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

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.

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

Billionaire?

Dear Readers,

Did you know that the billionaire author of the Harry Potter books got her idea to write about a young wizard on a four-ride (delayed) train ride? When my daughter and son-in-law asked me to go to Washington DC to watch the baby while they attended a wedding, I thought, “I’ll take the train. Perhaps what worked for J. K. Rowling will work for me.”

I booked my trip, senior fare, business class. This weekend was my summer vacation so I decided that I could splurge on the extra twenty-five dollars to have enough leg room in business class. The Philly-DC ride is only two hours so I’d only get half of the creative thinking time needed by J.K.R. so why not maximize the time by being comfy? Business class is always somewhat quieter, too.

The “kids” were taking me home in the car so I wouldn’t have another train ride for a little while. I would take advantage of every minute in business class.

My husband, Carlos, drove me to the NJ Transit Cherry Hill station that is behind the Shop-Rite to catch the 5:42 a.m. Yes, 5:42 a.m. We got up at 4:30 a.m. from our beds in Cramer Hill to make sure that I wouldn’t miss it and I didn’t. The senior fare was $1.50. What a bargain! Sometimes it’s almost worth getting old. Almost.

That train to Philly was quiet. Passengers looked stunned that they were out of bed that early. At least, I was.

When I arrived at 30th Street Station, I felt vacation-y. You know that tired, but excited, anticipatory feeling? The woman at the tickets told me that I could catch the very next train. Business class. No extra cost. There were seats. I would not have to wait until the 8:40 a.m. train. Well, okey-dokey. I’d have more time to breakfast in Union Square, my favorite train station.

My fellow passengers and I descended into the ground via the escalator, down to the platform. We waited. And waited. And waited.

I thought about money and J. K. Rowling. Who wouldn’t like to become a billionaire? However, I did read that sometimes Ms. Rowling isn’t a full billionaire because she gives so much money to charity. That’s a problem that I wouldn’t mind.  Think of the headlines, “CAMDEN WOMAN NO LONGER BILLIONAIRE BECAUSE SHE GIVES SO MUCH TO CHARITY!”

Female passengers kept touching their hair-dos because it was warm and humid down there. The humidity overcame hair spray. ( I did notice that the men weren’t touching their heads.Most of the men were bald.  But, looking prosperous!) Luckily, I hadn’t done anything fancy—my hair-do had been the 4:30 a.m. wash and brush special.

Where was the train? I was getting bored. I tried to create a story while I surveyed the others who were waiting impatiently, but politely. People folded newspapers and tucked them under their arms, tapped feet and complained that the train was late.

A train employee strutted through groups of disgruntled passengers and shouted out, “Don’t kill the messenger. I’m only the messenger. You have to board another train because your train had a problem.”

We trooped upstairs and  looked at each other in despair, but, in a few minutes, we trooped back down to board the ACELA. The fast train. The nicest train. The most expensive train! At no extra cost and with an even earlier arrival into DC!

Oops! Less time for me to be J. K. Rowling. I knew that I would have to make the most of every minute on the train. I wasn’t going to have four hours, not even two full hours to get an idea for something to write. At least, twenty minutes less. I had to focus, focus, focus while on the train. No looking out the window, no chatting with other passengers, no thinking about possible frizzy hair.

I blissed in the ACELA silence of people working on laptops or staring into cell phones. The perfect atmosphere to get an idea.  I wondered if J. K. Rowling and I could be BFFs.

But, I felt myself blinking uncontrollably.

The next thing I knew a voice came over the speaker, “Last stop. Washington, DC.”

Take time and pet the cat

Dear Readers,

I must admit that I didn’t watch the Republican debate on TV the other other night so I thought I’d check out the highlights in the newspaper.  However, I spread the New York TImes (my weekend treat) on the table and Bello jumped on the debaters’ photos.

At about eight months old, Bello staggered around my Cramer Hill neighborhood, sick and limping.  He was all bones.  Now he’s a healthy, good-looking, beloved cat who dares to jump on my newspaper.  We’ve had him for a few years now and he enjoys a life of nice cat food, treats, medical care, two cat “sisters” and two human servants, my husband and me.

We always say he’s our most grateful Cramer Hill rescue cat.  Just think!   Our handsome boy saved me from reading about political debate, he reminded me how much he loves to be with me and he urged me to take time not to smell the roses or to read about politicians, but to take time to pet the cat.

