At least, I get a senior discount?

Dear Readers,

My granddaughter, Nora, is napping.  When she picks up her blanket and bopple, (bopple means pacifier in Nora talk) I know she’s ready to take her morning nap.

This morning we snuggled on the sofa–instead of watching the Mexican Hat Dance video, we watched a tennis coach give his two little girls tennis lessons.  “Daddy,” she said. Not her dad, but he does play tennis.

Then, we watched a tennis match of two young female champions.  She pointed at the one with a long swinging ponytail.  “Mommy.”  Not her mom, but she does play tennis, too.

I realized that someday my precious granddaughter would be on the tennis court and our days of snuggling on the sofa might be over.  Who knows?  When she’s twenty and I’m eighty-five (gulp…), she might not think that sitting with Momo and watching videos is such a great activity.

Boy, oh, boy.  Where do the years ago? It’s been on my mind.  Why do I think that I’m truly getting older? Could it, perhaps, be the mirror?  The way that I don’t leap from a sitting position on the rug?  The surety of the waiters who offer me the senior discount?

Last night my husband (the king of Cuban sweet talk) said to me, “Oh, you’re beautiful.”

“I’m getting older,” I mourned.

“You’re getting older?”

“Yes, I am.”  I made a rueful face.

“Hmm.  Did you know this would happen when you married me?” he asked sternly.

“Yes, I did,” I confessed, my head on his shoulder.  “But, I didn’t think it would happen so fast.”

We laughed.

 

Has this happened to you?

 

Love to my readers,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

Cramer Hill resident

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dancing with Da

Dear Readers,

September.  I’m not headed back to the classroom.  Retired.  Forgive my smirk.  I’m dancing with Nora and Da.

Nora is my almost seventeen-month-old granddaughter and she is addicted to the YouTube video of kids doing the Mexican Hat Dance. We dance it several times when I visit and sometimes the music runs through my mind after I am home and about to go to sleep.

However, it’s not merely Nora and I dancing in the living room.  Usually Da and some friends, Ted the Teddy Bear or Clifford the Big Red Dog, dance with us.  Da is the Number One doll of Nora and she doesn’t mind that Nora shortened her name from Diana to Da.  It might be the doll’s stage name one day?

 My husband wanted Nora to be named Diana, but he didn’t get his wish so we named the favorite doll, Diana. Life is full of compromises

Lately, Da, Ted and Clifford seem tired of the Mexican Hat Dance so I bow gratefully to their requests and we also watch little kids in Ireland dance in competitions on YouTube.  When we tire of that, we watch two children about six years old salsa in an international competition.  Nora stands there and moves ever so slightly, her eyes intent on the dancers.

I’m relishing her joy in dancing and I’m squeezing every bit of fun out of this time before she realizes that her grandmother really can’t dance.

 

Love to all my readers,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra, Cramer Hill

P.S.  If you wish to follow my blog, there’s a place to click on the side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OUTTA THERE–two years!

Dear Readers,

The very, very, very last day of school made me feel like OUTTA HERE!

On that three-mile ride from Wiggins College Preparatory Laboratory Family School to my home in Cramer Hill in June of 2014, I dreamed of my freedom in retirement and the fantasy kind of day that I’m having today.

Now I’m feeling like Hey!  I’m so OUTTA THERE!

Here’s my day so far–lunching with my daughter at a Japanese restaurant, strolling around a bookstore and sipping iced tea at Starbucks.  Not bad, huh?  Writing my blog.  Listening to Starbucks music.  Watching happy people drink coffee, talk, play on cell phones and computers in air-conditioning.  Bliss.

Another retired teacher told me that the retirement “honeymoon” would last about six months.  Oh no. Even after two years of OUTTA THERE!,  I love this kind of day. It’s not old hat.  It’s more like pay day every day.  (Except for the money.)

It’s August and I have no new school year apprehension nor any regret that summer might be ending.  As a matter of fact, bring on the cool weather!

However, let me be truthful.  During my bookstore stroll, a weird  sadness overcame me as I looked through the children’s section.   I kept seeing books that I’d love to buy and to share with students.

The Who Was? biography series–I’m crazy about them.  I loved to read them purely for myself and, of course, to use them to supplement the regular ESL curriculum.

What? New titles came out since I retired?

I regretted I didn’t have students who might enjoy them.  I remembered how kids begged to borrow them, even many beginning English speakers.  How they enjoyed the lives of Dr. Martin Luther King, The Beatles, Helen Keller, Dr. Seuss, Harriet Tubman, Annie Oakley! What a joy to share the love of reading with children…  That might sound trite, but it’s a true and beautiful feeling. I really miss it.

