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


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.

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

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

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,


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

Life is amazing…four generations

Dear Readers,


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.