After he raised his head for me to pet, he decided to roll over and let me rub his belly–the ultimate in cat trust.  I petted him until our dog, Finn, pranced into the room, and then he sat up and eyed his canine friend.

How could I have ever thought that cats were not as lovely as dogs?  They are, they are really lovely pets.  Pets mean extra work and they mean additional expense, but the love that can be shared between humans and pets is priceless.  I love you, Bello!

Have you ever rescued an animal and adopted it?  The shelters have many dogs and cats who need a home.  You don’t have to wait for one to walk down your back driveway and into your heart. Check out a shelter!

Love to all readers,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra

Retired teacher in Cramer Hill

Funny things are everywhere?

From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.

Dr. Seuss

Dear Readers,

I have to disagree with Dr. Seuss. Funny things are not everywhere, but I wish they were. Think of the news.  Who wants to watch it before you sleep or when you wake up? Oh no. TV news stations stick in a few cheery stories to relieve the horror, but not enough to make me say that funny things are everywhere.

I woke up at 4:30 this morning—that was not funny—my dog hit me with his paw and nudged my head with his—saying he had to go out, why at that early hour? I tried to sleep after he came back in, no luck so I contemplated going downstairs for a piece of cake, but I don’t keep sweets in the house because I might eat cake at 4:30 a.m. I couldn’t go back to sleep so I looked at Facebook instead of throwing in a load of laundry, mopping the kitchen floor or paying bills. Who wouldn’t?

Funny things do appear on Facebook, I must admit.  It’s my go-to source for a laugh.

I saw a cartoon post saying something like why do people post wedding photos, but not divorce photos? I thought, “Certainly divorce photos wouldn’t be for celebration, not usually.”

However, I laughed when I read someone’s comment, When your ex says, ‘You’ll never find anyone like me.’ Well, that’s the point.”

 It’s not happy funny, but sort of funny if you’ve been divorced and heard that line….”You’ll never find anyone like me.”   That’s right.  Lucky me.

Facebook kitten, puppy and baby videos do make me laugh. Innocent, happy funny. I don’t care at all if they’re corny. Did you see the one this morning with two dogs carrying a long branch together? The branch manager and assistant branch manager?

In the early morning fog of my brain, thinking of funny, something from long ago pops up. In church at the end of the service, a new acolyte was trying to put out the last candle in the candelabra This tall boy kept trying and trying, trying to wield that long-handled candle snuffer.  From my pew,  I imagined how painful this was for him, knowing that the entire congregation was watching and hoping he could put it out so that the service would be over and they could rush home to lunch and football on TV.

He placed the candle snuffer on the remaining flame over and over again, but that little bit of fire wouldn’t go out. I agonized with him.

An older church member stood up about to try to help, but the altar boy figured out what to do. He stood on his toes and blew out the flame. Everyone laughed kindly.  Sympathy, appreciation and relief funny.

Sigh. It’s too late to try to go back to sleep. Rise and shine and I’m thinking that I should write a funny book. Someone advised that you should write the book that you want to read.  Hmm.

Anyway, funny… I do love funny stuff. Do you have any funny books to recommend? Any funny little stories to share?

Love to my readers from Cramer Hill and everywhere,

Marguerite (Wunsch) Ferra—writing from Cramer Hill and hoping for a funny (in the best way) day!

Morning dangers in Cramer Hill resident’s home

Dear Readers,

Some ex-Camdenites follow Facebook websites to reminisce, others to offer history and many to mourn that Camden is “not what it used to be.”  It’s not what it used to be.  But, it’s weird to think that everyone who lives here is constant peril.

I live in Cramer Hill–this is what happened here this morning. Assess my level of danger if you will.   I got up late and I had breakfast while my husband tried to get me to taste kefir.  His exact words, “I invite you to enjoy kefir because it’s supposed to be good for you.”   The bottle proclaimed, “1% LOWFAT CULTURED MILK.”  I do not like milk.

Because I’m so slick, I said, “I invite you to enjoy broccoli, mushrooms and cucumbers.”  He laughed because he doesn’t like any of them.

We did a few chores and then my husband left to do an errand.