I almost purchased the Who Is Hillary Clinton?   Then, I thought twice. I glanced around nervously.  I was scared to see if there was one for Donald Trump so I walked away from the Who Was? books.  I’ve had enough of reading about who is Donald Trump and I wouldn’t want my little granddaughter to pick up a book like that by accident.

I gravitated to the puzzles because I wanted to send one to my Aunt Rita who had hosted me for three days in her home in Connecticut.  I cheered up because I found one that she’d like, three cheerful chefs.  I forgot about my “missing sharing books with kids” pain for a few minutes.

Then, I spied a six-hundred-piece puzzle of the world–each piece is a country!  Wow–look at the continents! Look at the oceans!  Geography buffs–you know how I felt.  My heart soared to the bookstore ceiling–wouldn’t that puzzle be terrific for the kids?   How much fun it would be to do that puzzle with the students!

There would always be students who loved finding countries on the globe and on maps and I’d be right there with them.     This puzzle would be fascinating for them and….for me.

Oh no, I’m retired.

Now that kind of fun is no longer going to happen for me, I thought gloomily. My granddaughter, Nora, is only sixteen months and a six hundred-piece puzzle might be daunting, especially when I’d have to pick up all six hundred from the floor and watch that she didn’t put any in her mouth.

I dragged myself, heavy-hearted, to the line to pay for Aunt Rita’s puzzle and I waited near the display of corny inspirational magnets. One grabbed me, though.   DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY TODAY!

It was a sign.  I got out of line. This was going to be divine.

Back to the puzzles and I picked up the world map puzzle for one of my favorite people.  Myself.

I’m OUTTA THERE! and I have retirement freedom to do this puzzle all by myself.  Hmm. By the time I finish it, perhaps Nora will be old enough to take it apart and put it together herself.

 

Love to my readers, especially Virginia Dillon who wrote me and said she missed my blog…  Thanks.

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra, reader, writer and about-to-be puzzler…

Proud resident of Camden, New Jersey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My new name

Dear Readers,

I didn’t want to be called Grandmom, not particularly.  I tried to think of something a little different.  No, baby girl, please don’t call me by my first name, Marguerite.  That’s too informal.

Believe me, I thought of names that other grandmothers use, including Gigi and Mimi.  Cute. Nah, I’m not a Gigi or a Mimi. Not a Gram, not a Gran, not a Grandmama.  I had to dig hard for a name I liked.

I looked up words for grandmother in other languages and I found Morai, pronounced something like Mo-ree.  I liked it. It’s one of the words for grandmother used in Ireland.  I have Irish ancestry and so does Nora.  Excellent.

I called myself Mo-ree to my granddaughter since she was born.

You see her in the photo playing with her toy, a cardboard tube from a paper towel roll?  She believes in the basics.

But!  Fifteen, almost sixteen months.  She wouldn’t call me anything and she is talking so…  What’s up with that?

Today she called me Momo all day.  Whenever she wanted me, I heard, “MOMO!  MOMO!

I tried the Mo-ree with her one last time.  She looked at me as if, “Who is Mo-ree?”

She wrapped her arms around me and asked for a bite of my blueberry muffin. “Cake, Momo?”

I threw away my Irish grandmother name, gave her a bite of my muffin and embraced my new name.  She smiled and said, “Tattoo, Momo.”  Translation:  Thank you, Grandmother.

She picked up that great new toy, the paper towel tube and was happy.  So was her melting grandmother on her new name day…

Love to my readers,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

Cramer Hill resident

P.S.  Tell me some other grandmother names?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blessings on a hot July day and is it hot enough for ya?

Dear Readers,

I woke up this Cramer Hill morning and I determined to have a good day in spite of all the terrible things happening in the world.  I can’t do much or anything about most of them which makes me sad.

Now it’s one p.m.  I’m home.  It’s great to have a home.  I pushed my sad thoughts to the back of my mind (a place where there are so many other thoughts that I’ll never find these particular thoughts again!) and reflected on some of today’s blessings.

  1. My a/c unit is humming away.  I can sit at my desk in air-conditioned comfort. I love it.  I remember too many summers of awful heat in North Camden and Cramer Hill.  Yay for air-conditioning.
  2. My granddaughter fetched me a bottle of water when I visited her this morning.  Fifteen months old!  Grandmotherly pride!  Grandbaby kisses and hugs!  Who could ask for more?
  3. The customer service at TD Bank and the A Associates supermarket in Pennsauken proved to be extra pleasant and  I made sure to thank those young women quite sincerely.  Note to self: I should send a note to the bank and to the supermarket.
  4. Ancestry.com provided me with a long lost (actually formerly unknown) cousin and I received another informative and entertaining e-mail from her this morning.
  5. And, yes,  I’m retired and not feeling desperate that summer vacation will end in five weeks or so.  That’s the best feeling.   Right up there with walking into an air-conditioned room!

