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A New PAWspective on Labor Day

A New PAWspective on Labor Day

by guest blogger Leader Dog Willow

                By PAWpular (popular) demand, I, Leader Dog Willow (the Labradorable guide dog of that writer you know as Alice) finally get my turn again at blogging on WORDWALK.  Since someone has been so very busy this week, I eagerly volunteered to give my PAWspective on Labor Day.

                With all due respect to those humans who work especially hard and long hours each week, I want to switch your focus onto working animals–most specifically guide dogs.  Just like humans, we guide dogs also deserve some of the spotlight and appreciation on Labor Day.  Two of my specialties are guiding Alice safely around the seemingly ever-present construction, as well as guiding her smoothly over the trolley tracks.  Throughout all four seasons of the Midwest, I do enjoy my work as a superior Leader Dog. 

                Have you ever realized that even when I am not in harness, not working, I am always–24/7–on call?  Nevertheless, I would never think of complaining because I am over-the-Moon happy and proud to be the Leader Dog for Alice, who always talks so sweetly to me, praises my work frequently, gives me scrumptious food and treats, has my water bowl filled at all the right times, keeps my three beds (one by the computer, one in the living room and one beside the big bed) in comfy order, keeps me especially well-groomed, gives me gifts of new toys (I prefer the fluffy, squeaky variety), plays with me, and lets me know everyday how enormously much she loves me and appreciates my impeccable guide work.  Therefore, my labor is truly, to use a cliché, “a labor of love.” 

                So, if you happen to see a guide dog proudly leading his or her handler on Labor Day, please smile and say “What a Good working dog!”

Happy Labor Day to all of my favorite humans and fellow guide dogs!

Leader Dog Willow

September 6, 2021, Monday

Planting a Prayer Garden

Planting a Prayer Garden

poem by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

After watching the news

and listening to radio reports

during the past days,

previous weeks, and recent months–

instead of planting a Victory Garden,

I highly recommend and encourage you

to plant what so many people and places around the world need right now–

a Prayer Garden.

Please do your part at this time of great need:

plant a Prayer Garden

and nurture it daily.

After sprinkling the beckoning soil with holy water,

instead of seeds,

I sincerely ask that you

select the finest rosary beads.

With all due respect,

I can tell you that the rosary beads

will grow and develop into some of the finest prayers

for which the world has a great hunger and need.

As the rosary beads blossom into prayers,

pick them daily:

you will find that by the next morning,

new rosary buds will appear

and will be ready to pick as Evening Prayers.

When you have a basketful of prayers,

spread the petals everywhere:

your heart will be happier and lighter.

Then, hopefully, the world will have a few less burdens to bear.

Of course, a Prayer Garden is not seasonal:

it is truly a garden for all seasons,

for all good reasons. 

* * *

Warm blessings to all,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

August 25, 2021, Wednesday

Retirement Reflections and Rhymes

Retirement Reflections and Rhymes

By Alice Jane-Marie Massa

                Amazingly, this summer marks ten years since I retired from full-time teaching.  Where has this one decade gone?  How has it moved by so rapidly?  My Leader Dog Willow and I keep busy:  sometimes, I wish I were not quite so busy. 

                My sister, who is three years older than I, just retired from her teaching career only one year ago.  Of course, I say that she taught those nine additional years because her pre-kindergarteners did not write documented essays–term papers.  Stacks of which I graded over many years.

                On the retirement stage of life, I turned to other interests.  Besides trying to walk four miles a day with Zoe and then Willow, one of my favorite past times–as you may guess–is writing.  Occasionally, I do wonder what I would be doing in these retirement years if I were not a writer and poet.  Writing is a wonderful avocation for a retired person.  Being active in writers’ organizations and participating in critique groups, as well as having deadlines to meet, keep me in touch with other people, as well as keep me in tune with the calendar and with weekly and long-term goals.  Some highlights of this first decade of retirement have been blogging for eight-and-a-half years, having published my book THE CHRISTMAS CARRIAGE AND OTHER WRITINGS  OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON (still available through Amazon, BARD, and Audio and Braille Literacy Enhancement), and distributing almost 150 posters on which is printed my poem “A Guide Dog’s Prayer to Saint Francis of Assisi” and which features photos of each of my four Leader Dogs. 