I was alone in the house here in Camden.  Things did happen.  A young man knocked at the door and my dog barked ferociously at him.  What did this stranger want?  “I’m selling cakes for my church.”

Uh, no thanks.  I pulled the dog away.  After all, the young guy was only selling cakes and not chocolate-covered raisins.  (Inside joke–my dog had gotten very sick with them recently.)

That harrowing adventure over, I poured myself a Coca-cola (the soft drink, not the bad coke) and had opened the New York Times Book Review that arrives at my house on Saturday mornings.  I thought it frightening because I found two dark memoirs (at least) that I will order–another blow to my pocketbook. In case you’re interested:   Bastards by Mary Anna King–the story of a young girl in South Jersey who watches her parents give away her siblings for adoption and then she is sent away at seven… and then Whipping Boy, The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully–the story of a man who tracks down his childhood bully and reunites with him via social media.

The danger continued as I found one more book to order:  Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec, a whodunit set in France.  I love books set in France. I studied French in college and I feel justified that I studied it when I recognize French words thrown in books–Merci beaucoup!  Ou sont les toilettes?  Ooh la la!

I was saved from penury by our big sweetie Camden cat, Bello, who jumped on the table and spread out on the book review and, valiantly,  he would not budge.  Bello to the rescue!  My bank account thanks him.

Now my Camden morning is over.  Who knows what might happen next?  Whoa….   Here’s what is happening–up to the minute news!  My dog runs to pick up his favorite toy from Halloween, an orange and black braid.  I guess he wants to be ready to smack any intruder with it?

Okay, okay.  I know there are bad things happening in Camden, but, NOT EVERY DAY…  Sometimes it’s just plain peaceful.

Love to all my readers,

Marguerite Ferra, Cramer Hill resident

BEWARE—— Raisinettes can lead to canine emergency

Dear Readers,

CHOCOLATE AND RAISINS ARE DANGEROUS TO DOGS!

On Friday night about eight, I sat on the bed with my laptop and a bag of dark chocolate Raisinettes with maybe a palmfull left. Our dog, Finn, wasn’t in the bedroom.  I got up to remind my husband who was in his office that we had planned to spruce up the house on Saturday morning.  After a minute or two of conversation, I returned to find Finn on the bed with the bag of Raisinettes.  There were only a few left.  He raised his eyes guiltily.

I freaked out.  Chocolate is bad for dog and raisins worse.  I knew our vet was closed.  I called the ASPCA Poison Control and they answered promptly after getting my credit card number.  We followed their advice–my husband drove to Walgreen’s to buy the three-percent hydrogen peroxide.

Finn took it and  ALERT…it’s going to be gross….vomited and we counted the times (two) and the number of Raisinettes (seventy) and reported by to Poison Control.  They advised us to take him to an emergency hospital immediately.  He vomited again  (twelve more)…

Off we went to the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Hospital in the dark and we drove past it twice.   Finn freaked out and barked at everyone in the hospital.  The number of emergency patients grew and grew.  We waited and waited in an area away from other patients since Finn’s barking didn’t help other pets and their owners.

We almost cried, too, when we saw a young couple come in with their big beautiful dog and they had to leave crying without their dog.  We didn’t know what happened, but the dog seemed to be only a few years old. I saw staff run fast to the back and some hours later, they apologized for our wait and wore sad faces.

The TV on the wall showed the same NBC special over and over–about life in various American prisons.  We ended up watching that nasty show for hours.

The doctor gave him sedatives.  Finn received fluids.  They took a blood test to make sure he wasn’t going into kidney failure. They injected him with something to counteract the sedative.  He wasn’t happy, poor boy.

We drove away at daylight and were scheduled to go back in the afternoon.

Too tired to face Philadelphia traffic, we took Finn to the Mount Laurel Animal Emergency Hospital that afternoon. (Saturday!) He again received fluids and a blood test, but was calm at this hospital, no sedatives needed.  We left Mount Laurel for Camden and couldn’t decide if we were more tired or more hungry. Since we couldn’t sleep in the car, we stopped at a McDonald’s drive-through.

Finn is scheduled for another blood test at six p.m. today at Mount Laurel to check his kidney levels.  (I forget the right word–but they must make sure that the raisins didn’t affect his kidneys.)  He’s exhausted and we’re exhausted, too.   However, our boy was lucky to get excellent medical care, no matter how scary or awkward it was for him.