Keep cool, dear readers.

Love from Cramer Hill,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

 

 

Indelible Date–July 10th! Cramer Hill to Lausanne (1970)

Dear Readers,

Yes, I know that I forget my computer passwords, my keys and even why I opened the refrigerator door, but I never forget July 10th.

 It’s the anniversary of my first trip on an airplane.  Along with a group of other Rutgers Camden students, I left the USA for seven weeks to study French and to have adventure.

 July 10th! Indelible date!   Also, very importantly, I must add, July 10th is  the birthday of my Lausanne roommate and lifelong friend, Linda Rezende Mundy–Happy Birthday, Linda!

Upon the advice of Mme. Alminde, our chaperone, I brought only dresses or skirts–and, in 1970, that meant mini. I rejoice that I was twenty when that was the style. I lucked out.  

Although my friend, Sue Hudson LaPierre, might remember that those short dresses kept us from entering St. Peter’s in Rome.  Sorry, Rome.  What did a girl from Cramer Hill know?

Perhaps Sue and I must take a trip to Rome again, but not in mini-skirts.  How about that?

I ended up having to buy a pair of corduroys for a mountain trip.  In a little department store in Lausanne, I found out that there were unisex dressing rooms.  My dear friend, Stan Straiges, went shopping with me and he laughed as the saleswoman pushed him into the dressing room with me.  He averted his eyes while I tried on the black corduroys.  Always gallant. Always remembered.  No longer here with us. Miss you, Stan.

But, I wore my mini-outfits to school, the University of Lausanne, as I trudged up the steep hills from our hotel in my plastic white sandals. It seemed like a long walk or perhaps it was that I kept getting lost on the way and having to ask people directions–in French.  Oh, French.  I had a terrible American accent and I thank the good people of Lausanne for their patience and I thank my lucky stars for the ones who spoke English.

It couldn’t have been a better trip.  

Youth!  Health!  Energy!  U.S. dollar!  Friends!  Travel!  Dancing!  Movies! Chocolate!  Mountains!  Lakes!  Air beyond compare!  Romance!  Freedom!  Geneva, Lausanne, Rome,  Vitry-le-Francois, Paris!

Even a small improvement in my French…

I’m smiling.  Happy 46th Anniversary to my first airplane trip, to seven joyous European weeks and to fond memories that haven’t faded. How grateful I am to have had this time in my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am saddened.

Dear Readers,

My skin is so white that the sunblock companies have photos of me in their Hall of Fame.  Therefore,  other white people have felt free to stun, to hurt and to disgust me with their openly and sometimes not so openly racist remarks.

The remarks have been made by former teacher co-workers, former church members, “friends,” family members, strangers, former classmates, parents of friends of my child… You name it.

I could write a book about what people have said to me and what I’ve said to them.  I might have forgiven those people,  (mostly) but I have not forgotten what they said.

At sixty-six, I’m no longer surprised.  Mostly saddened.

What is the matter with this world?  Where does all this racism, bigotry and hatred come from?  Haven’t humans evolved for the better?  It doesn’t seem so.

Each one of us could make real efforts every day in our own situations to combat racism, bigotry and hatred.

Please do so.

With all my heart,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra, Camden, NJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wish You Were Here, Dad Bill Wunsch, Sr., a Camden man

Dear Readers,

My dad would have been ninety-six today, but he died thirteen years ago.  It’s a bittersweet day. Bitter because he’s not here with us and sweet because he was here with us.

If he was still alive, he would have enjoyed his birthday cards and they would have been displayed on the buffet in my parents’ home in Cramer Hill.

He would have liked his gifts, but if someone admired one of them, he’d try to press it on the admirer.  “Here, take it.  I don’t need it.”

I’m laughing at this memory of his generosity.  Sometimes a gift wouldn’t last twenty-four hours.  I often thought that it was good that no one admired his white summer T-shirt that he would have been wearing on his June birthday or he would have taken it off and given it away, too.  He was Number Four of thirteen children and he had experience in sharing.

When the weather got hot this June, I thought of how he would have looked at his tomato plants out back and said that we had to eat the store-bought tomatoes for a bit yet. He would have made iced tea and tomato and cheese sandwiches for me. Like his mom, my Nana, he loved to feed people.

How he would have loved our “new” dog, Finn.  Dad could sit for hours petting a dog or cat. Finn would have been even more spoiled than he is now.  They’d be best buddies.

I bet he would reminisce about the dogs we’ve had over our lifetimes.  I can imagine him chuckling about the time that my first very own dog, Juanita, was mad that we left the house and she opened a cabinet door, took a box of pancake mix, opened it and dragged it over a brand new shag rug.  When we came back to the house to find that mess, he laughed and said, “She made pancakes for us. This proves how much she loves us,” and helped me clean it up.  That was one of his favorite stories to tell.