                Leader Dogs Keller and Heather were with me during my teaching years.  Zoe, my third Leader Dog, was the bridge because she was at my side for my final two years of teaching at Milwaukee Area Technical College and was also at my side for my earlier years of retirement.  My current Leader Dog, Willow, has only known my retirement life; nevertheless, with our living in a downtown area in a large city, she has a challenging, varied, and rewarding working life as a guide dog.  My British Black Labrador brightens each day of my retired years!

                When I retired a decade ago, no thought was given to any situation like COVID.  On the other hand, when my sister taught her final classes in May of 2020, she saw her very young students only via Zoom.  Although retiring midst COVID presents some different challenges, when I read over the following poem which I wrote less than two years after I retired, I feel fairly much the same way as I did in 2013.  While my perspective on retirement may not have changed much, my age does have a way of adding a candle to the birthday cake each year.  Having been away from the classroom for ten years, I do miss my students and teaching less than I did the first few years on this retirement stage.  Before I pull the curtain up on the second decade of my retirement stage, I hope you will enjoy this poetic glimpse of retirement from March 2, 2013, when my WORDWALK blog was only two months old. 

* * *

Learning to Retire from Teaching

(Touches of Humor Have Been Assigned)

poem by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

I am learning

to retire from teaching.

I must confess

that, to me, retirement

is a process:

retirement does not really happen

on one day, at one hour, or in one minute.

All that led to this career of years of teaching

must be unwound.

I have found

that I miss the students, the hours, the marking of time

by semesters, classes, and school years.

Now I am learning to mark time by retirement years:

first year, second year, …

on this new stage that too many people fear.

Do you think I am learning not to lead?

Am I learning to step aside, to sit back, to avoid speaking up?

Down the road, this will all be easier.  Right?

I am left with all these memories

of leading,

of liking to lead.

Didn’t I even lead in ballroom dancing in sixth grade?

Now, I have to learn this retirement dance or fade.

Perhaps, what I need is a Flamenco outfit

(with lots of ruffles and beading)

so that I can fit better into this retirement mold

of not leading.

Leader Dog Zoe reminded me

that I have been successfully and properly

following her, Heather, and Keller

for 23 years—46 semesters plus 22 summers.

“That’s a lot of practice

at letting us be in the lead,” Zoe said.

Of course, she is right; and I pat her pretty head.

Nevertheless, I guess, she usually knows my stress.

One stumbling block of this learning process

is that I was born a teacher.

When I arrived in this world,

Doctor Loving quipped,

“One more—just like the other.”

Did he prophetically know that I was

one more teacher—just like my older sister?

My parents—a postmaster and a firefighter—

gave birth to two teachers.

My father nailed a chalkboard

to the knotty-pine wall

where my sister taught me,

and I taught my dolls and dogs.

Our models were those magnificent teachers

at Jacksonville Grade School,

but they never taught us how to retire.

Yes, I have always been a teacher—

in and out of the classroom,

behind or away from my beloved podium.

Whatever I know or have learned,

I am truly compelled to share.

So, when I learn how to retire from teaching, I declare:

I will teach you how to retire—without a care.

* * *

PAW-note:  In this poem, I mention each of my first three guide dogs who have blessed my life.  On March 21, 1990, Keller, a gorgeous golden retriever, became my first guide dog.  Happily, Yellow Labrador Heather, my second Leader Dog, came into my life on April 15, 1998.  On June 6 of 2009, Leader Dog Zoe–my outstanding black Labrador/golden retriever mix–was the guide dog I was following, appreciating, and loving when I wrote this poem.  After Zoe, Leader Dog Willow became an important part of my life on June 7, 2016.  Each of these four gifted

guide dogs continue to teach me the grace of walking on a different path in life.