We hope that this test will be normal (the others were in the normal range, but they must test for a few days) and that this little nightmare will be over.

So, please, beware of chocolate and raisins if you have a dog.  I feel guilty about my moment of carelessness and I’m thankful that he will be okay (hopefully, please, dear God) because we love him so much.

Marguerite Ferra, writing guiltily and tired from Cramer Hill

45 years ago? Cramer Hill girl gets on plane

No! It Can’t Be Forty-Five Years Ago!

Dear Readers,

I can’t remember where my keys are, but I remember July 10th is the anniversary of my first plane ride, my first trip to Europe and my first time to live abroad. I found out how terrible my French was! I had the time of my life—a naïve Cramer Hill girl in Europe with the hugest suitcase packed with new clothing, billion-page French-English dictionary and letter paper.

About twenty French students from Rutgers University, Camden, traveled with Madame Alminde and her husband and little son, Russell.  (If you read this somehow, Madame Alminde, I hope that I didn’t give you any gray hair.)  With them, I saw the Alps!  Swiss lakes!  Bluest skies!   Switzerland!  Italy!  France!

I thought that I’d return to Europe often, never thinking that the U.S. dollar wouldn’t always be spectacular, never thinking that life would get responsible, never thinking that I’d get older and never imagining that even summer weeks abroad weren’t going to happen again.  Who would believe that I’d be sixty-five and not wear mini-skirts and not have long hair?

Those six weeks in Lausanne, Switzerland in the Hotel Alpha-Palmiers with my roommates, Sue, Linda and Bonnie, remain among favorite memories. Then, there was a week in France—definitely another favorite memory when I traveled a bit with a French friend.

Sue and I took a day off from our studies at the University of Lausanne to fly to Rome—what jet-setters we were!  (Think–the USD was fabulous then.)   Trudy, Linda and Zana took sidetrips, too, perhaps to Venice? It was a time when the world (at least, I thought so) was safe and all people were good.

The music! of 1970! The Simon and Garfunkel hit, El Condor Pasa, makes me think of the beautiful voice of my roommate, Linda, and how she sang it as we walked to our hotel from a night in a little café. The Beatles’ song, Good Night, brings back an evening in a little disco down the street where we danced innocently with our American and international friends.

I couldn’t imagine then what a pure and lovely time that was and would never be duplicated. We had time to enjoy every moment with friends with no distractions. No one was checking a cell phone or talking on a cell phone. I don’t think that I used a phone once. Letters, however, were important, though. Paper and pen! Stamps and envelopes! Retro, right?

We met kids from all over the world and one of our Swiss friends, Bruno, and his lovely girlfriend, Ruth, have remained my friends. They married and had two daughters. They’ve visited me here in Camden, New Jersey and we’ve stayed with them in Widen, Switzerland. (Widen is nicer—by far!)   We’ve traveled with them here in the USA and Canada so our daughters know each other. We exchange photos of our grandchildren.

Our friend, Stanley Straiges, was on that trip and he was a wonderful part of that summer. He passed away about twenty years ago. I can’t neglect mentioning his name because he made those weeks even more fun with his ready smile and sense of humor.  Like many of us, he became a teacher and he was beloved in his schools in Camden.  The best friend that anyone could want… Miss you, Stan.

I don’t have one of my own photos to post—I had everything in slides. I should go down to the basement and see if I can find one of those slide carousels to see if the slides have survived the decades.  Again, retro…

How blessed I was to have that opportunity. I took a student loan to have that trip and it was the best money that I ever spent. I wish every Camden kid could have that experience.

I don’t know how much French I learned, but I made memories that remain after forty-five years.  Here I am, smiling and smiling, just thinking about that sortie out of Camden and to Lausanne.

AND!!!!!!! Happy Birthday, Linda. How cool it was that we made that trip on your 20th birthday.

Love from Cramer Hill

Enjoying my memories and thinking of dear friends today

Marguerite Wunsch Ferra

A Camden man remembered…Happy Birthday, Dad…

Dear Readers,

I kept thinking all month, “I have to get Dad a birthday card,” but then I remembered that he was gone. He always liked cards with a boat or a fisherman or a lighthouse. He loved the Jersey shore.