Dad sure did love his beagle, Flopsy, and he was sad when he couldn’t take her for walks anymore by himself here in “the Hill.”  He had developed Alzheimers at the end of his life and he got lost here in Cramer Hill and kind people brought him home.

What really gets me is how much Dad would have loved his great-granddaughter who celebrated her first birthday this spring.  Nora likes to eat and he would have been in his glory–making her scrambled eggs and feeding them to her. Her mom doesn’t want her to eat sweets, but I fear he might have sneaked Nora a bite of cookie.  “Don’t tell your mom,” he’d say.  That’s what he often said to my brothers and me when he let us stay up late when Mom went to PTA.

Dad wouldn’t have been surprised like everyone else that we still live in Camden.  He was born here, grew up here, worked here and raised his family here.  He even died here in Cooper Hospital. His old neighborhood friends moved, but he made friends with the new neighbors.  He liked people.  He liked Camden.

I don’t know if people who die know anything about the people still living.  I hope they do–at least, the good things.  How nice it would be if he knew that I am remembering him today–as always–and still love and miss him.  Happy Birthday, Daddy.

 

 

 

 

 

To Miss Harris, North Camden, Grade 3

Dear Readers,

Miss Harris!  I forget your first name, but, in the 1950’s, kids in John S. Read Elementary in North Camden didn’t ever use the teacher’s first name.

I don’t remember you raising your voice, but your expression took care of any behavior problems.   I don’t recall any behavior problems in your third grade class. No one talked while we hid under our desks during air raid drills, walked down the fire escape during fire drills or walked to the lavatories.

It was so quiet in your room that I wanted to sleep and sometimes I wished that I could fly around the classroom ceiling and then out the transom above the classroom door.

You taught and tested us on four verses of America the Beautiful and I loved the words, “amber waves of grain”–a lovely image for a little girl in North Camden.   I still know the verses–mostly.  We sang The Battle Hymn of the Republic in your class and I learned all the verses.  I read a kid’s biography of Julia Ward Howe who wrote the Battle Hymn, but I was too shy to tell you.

You taught us how to water paint and I’ve taught many kids  what you showed us in that class–how to mix colors, how to keep the brush clean and to keep the paint cakes and box clean.  What a happy time it was for me while we painted.

The day that you hung up my painting of a Halloween witch remains to me today and how I couldn’t wait to take it home to show my mom.  However, that day that you removed those fall paintings from the bulletin board didn’t leave me, either.  You tore them up and put them in that army green wastebasket.  How I wanted to call out, “Please save my picture!”

In my twenties, I took a New Jersey state civil service test and I scored quite high partly because I knew about the cities and counties of New Jersey, thanks to you. You had us memorize the counties, counties and products and now–I wonder–did you make that civil service test for the state?

When a new boy from Ohio came to our classroom, he called you “Ma’am”and not Miss Harris. You spoke to him in a kinder voice than I usually heard and said he could call you Miss Harris and told him ways of speaking were different in New Jersey.  I can’t remember this boy’s name, Paul?, but he told us he was from the Buckeye State and he was proud of it. What was a buckeye?

Miss Harris, you had punished me for not reading along with the class.  I had to stand with you in your good wool coat and grim face on the bricks in the schoolyard at recess while all my friends ran around –when they weren’t eyeing me wiping my tears from my cold face.

I couldn’t explain to you why I kept losing my place.  As my friends read aloud a few paragraphs at a time, I couldn’t bear how slowly it was going.  I’d quickly read the stories at the back of the reader. You caught me many times and you would call on me to read.  Sometimes I did remember where the last reader had stopped, no matter how hard it was to read to myself and to listen to someone else read something different, and I could save myself.

However, once in a while, I would get lost in that story at the end of the book and I would have to admit that I didn’t know where we were. Busted!

You scolded me for reading too fast during oral reading.  So, when the new boy from Ohio came to class, I didn’t want to get into trouble in front of him. Paul looked like such a nice boy–and he was, that boy from the Buckeye State.   I read slowly and carefully.  Then, you called on the the new boy.  He  read perfectly well and ten times faster than I had just read.  The class murmured in admiration.  He didn’t get in trouble and my status as a fast reader tumbled.

I didn’t think of you as a human, but as A TEACHER.  I never thought about your personal life nor that you had one.  Not until the end of a lesson and you asked if anyone had a question…  It was understood…a question about arithmetic.

Michael Lysak raised his hand.  The class waited.

“Why aren’t you married, Miss Harris?” he said.  That moment is forged in my memory.