Best Wishes to all who smile and take a bow on the retirement stage of life!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

August 18, 2021, Wednesday

Wishes for Homeless People

Weather Wishes

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

                As you have grown older, have your weather wishes changed?  In recent years, I more prefer a temperature around 72.5 degrees–not the much hotter weather that I once would have selected as my favorite.  What are your weather wishes?  Last Wednesday night into Thursday morning, my weather wish was that the predictions for extremely high winds would not materialize to turn my container garden topsy-turvy.  After listening to all the predictions for turbulent weather, I moved my containers to the safest locations possible and hoped for the best. 

                For the first time since an i-phone became a part of my life two years ago, the alarm for a tornado warning sounded–certainly loudly enough that it would have awakened me if I had been sleeping at 1:32 on that morning.  A couple of minutes later, I heard the alarm go off at the radio station.  Then, for only about the fifth time in the three decades that I have lived in Milwaukee, I heard the tornado siren that, when necessary, blares repeatedly outdoors.  Although a dozen tornados were officially determined later in Wisconsin, my neighbors and I were once again protected by Lake Michigan, according to the belief of some.  Actually, our weather event gratefully fizzled out with little wind, very little rain, and minimal thunder.  Nevertheless, while my Leader Dog Willow and I were indoors and safe from the eventual mild storm in our immediate area, what about the homeless people?

                In 1979, I still had some usable vision.  On a bus tour of the New England states, I, in Boston, saw for the first time–to my knowledge–a homeless person.  Somehow the working parts of my retina picked up the glimpse of the sleeping homeless man and his suitcase on a bench, located in the island of a boulevard.  That picture has stayed in the photo album of my mind.

                Perhaps, during the extremes of weather–extremely cold, extremely hot, downpours of rain, blizzards, tornadoes–we think of how homeless people contend with the extremes of weather.  On April 22, during National Poetry Month, I wrote the following poem which I am sharing on WORDWALK for the first time.

* * *

Wishes for a Homeless Person

poem by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Behind the Cathedral of St. John,

right on the edge of the sidewalk

along the busy VanBuren Street

is a most unusual monument–

a monument of a homeless person

lying on a bench and

covered by a cement newspaper.

I wish that all of the money

that went into the making of this monument

would have gone to a soup kitchen.

I do wonder what the homeless residents

think of this statue in repose.

I find it inappropriate.

I do wish all the homeless people in Milwaukee

Could find peace and shelter.

For what do they wish?

Does he wish to be out of the cold,

not on the streets growing too quickly too old?

Does she wish to be away from the dampness, out of the rain?

Does she wonder what else her life could contain?

Does he wish to be drunk or wish to be sober?

Does he sometimes wish his life were over?

Does she too often dream of a well-rounded meal?

Is she here and there tempted to steal?

Do you always wish for a better tomorrow?

Please let us know how we can lessen your sorrow,

how we can make one wish come true.

I heard you once played a saxophone,

then sold the instrument for a cellular phone.

Whom do you call when you are here all alone?

Be kind, stay well, and give me your wishes.

* * *

With wishes for gentle measures of the weather we need and homes for all,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

August 4, 2021, Wednesday

God Bless Our Leader Dogs

God Bless Our Leader Dogs

Marking the 31st Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

                Thirty-one years ago, when the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed by President George H. W. Bush on July 26, 1990, I had moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan, with my first Leader Dog Keller.  Before the onset of the fall semester, Keller and I were learning the walking routes around the campus of Western Michigan University, from where I earned my second master’s degree one year later. 

This year on the afternoon of July 26 (Monday), I gathered with a committee of ten authors who are blind.  Each of these interesting and creative authors has written  and published or self-published one to five books of various genres and styles.  I thought this gathering was a superb way to commemorate the thirty-first anniversary of the ADA.

