The Journal

Placing my hand on the bricks of Mary’s house in South Philly.

Mom and I went down to South Philly to walk the path that Mary had walked. I wanted to place my hands on the bricks of her home—where she lived when she met Joseph in 1891, and her life turned upside down.

South Philly probably hasn’t changed much since the day the police found her struggling by the river, three crying children in tow. Mom’s sister Rita lives there with her husband, a few blocks from the Delaware. Amazing to think if the officer hadn’t intervened that night, Rita, Mom, me—we wouldn’t even exist. I marvel at the thought.

 We walked around the neighborhood, what used to be called Southwark. It was November and cold—but sunny too—so the temperature was comfortable. Aunt Rita pointed out her favorite shops and restaurants and discussed the area’s cultural events and why she and Uncle Sal love living there.

I spotted this pretty journal—the one I’m writing in now—in her favorite paper goods shop tucked behind a few other items on a shelf, and I loved it immediately. I could picture writing in it, enjoying the soft paper, the smooth cover, the vibrant greens, yellows, and—my favorite—orange popping from the center of the floral print. The notebook was a little pricey and just out of my budget at the time.  Mom noticed me place it back lovingly on the shelf. Perhaps I commented on passing.  “Maybe next time,” I may have said.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon in my Aunt and Uncle’s cozy flat on South 2nd Street. What a pleasant visit where we enjoyed take-out and shared our recent creative accomplishments. Aunt Rita showed her artisanal ornaments, expertly crafted from the pages of antique books. Mom pointed out the city-scape painting she had gifted her sister, proudly displayed in the well-appointed, if tiny, front room. Reciting his poem in a clipped cadence, my uncle lamented the trials of our country’s political divide.

To contribute to the impromptu family art festival, I read the prologue of my manuscript. I’d never read it aloud before. I felt humming through my veins with each word—a soul awakening.  This is my story, I realized. It’s not just Mary’s story, but mine, Mom’s, Aunt Rita’s, and Nana’s, and now is the time to bring the story into the light—to look at it, learn from our past, and protect our future.

I’ll always remember that cold and sunny November day with fondness. It had been a long time since I’d seen my extended family, and it felt good to belong to a larger group again.

The other day, months after that lovely visit, Mom popped over on her way to see a friend. Smiling and without a preamble, she handed me the coveted journal. There they were—the orange flowers jumping off the cover and the smooth pages inviting me in, waiting to be filled.

What a treasure. 

I looked at her, eyebrows raised. After our visit, Mom had arranged for Aunt Rita to pick it up from her favorite paper goods shop in her South Philly neighborhood, blocks away from the river where my great-grandmother nearly drowned as a child—from where her mother, Mary, had lost her mind, her family, and her freedom all in one night.

I will tell Mary’s story.  She has not been forgotten. 

She belongs to us.

The journal mom bought me.

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28 thoughts on “The Journal

  1. Gerry Pacitti

    Thank you for doing this. I am hooked already.
    Can’nt wait to read the book and SEE THE MOVIE!!
    Good luck to you.
    Gerry and Patty

  2. Donna Sciacca

    Erica you have captured my attention, I can’t wait to read more!
    I worked in the book publishing industry for 30 yrs before God called me to where I am now. During those many years I have read countless books but have always been drawn to non-fiction. The stories that are hidden in the minds & hearts of everyday people tell the story of the people we need to know. Keep writing please! A fan already!

  3. Beth Fluke

    Beautiful! What a lovely introduction to your history and a compelling story. Delighted your tale was topped off with the perfect journal! Mom’s do have a way of providing what we need.
    Do keep writing, I’m intrigued! Also relate to the South Philly beginning. When Gordon and I were married our first home was at 2nd and Queen Street. Wonderful community of primarily Polish folks. Outhouse in the back yard, also a motorcycle.

  4. Kim Hirc

    Your writing is captivating. It is straight from the heart ❤️ and a beautiful heart at that!
    Best wishes for The Chronicles of Erica. I can’t wait to read it.
    Good things happen when we follow God’s will 🌺

  5. Pauline Urbano Hechler

    Hi Erica,

    I am the wife of your mom’s cousin, Gene Hechler. I love your mom!

    I, too, write a blog, but your website puts mine to shame! And I must disagree with you: you are indeed a writer, and a very good one.

    Gene has told me Mary’s story, thanks to your mom having told him. I can’t wait to read your book!

    Enjoy the journey!

    Pauline Urbano Hechler
    Phoenix, Arizona

    1. thechroniclesoferica Post author

      Hi Pauline, yes my Mom is amazing, and my biggest fan! She is an incredible researcher as well. I am very thankful to bring Nana’s story to life for the cousins. Tell Gene hello for me. I would love to read your blog. Are you willing to share the site address?

    2. thechroniclesoferica Post author

      Your blog is excellent. “Readable”, as they say. I can really relate to your post about Covid. My personal experience with that is coming up in next week’s installment. Also, I LOVE the camper and your photos of nature. What a wonderful way to travel!
      Be well,

  6. Annie Chmielewski

    Oh my! So intriguing and well written. We all have a story to tell and your story is unfolding like the flower on your journal. Please, tell me more…what a wonderful journal journey…I want to travel along as the story unfolds. Mary, beloved child of God, your story is being told. Thank you Erica.

  7. Elisabeth Nuttall

    Erica, you write beautifully! I am already captivated and longing to read more. You have a way of drawing the reader in. So looking forward to the book.

  8. Christine Pacitti Smythe

    God chose the right person to bring this story to life. You are truly gifted. We have such an amazing family. We love you. Tris and Butch

    1. thechroniclesoferica Post author

      Thank you both. Tris, you are the one who inspired me to start reading. It was The Chronicles of Narnia that caught my attention at 13. Before that, I was a remedial reader and thought I would never understand people’s fascination with reading novels. Ha! Now you cannot get my nose out of a book. Thank you for being my mentor!!!!! XOXO

  9. Mary Miller

    What a joy to discover a brand-new part of your mind, heart and soul! Thank you for inviting us in on your journey of discovery! May God bless your efforts and guide you on this path. Mary M from SJB

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