The class sucked in a collective breath.

Silence.

Miss Harris’ face seemed to be making up her mind about what to say and I glimpsed something vulnerable in her eyes.  Her face almost crumpled.

In a few seconds, her usual impersonal expression returned.

“If I wanted to get married, I’d have done that long ago, brother.”

I was pretty shocked that she called him “brother”–it wasn’t in a nice way.  It was downright sarcastic.

I told my mother and she said that she had heard that Miss Harris had lost a sweetheart in a war.

Aw, Miss Harris.

 

 

 

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

Cramer Hill resident

Lived in North Camden until eleven

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Retirement Reflections of a former Camden teacher who lives in Camden

For nineteen years of my life as a Camden City Public School teacher, May was a rush to the finish.  I’m not going to comment on the way everything changed in the last five or so years, but … I’ll say one word–sigh.  However, I have to say that I miss the kids.  Loved them so much.

This second May of retirement in Cramer Hill brings gratitude for time to concentrate on family and myself.  I’m not panting for the last day of school anymore.

 I got me a granddaughter in retirement!  Reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear, watching kids dance the Mexican Hat Dance on YouTube and playing ball make up my  most recent time with my grandbaby, Nora.  I do other grandmotherly things–picking up puzzle pieces, retrieving bits of veggies dropped from the high chair and changing poopy diapers.  I call those activities–Nora-cise.  I can’t let myself lie in bed with a Kindle all day–I need the Nora-cise.  It might be corny to say, but when she smooths my face with her little hand my heart fills with joy.  It’s perfect to love someone so much and to have that love returned so purely.  It’s like having my daughter Kim all over again. Double the fun.

My mom is ninety-one and I’m sixty-six.  Our relationship has changed since she got older.  (Oh, and I guess I got older, too?)  I brush her hair, help her get dressed and make food for her when I’m at her house.  This was odd for me when she first accepted help.  My mother was a fiercely independent woman and she never wanted us to make even a cup of coffee for her.  “I’ll do it myself!”  Now she enjoys having me make a cup of coffee for her, even if it’s too hot, too cold, too sweet, too weak or too strong.  We sit at the dining room table where she has reigned for decades and we color.  I color faster, but she colors more precisely.  “It’s good to be busy,”she says as she searches for the correct color.

I did cross off a few bucket list items that were “me” items. I took a nine-day solo vacation to Ireland and Switzerland and survived.  The worst that happened was that I lost my hat and spare gloves and the best was that I returned with a clear mind–once the jet lag disappeared.  I’m so glad that I did it–the night before I almost changed my mind!

It’s good to have personal projects that would have been hard to squeeze in as a busy teacher.  I made a cousins’ website and I am writing my blog.  I joined Ancestry.com and love what I am learning about world and American history, geography, immigration and family–never realized genealogy would be fascinating.

I haven’t become the perfect person that I imagined that I would be–sorry, world!   However,  I thank God for these two years and the innumerable blessings that they have brought.  All of them would need many more blogs to tell you.

I’m grateful to have this May in retirement.  Hugs to all the teachers that I left behind.  I salute you!  And…I salute retirement.

How about you, dear readers?  How is your May?

Love,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

Cramer Hill resident, former ESL teacher

 

 

 

 

 

Take this call, won’t ya? 1983 Cramer Hill

Dear Readers,

How can the years fly by so fast? Old photos will remind you.

I just found this photo of my daughter, Kim, in our first year in our house in Cramer Hill.  (I had lived in Cramer Hill from birth to twenty-three and then returned at age thirty-three to buy the house next to my family.)

Sadly, there is no date on the photo, but I’m pretty sure it’s 1983 when Kim was almost one year old. I thought that I’d NEVER forget when I took this photo.  Duh.  The good old K-Mart developing service did a decent job–the photo’s colors are still true.  Remember cameras, rolls of film, putting it in the envelope for K-Mart to send away?

This goofy, throwback Thursday photo makes me smile–my beige kitchen wall phone with the extra long cord that reached into the playroom. Dating myself.  Kim played on that oldish mattress with our dog, Juanita, and attempted to get Juanita interested in talking on the phone, but to no avail.

Juanita was an only pet, but she welcomed her “sister” Kim and wasn’t jealous as people had warned me that would happen.  Someone had even suggested that I get rid of my dog.  What?

Juanita lived to be almost seventeen, but her last year was in poor health.  Tears still come into my eyes remembering when we had to put her down–twenty-three years ago. Oh boy, I’m here at my kitchen table wiping tears on my T-shirt.

I wanted write a funny blog about time passing, but instead I’m crying.

The good news is that she had a wonderful life with us.

I miss the time when my daughter was a baby and snuggled with me to read books with the dog beside us.  However, now she has a one-year-old who snuggles with books and me and aw, how happy that makes me.