Today is his birthday and he would have been ninety-five if he had lived twelve more years.

My dad, Bill Wunsch, Sr., was a Camden guy. He was born here, went to school here, married here, worked mostly here, raised three kids here and died here.

He served in the CCC’s, the Civilian Conservation Corps where he fought forest fires in Montana. Then, he again served his country in World War II, laid cable for radar in New Guinea jungle. He came back home to North Camden with his hair blond from the sun and his skin yellow from malaria, my mother told us.

Dad worked at Magnetic Metals in Cramer Hill and he retired from there. He worked in annealing and then in shipping. He left early for work, about an extra half hour, because he never wanted to be late. My mom did the same when she worked for Bell Telephone.

My mom is ninety, ninety-one in September. She’s napping in the next room of this brick split-level row house that they bought, brand-new, in Cramer Hill in 1961 How proud my dad and mom were! We left our tiny row house in North Camden for the big time.

No one here has mentioned Dad’s birthday. Maybe they forgot or they just don’t want to mention it and upset my mother. She took good care of him when he got Alzheimer’s—he called it “Old-Timers.” He used to say, “I can’t remember that—you know that I’ve got that “Old-Timers.”

Sometimes I remember the evening he was at my house next door, petting my cats who always ran to him and jumped in his lap. My Rottweiler-Shepherd, Cookie, tried to get on the sofa, too, and nudge off cats to sit on his lap. “They all love me so much, I think, that they’re jealous,” he said and grinned.

He also told me that night, out of the blue, and he was a man who didn’t say much about feelings, that he loved my mom and didn’t want her to die. He added that he didn’t want to die, either. He died three weeks later in the hospital.

Aw, Dad. I miss you. Happy Birthday! Maybe you’re fishing in heaven.

Remembering Rose from sewing class–Veterans Memorial Junior High School

Dear Readers,

Frankly, I hadn’t seen Rose since graduation, but I remembered her well and liked her Facebook posts–family photos, support for the police and military and funny cartoons.  We wished each other Happy Birthday on Facebook and knew each other as adults through Facebook.  Some months ago, someone put up a photo of Rose with two friends–perhaps taken during our days at Woodrow Wilson High.  What a lovely girl with a shy, sweet smile and beautiful, long-lashed eyes and she spoke with a low voice–I think that she sang as an alto in Girls Chorus in junior high.

I’m sorting through the billions of faint and assorted memories of sixty-five years and one that comes up is Rose joking in sewing class at Veterans Memorial Junior High in Cramer Hill.  There were never enough machines that worked so the girls waiting for machines would do homework, chat or play hangman.  I remember waiting with Rose and a few other girls and laughing at her jokes. We enjoyed her dry sense of humor–what we laughed about, I can’t remember.  However, I remember her as a girl greatly liked by friends.

Rest in peace, Rose.  Sincere condolences to your family and all who loved you.

Marguerite Ferra, Veterans Memorial Junior High and Woodrow Wilson High, Camden, NJ

Did you sing, “Oo ee oo ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang!” Witch Doctor song 1958

Dear Readers,

When you try to make a baby laugh, do you sing?  I forgot that I had sung the witch doctor song, “Oo ee oo ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang!” to my daughter long ago. But, when I sang it to my two-month-old granddaughter the other day, my daughter chimed in.  I knew she had to learn the song from me because…..where else?  “Oo ee oo ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang”  came from my childhood in North Camden.

Kim and I sang it to Nora and my son-in-law laughed. Sometimes those fun moments pop up out of nowhere.

I looked up the song on YouTube and Wikipedia..  This funny, speeded-up song came out in 1958 which seemed right because I remember listening to it in a neighbor’s living room on Grant Street in North Camden when I was eight.  The teen-age girl who owned the record played it several times for her brother and sisters and I memorized the words on one of those aimless summer nights where kids hung out with neighbor kids.

Funny what you remember and unwittingly pass down.  Maybe Nora will sing , “Oo ee oo ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang!” to a baby one day?

Do you know this song?

One of those Camden days that I’ll never forget!

Dear Readers,

Yesterday I burst with pride when Frantz Lozier received his diploma at Rutgers Camden, my alma mater.  I met Frantz when he came to “the refugee office” at Catholic Community Services about twenty years ago and he was only five.  I asked if I could take Frantz and his friend, Souvenir, to lunch and we bonded over hoagies.  They spoke Haitian Creole and I spoke a bit of French and we managed happily.

