• Donna Brown

Deer, summertime, ‘Feast Week’ and more



Well, my persistent husband has finally solved his deer problem and the garden is overflowing with lettuce, swiss chard, carrots, radishes, squash and cucumbers. The six foot fence from Deer Busters made no difference, so after some research he added two more feet topped with an electrified wire, but for Al that was not enough. Attached to the wire he added strips of aluminum foil spread with peanut butter. Ever since this addition, not one plant has been nibbled. Who knew Bambi liked peanut butter?


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Last week my granddaughter finished kindergarten and we were both ecstatic that COVID school is over. Zoom was awful for students and teachers alike. We should all say emphatically, “Never again will we put our children through this isolation.” And hopefully, we can have a mask burning before school resumes in September.


Ellie and I had been longing for summertime and we celebrated by going to the library for a library card. Yes, a coveted card that will allow her to enter into the magical world of unlimited books. Ellie proudly filled out the form herself and signed her card. She chose four books and slipped her card into her purse, vowing to read 100 books this summer. When we arrived at home, she took out her card, stared dreamily at it and said, “You know Grammom, now that I have a library card, it won’t be long before I get my driver’s license.” And she is right, it will be in a blink of an eye.


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So, the carnival is back! I can’t help but love the week of the 16th of July. As a child my family went once a year and always on an off day, so I never knew the magic of the saints in the procession and the crowds of the faithful. My parents took us to enjoy several rides and get ice cream or cotton candy. We never played the games, never saw the side shows of odd animals, the girl who turned into a gorilla or watched the motorcycles race around that giant barrel. We never had sausage and pepper sandwiches or Italian water ice.


At school I’d listen to my classmates tell of the nightly festivities and wonderful traditions. Families gathered and cousins roamed the carnival nightly. Not until I was in eighth grade did I witness the festival for myself. My mother was taking evening classes at Atlantic Community College and for once my father was home for the night to watch my younger siblings. Usually as editor of the Hammonton News, he would be out covering meetings.


It was a hot July 16th and my best friend, Lori Peowie came over. She lived a block away and often came to help me care for my younger brothers. She suggested we go to the carnival. So, knowing that I was never allowed to go to the carnival without my parents, I told my father my first lie of omission. (I must insert here that over the years I have honed the skill of lies of omission and now have mastered the art to perfection. I never lie but feel that if I don’t tell all and it hurts no one, what is the harm? My husband disagrees, but I say God will figure it all out.)


Anyway, that night I said we were going for a walk and would be back before dark. Lori and I spent most of our spare time walking. Walking to Burger Chef for fries or to Grants on the Pike for cherry Tootsie Pops, or to the library for romance novels, or Furlow’s 5 and 10 to peruse the patterns and fabric. As soon as we were out the door, we almost ran to Third Street.


I could not believe what I saw. Hammonton had turned into a metropolis, with crowds of people everywhere. There was an old man in a tuxedo playing an accordion in the middle of the street and women dressed in their finest were dancing around him. There were old women all in black with huge candles and venders with everything Italian. Rosaries, flags, T-shirts, medallions and “Kiss me I’m Italian” pins called out to me. There were spicy aromas coming from every direction and mingling so perfectly to enhance the sights surrounding me. I had never realized that this type of heaven on earth existed, and now I was part of it.


Lori and I sat on Saint Joe’s steps in twilight, eating our Italian water ice, lemon by the way, and I had an epiphany. If this is what Italians did, then I wanted to profess my allegiance immediately. I was going to, from that moment on, be Italian. Now I am half Italian, but I grew up in a non-Italian home. My Italian heritage was never mentioned, but that night I became a full-fledged Italian.



Donna Brown is a former Hammonton Middle School librarian and a columnist for The Gazette. To reach Donna Brown, send an email to wescoat@comcast.net.