I haven’t been thirty-three since 1983.  Where did the years ago?  I guess getting out the old photos can remember me.

How about you, dear readers?  Are the years flying by for you, too?

Love,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

…still in Cramer Hill, but the playroom is a writing/Christmas wrapping storage room!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camden Easter Memories–1950’s

Dear Readers,

Holidays bring back childhood memories–here’s what I remember from memories of the fifties in North Camden.  Wishing all of you a Blessed Easter Day!

After we went to Sunday School at State Street Methodist Church, not even a block away from our house on Grant Street, we’d walk to visit our grandparents and relatives and somehow I always remember those Easter Sundays as sunny days. Did we skip from Grant Street to Fifth Street? I think so. We were pretty darn happy.

My mom always dressed up Billy (my brother) and me for Easter. Billy wore a suit and tie, a sporty fedora with a little feather and new shoes. I’d have a new dress and shoes, not to mention a hat, little pocketbook and gloves. Out would come the camera and we’d try not to squint as we got our pictures taken outside in the sun.

We’d ring Nana’s doorbell and the two dogs, old, rusty-colored, wobbly Jake (the lady’s man of North Camden) and young, black and white, nervous Fighter, would rush to the door to greet us with barks of joy. Nana would be there, telling the dogs to get down, wiping her hands on her apron and welcoming us into the house through the dim hallway and dining room into the kitchen.

Nana had a pot of percolated coffee on the stove for the adults and there was milk for us kids. Aunt Vera and she gave us big coconut filled chocolate eggs, jellybeans and Peeps! Aunt Vera got a knife and sliced a piece of the eggs for us. Talk about a sugar rush. And—we had baskets of candy and colored hardboiled eggs at home awaiting us.

PopPop sat in the living room with his pipe and crossword puzzles, exchanging a few friendly words with my parents. Pots of spring flowers crowded the top of the big TV because my family and my aunts and uncles brought flowers to them every Easter—lilies, hyacinths, tulips. The sweet smell overwhelmed the living room and mixed with pipe and cigarette smoke, aftershave and perfume. Palms were stuck in mirrors and frames from the previous Sunday.

My grandmother beamed as she showed us pot after pot of flowers. She sure did deserve them—the mother of thirteen. Now that I look back, I realize that she deserved so much more than what she had in her life.

I know that my aunts and uncles and cousins were there—the exact years? I can’t remember—let’s leave it at the fifties. There’s a photo somewhere of Cousin Kathy Wunsch and me. We took turns walking Fighter on brick paved Fifth Street, decked out in our Easter outfits. I do remember the aunts and sister-in-laws dressed up and in heels and the men in white shirts and probably jackets and ties. Many of them had attended Easter Mass at Holy Name Church a few blocks away.

Perhaps we had dinner or lunch there. That seems possible. I wish I could remember more. Maybe what I do remember is enough? It was a simple time. Glad I have those memories.

Now I’m a grandmother and my granddaughter will celebrate her first Easter tomorrow.. (What? At my age?  I’m only sixty-six.)  Only one kid, but, Kim, you’re as good as thirteen.  My grandmother beat me by twelve.  God bless her.  I remember her so much this Easter.

 

 

 

Back and missing the Irish breakfast

Dear Readers,

I was shocked to realize that I haven’t put out one of my blogs for almost a month, but life has been busy.

Pinch, pinch, pinch.  I still can’t believe that I took a two-week trip alone to Ireland, land of many of my ancestors, and Switzerland, land of my good friends, and also a few ancestors.  Now I’m back home in Cramer Hill and after a week of walking around in a fog (jet lag),  then I had to help my family more than usual because my brother got the flu.

There is so much I could say about my trip and I will in the next blog.  Today I’ll just say that the Irish breakfast is a generous one and I didn’t even take one-fifth of all the offerings.  I skipped the many choices of meat and oatmeals.  I did NOT skip the incredible fresh round rolls and the also incredible Irish butter.

I thought of my dad and how he would have loved having beans and tomatoes on his breakfast plate.  Maybe he’s getting them in heaven.  I thought of my mother and how she would love the fresh breads and butter–although she still does get Pepperidge Farm cinnamon raisin bread that she enjoys.

My husband would have liked the chocolate chip bread for sure.  My daughter would have been a fan of the oatmeal–something she used to eat at college after running with the softball team.  My son-in-law would have been ecstatic, as I was, to have a big teapot at breakfast.  Not those stingy pots that you get in most restaurants!

Mmmm.  The coffee was also good, hot and strong–everyone would have liked it.