It’s been a blessing that I have been able to follow the lives of many of my students and to share in their success stories.

How wonderful that Marc Henry Monace, another childhood friend of Frantz, drove from North Carolina to witness his friend’s graduation!  Marc Henry and Frantz drove me back to my daughter’s home to say hello. The three of them , Kim, Frantz and Marc Henry, had spent many years together in church and in the GLEAM program.  They admired my granddaughter and regretted having to leave before their old friend, Kim’s husband,  Lon, got back from work.

Ah, to be with the kids that you love!  All grown-up and doing well!  Cheers to Camden kids.

First spring of retirement, my granddaughter and do you want to write, too?

Dear Readers,

Oops, I almost wrote “Dear Retirement,”—seriously.  I guess that’s what is on my mind this cold spring day in Cramer Hill.

It’s my first spring as a retiree.  How very, very, very nice to miss all the frantic school teacher spring of testing, testing and more testing and paperwork, paperwork and more  paperwork.  I do miss the kids, but…

Perhaps retirement will become old hat to me next year.  But, so far, it’s a year of “firsts”—first fall of getting up late, first winter of not driving to work in the snow, first spring of not dreading all the testing in the school.  Can you guess that I feel that all the testing is excessive?

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The best first is my granddaughter.  Yesterday she took her first trip to Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Cherry Hill, an establishment that has been kept going financially because of my support.  (Kidding, almost.) Little Nora enjoyed being pushed around the aisles of books by her mom while I enjoyed looking at the books and buying a few.  My favorite one that I bought?  Memoir Writing for Dummies.

No, I don’t know the author, Ryan G. Van Cleave…  It’s just a good book and it’s NOT for dummies.  How can you be a dummy if you want to learn how to do something?  How can you be a dummy if you want to write?  How can you be a dummy if you write?

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By the way, dear readers, I facilitate a writing workshop, Woodland Writers, and I have openings.  We have a friendly, generous and interesting group of people.  Look up my website:  woodlandwriters.com.   Let me know if you are interested.  We have all levels of writing experience and every one’s efforts are valued and appreciated. You would be welcomed!

Haven’t you thought about writing about your grandmother, your trip to the Grand Canyon, your bunion operation, your best friend who lives on Mars or your childhood in Camden?  Or, your childhood anywhere?  Childhood stories are great.

Speaking of firsts, the first time I joined a writing workshop, I was terrified, but figured that I could only improve and I did.  I enjoyed it so much that it became one of the best parts of my life.  I learned that there was nothing to fear, especially in a group that uses the Amherst Writers & Artists philosophy that supports and encourages writers.  No terror involved!  Woodland Writers uses this method of workshop writing and it provides a comfortable experience for all.

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So–I’m going to put on some socks  (brr!  and this is May?)  and go to see my granddaughter.  It’s a fine day here in Cramer Hill and it’s especially fine because it’s my first spring of retirement.  Can you believe that I worried that I might be bored?  Ha ha.  Not for a minute.

Life is amazing…four generations

Dear Readers,

What?

Me, a young mother of sixty-five, now has an adult daughter who has a newborn daughter?  Me, a young daughter of sixty-five, now has a mother of ninety?  Sort of amazing, isn’t it?  I know that this happens all the time, but to me?

Yesterday four generations of fearless (mostly) women from ninety years to three weeks met in my mom’s Cramer Hill dining room.   Marguerite, Marguerite, Kim and Nora–my mom, me, my daughter and granddaughter…

Great-grandmother met her great-granddaughter for the first time and cooed in delight. She sang songs that she made up on the spot for her first great-grandchild.  Nora blinked and slept.  My daughter busied herself in the kitchen when my husband, Carlos, and I wrestled on the dining room carpet–the winner to hold the baby first.  (Nah, that’s a joke, but not by much.)  My brother, Bill, smiled proudly at his first great-niece and joined us in the photo.

When I moved from North Camden to this row house in Cramer Hill in 1961, age eleven, I never thought that I’d be there in 2015 as Number Two of four generations getting our photo taken.  I never imagined that I could write about such a day and put it out for all the world to read.

