I treasured them and she was treasuring them, too.  A baby and a full-time teaching job—wow, you appreciate those mornings of sleeping a bit later.

Anyway, what a great morning. I returned to Cramer Hill with my groceries and newspaper and went to my mom’s house.  She, too, wanted to sleep late.  Okay!  Here I am at her house writing my blog in peace and quiet.  I can hear only the hum of the refrigerator and even Gray, the pretty rescue cat, is not hovering and meowing for breakfast.  He’s sleeping, too.

So, it looks like it’s a great day and I’m happy that my procrastination turned out so well!