It felt a little odd to eat alone every morning at first, but Jurys Inn Parnell Street in Dublin provided its hotel guests with newspapers and I do love my newspapers.  Irish politics, American politics and sports, sports and more sports filled the two newspapers that were there for the hotel restaurant guests.   Ashamed to say, but I figured out that rugby and soccer were definitely two different sports while over there!

There I was–in a “foreign” land–but able to read the newspapers–ha ha!  I do read English.  There were some newspaper columns in the Irish language and I am impressed that my ancestors spoke it long, long ago.  They must have been smart because it looks extremely difficult!  It doesn’t look a bit like English–and why should it?  I could not pick out one word.

So, anyway, dear readers, I’m back in the USA, recovered from jet lag and thinking about the Irish breakfast and newspapers.  I was alone, but with newspapers and thoughts of loved ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a photo today!

Dear Readers,

This morning I looked back at photos in my laptop and thought how glad I was that I took them.  So many memories. And now it’s so “cheap”—are you old enough to remember film–black and white or color?  Taking the film to K-Mart or Ritz Camera to be developed?  Waiting for the film to be developed?  Gnashing teeth over the photos that were blurred? People who shut their eyes? People with no heads?

When I retired, I imagined myself taking tons of photos with, NOT MY CELL PHONE, but a real camera.  I’d take photos of trees, flowers, rivers and birds.  Perhaps a few quirky photos.

However, most of the photos I’ve taken lately are people or pet photos…family blowing out birthday candles, granddaughter smiling, more of my granddaughter smiling, my dog sleeping, my cats sleeping…

The photo that I put up today is from a few years ago –trees in snow at Rittenhouse Square Park in Philadelphia, taken from a window of a restaurant across the street.  It is a tree photo, but still reminds me of the grilled salmon lunch with a good friend, a poet, Kay.

I’m smiling. Even my most generic photos have a story.

The moral of this tale is take a photo today!  Make a memory!

Love to all my readers, especially those who lived or live in Camden…but I love all you others, too…

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra, Cramer Hill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grade 2, North Camden, Reading about Twins!

The Grade Two classroom library in John S. Read School in North Camden drifted into my mind as my granddaughter fell asleep in my arms. She hadn’t wanted to sleep, but wanted me to read to her.   I took my book, Irish History for Dummies, away from her and we read her books.  Her eyelids fluttered.

I put her in her crib and she slept so I sat back in the rocker.  Would she be a girl who loved books like me?  I thought of the books about twins that had awaited me on the floor level shelves in Miss Robinson’s room. I was desperate for those books and I rushed messily through Think and Do workbook assignments and pages of addition and subtraction to read those books about kids all over the world.

It was satisfying to look up online that set of books from the 1950s –they did exist—not a figment of my imagination. I especially remember The Swiss Twins, The Dutch Twins, The Farm Twins, The Chinese Twins and my favorite, The Belgian Twins.   Lucy Fitch Perkins wrote most of them and I wish I could have told her how much pleasure they gave a little Camden girl.

Almost sixty years later, I remember the girl twin in Belgium who loved pickles. I have a vague memory that if she got into some small mischief or didn’t do her chores that she wouldn’t be allowed to have her pickle or to buy it.  Her twin, a boy, was sympathetic.  It’s funny what I can remember and what I don’t!

Those twin books gave me an early glimpse of lives outside of Camden. Thank you to Miss Robinson who never reprimanded me for hurrying through classwork to propel myself into other places of the world while my fellow pupils were carefully and neatly finishing the assignments.

I still love to read about different places in the world through mysteries, novels, biographies, autobiographies and memoirs set in different countries. And—travel guides! Those books bring the world to me in my home here in Cramer Hill.  The twin books  and my teacher’s leniency might have set off that interest?

If there was a moral to this tale, it might be to encourage a child to read. That child might remember you decades later and be a happy reader, too.

What teacher do you remember?

 

Love to my readers,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

Cramer Hill resident

Product of Camden City Public Schools

Birthday surprise

Dear Readers,

Okay, okay.  I turned sixty-six yesterday.  I didn’t want a party or a trip to Fiji.  (I’m lying about not wanting a trip to Fiji.)  Nor the ticker tape parades down River Road in Cramer Hill for my birthday as in previous years.  Joking.

Hey–did you ever see ticker tape?  I saw stock market ticker tape coming out of a machine as a kid in the fifties.  The paper pooled on the floor at a bank on Market Street in downtown Camden while my mom stood in line. No one came to look at it and I dared not touch it.  Would someone come to scoop it up and save it for parades?

However, I couldn’t turn down a  quick shopping trip with my daughter.  A birthday can’t be TOO laid back.  Girls of sixty-six just wanna have fun…at least, a little on a birthday….ha ha…thanks, Cindy Lauper.  Proud I remembered your name, Cindy.