Dang!  Life is amazing.

Response to blog about life in Camden! Wowee!

Dear Readers,

Hey!   Did you read Friday’s blog?  The numbers of  viewers of Friday’s blog about a bit of ordinary life in Camden surprised me!   More than one hundred…  Why?   I mentioned my blog on Bruce Smith’s Facebook site about Camden.  Thanks, Bruce, for your site that connects Camden people, past and present.

People like to remember the waffle man, the clothes prop man, the pony ride, stick ball, panzarottis…  All are part of my North Camden/Cramer Hill childhood memories, too.

However, I get to make Camden memories every day because I live in Cramer Hill.  This afternoon I’m taking a break from paring down papers and possessions.  How excruciating it is to throw away copies of essays and stories written by my little English as a Second Language students or copies of their poems.  My Camden City Public School elementary students stay in my mind and their handwritten papers stir up the love that I still have for them.

Or, the letters that they wrote me…   Throw them out?  Some are from years ago, but, I’m retired and I can’t keep them all.  One bunch of letters that I just retrieved from the wastebasket showed how much English that they learned in the year or two or three that they had been in the English-speaking USA.

Here’s a bit from a shy, frail girl that I had maybe three or four years ago.  She whispered  and I almost was ready to get a hearing aid to hear what she was saying and I remember that she wanted to be a vet.

   I want to say thank you for all the things that you had teach me.  You were always nice, kind and good to me. so that why I was always nice, kind and good to you.  You always talk to us about your cats.  How bad they were and good.

A homesick boy new from Puerto Rico wrote:

  You are a good, not old teacher. Your mother might love you, but I love you more than your mother does.  If you come to Puerto Rico, you can be friend with my mother. What I like of you is when you talk it is beautiful, more beautiful than a beautiful woman.

An often grumpy boy from a cheerful Mexican family who claimed he didn’t like to write wrote a long letter telling me about his summer plans with his family ended his letter saying:

I’m going to never forget you.

All elementary school teachers get these kinds of letters and notes.  They usually keep them because they make up for the hardships of teaching and there are many hardships.  I guess I can’t throw them out, not all, at least.

I love these Camden memories.

Sincerely,

Marguerite Ferra, retired from Wiggins College Preparatory Laboratory Family School, Camden

PS  How do you like that long name?  Ha ha.

]

Aw, those awful Google Alerts about Camden!

Dear Readers,

I read Google Alerts for the City of Camden and they are awful. Mostly very bad news about some people in Camden. Bad and sad news.

But, how I wish that people who don’t live here in Camden know that thousands  of good and ordinary people live here. Believe me. 

Listen!   Here’s a typical Camden slice of life for me, a retired teacher..   Yesterday morning I took my ten-month-old dog, Finn, for a walk in Von Neida Park in the Cramer Hill section of Camden. As he dragged me down the hill with his forty-two-pound puppy energy, my neighbors laughed and waved to us…

My neighbors were outside enjoying the sunshine—not selling or buying drugs, nor shooting each other, nor doing anything that was not lovely. They swept the little patios and driveways, they washed cars and they scrubbed barbeque grills. They welcomed grandchildren into their arms. They asked me about my dog and said he was beautiful. (True.)

Most neighbors weren’t home, though, because they were working to maintain their family and property.  Their kids have nice manners  when they play outside and have often shoveled our walks. My neighbors care for little gardens.

Don’t think I am a Pollyanna about living or working in Camden—I’ve had my car window broken twice as a teacher in Camden City Public Schools, once across from the former Lanning-Fetters building and once across from Wiggins College Preparatory Laboratory Family School. I had my purse snatched twenty years ago in front of the former Kim’s Market—if you’re from the old days, it was an appliance store on 27th and High Streets in East Camden.

In 1983, someone stole my new red (sob!) Toyota Celica in front of my mom’s house in Cramer Hill. Going back to the days of my youth, my purse was stolen at a party in the Student Center at Rutgers Camden…1969!

Frankly, lots of bad things have happened here, but Camden seems to be safer with more police officers—at least, here in Cramer Hill where I live.

However, please know that thousands of decent people live in Camden—ordinary people who work, take care of their homes, worship, take good care of their children and elders and even walk their dogs on sunny March days.  Ordinary good people who never make the news.