As my daughter and I approached the exit of Target’s Cherry Hill store yesterday laden with bags that included my purchases, a humidifier (I’m turning into a piece of dried fruit lately) , two pairs of new gloves (I always lose them) and two pairs of new socks (my dog always chews them), I noticed people swiveling from  cellphones to the parking lot. One woman held out her cell to me and said, “Cherry Hill. Sunny, Windy, 29 degrees.”

Outside snow fell furiously and covered the cars and parking lot.  Not a ray of sunshine. What?  Customers turned to each other and said, “It’s not supposed to snow NOW.”   We felt betrayed by weather aps.

We got into the car and I said, “That was a birthday surprise.”  And, I thought, “Just as the fact that I’m sixty-six today.”

The snow disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.  Maybe a five-minute celebration of the anniversary of my birth.  You never know what you’ll get for your birthday.

Yesterday’s gone.  Today I’m used to being sixty-six.  It feels pretty good.

Love to all my readers,

Marguerite Ferra, Cramer Hill resident

PS  Thanks for all the Facebook birthday greetings.  I felt so loved and I am so blessed.

 

 

 

 

Why I Love My Grandbabygirl

Dear Readers,

Just in case you wondered why I love my little grandbabygirl on this particular cold day…  Here’s what I learned today about “Lego” big blocks.

1. You can clap them together.  Percussion!

2.  You can taste them.  Briefly.

3.  You can toss them.  Pretty far.

4.  You can crawl after the ones you tossed.  Grandma isn’t.

5.  You can lift them up high…shades of Cross Fit?

and after this block activity…you can take a nap.

Love to all my readers,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

Cramer Hill resident, retired teacher and besotted grandmother

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camden evening

Dear Readers,

Here I am in bed with my laptop having a Camden evening that doesn’t make the news.  I’m thinking how happy I am that my second eye surgery  (cataract surgeries, left and right) seems to be as successful as the first.  I do have another appointment to make the final judgment, but so far, I can only say WOW!  You may not believe that a city girl/old lady like me would have been nervous, but I was.  Vision is important–I couldn’t help but worry what happened if something went wrong? How about an earthquake during the surgery?

It’s raining outside and the wind is making my window rattle.  This evening photo wasn’t taken today–I did not dare to drive only twenty-four hours after surgery, but  I took the photo a few days ago at 36th and River Road in Cramer Hill.  A tractor trailer, maybe coming from Petty’s Island, was turning slowly and I had a chance to snap that beautiful Camden sky.

Along with my good news about my eyes, I have another little piece of joy–a new book came in today’s mail.  I thought that I ordered it on Kindle, but, I accidentally ordered it in paperback.  That’s fine.  I love a REAL book–paper pages–ahh. However, it saves space to have books on Kindle.  But, I am looking through this book and am enjoying this happy mistake.

Why We Write About Ourselves, Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature, edited by Meredith Maran, will be the book that I’ll read this week.  I skimmed the pieces and I found honest answers about why people write memoirs. Many favorite writers of mine (Anne Lamott, James McBride, Pat Conroy, Edwidge Danicat, Dani Shapiro) appear here.  I see other authors that I will read and perhaps I’ll jump into their memoirs, too.

How about you?  Have you ever thought about writing your memoir?  If so, I bet you’d enjoy this book.  By the way, I don’t know the editor and I found this book by chance on Amazon.  No kickbacks.

I’m going to rest my eye–poor dear–it’s been through surgery and it’s on a regime of eyedrops now.  I’ll read more tomorrow.  I’ll close my eyes and think about this piece of advice from Anne Lamott: “Everything that has happened to you is all yours.  Just write it. You can worry about the legal issues and the next bad holiday dinner later. Tell the story that’s in you to tell.”

Good night, dear Readers,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

Cramer Hill Resident

 

PS  Are YOU thinking of writing about YOUR life?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The simplest joys

Dear Readers,

When my daughter was nine months old and was toddling around our house in Cramer Hill, I thought she was the sun, the moon and the stars.  And she was.  And she still is more than thirty-two years later.  (I love you, Kim–in case you wondered.)

Now my granddaughter is nine months old and is crawling and almost walking around her parents’ house in the suburbs, I think she is the sun, the moon and the stars, and a universe or two.

After Nora ate her puree of squash and green beans in her high chair today, I took out her bowl that has a suction cup on the bottom, filled it half way with warm water and stuck it to the tray.  She splashed her hands in it and laughed so much that both of us filled with joy.

I did want to win that billion dollar lottery money a while ago, but it’s okay that I didn’t win.  Nora and I had a billion dollars worth of fun today.

Love to all my readers,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

Cramer Hill resident and grandmom

P.S.  Thank heaven for little girls.