                To celebrate this anniversary with song, I took the liberty of modifying the lyrics of “God Bless America,” whose original lyrics were written by Irving Berlin in 1918; as you most likely will recall, Mr. Berlin also composed the music for this patriotic song during World War I.  On November 10, 1938–in commemoration of Armistice Day–Irving Berlin released a revised version of “God Bless America.”  All revenues from this release were donated to the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of America.  The 1938 version was the one made famous by singer Kate Smith.  With all due respect to the memories and talents of Mr. Berlin and Ms. Smith, I share with you the following lyrics which I modified to celebrate the special day that is July 26, to honor my current Leader Dog Willow, and to honor the memories of my prior Leader Dogs (Zoe, Heather, and Keller) with a prayer you can sing.

* * *

God Bless Our Leader Dogs

(Sing to the tune of “God Bless America”)

lyrics modified by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

God bless our Leader Dogs–

Guides that we love!

Stand beside us, and guide us

With a leash, harness, grace, and great work.

From the suburbs to the cities,

To the sidewalks white with snow–

God bless our Leader Dogs

Who guide us home.

God bless our Leader Dogs

Where’er we roam.

* * *

Blessings to all!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

July 28, 2021, Wednesday

Upside-down Abecedarian of Summer

NOTE:  Before reading the following poem, notice only the first letter of each of the 26 poetic lines:  you will find the alphabet in reverse order. 

An Upside-down Abecedarian of Summer

poem by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Zinnias bloom and remind me of my grandmother’s garden. 

Yellow marigolds stand with perfect posture in porch planters.

X marks the spot for hiding a summer treasure.

Willow guides me along the sidewalk of the shaded side of the street.

Velvet nights bring out the dancing light of fireflies.

Under the summer Moon, find a midnight gardener.

Toes that dipped into the cool water leave impressions in the moist sand.

Swim and stroke the water of a blue pool.

Raise “Old Glory” into a warm and gentle breeze.

Quiet the cicadas with the closing of a window.

Pickle what needs to be pickled; preserve what needs to be preserved of summer.

Oars of a canoe stay only briefly idle to allow for our listening  to Mother Nature.

National Parks welcome vacationers.

Malted milk and other ice cream treats keep us cool.

Lakes with water skiers and boaters are photographed.

Kitchens clos on the hottest days; outdoor grills open.

Journeys far and journeys near bring forth new and relaxing vistas.

Indiana roads take us home to memories and friends.

Herbs–basil, rosemary, sage, and spearmint–add fragrance to my garden.

Gifts of gardening are savoured and shared.

Family gathers around a picnic table or on the front porch.

Elegant geraniums grace my container garden.

Drinks of lemonade and iced mint tea await visitors.

Croquet wickets, posts, mallets, and balls lie ready for players.

Bocce, badminton, and baseball offer more fun for the season.

All is warmly well with our little part of the world:  let’s thoroughly enjoy summer.

* * *

Summery, best wishes!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

July 21, 2021, Wednesday

The Un-air-conditioned Life

My Dad and Maple Trees around an Un-air-conditioned House

By Alice Jane-Marie Massa

                After all of the unusually hot weather of June and early July (with a high temperature of 95 yesterday), I often wonder how I never seemed to mind the heat and humidity of our Hoosier homeland when I was young.  How spoiled I am by air conditioning these days!  With the memories of our Blanford home in the summertime and my dad whose anniversary of his birth will be this Sunday (July 11), I am sharing with you the following poem to honor my dad on the 108th anniversary of his birth and to give you a glimpse into small-town living.

* * *

Majestic Maples for Keeping Cool before AC

Family-history Poem by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

(Dedicated in loving memory of my dad

who took such great care of our home, yard, gardens, field, woods, pets, and family–

July 11, 1913-December 1, 1997)

Five decades before air conditioning was common,

my maternal grandfather planted soft maples

all around the house

which became our forever home.

Long after my Italian grandfather had passed,

his tall and well-canopied trees

gave us shade–

a cooler dwelling, porch, and yard

on the hottest of Hoosier days.

The maple on the east side of our home

towered over the wooden picnic table

and the yard where we waved

the badminton rackets through humid Hoosier air,

where we planted wickets and colorful poles

for an evening’s game of croquet,

where we played on the silver-painted swing set,

where we played with our beautiful puppies and dogs,

where we gathered with family and friends

to share an unnoticeably hot summer.

Another large maple

bent gracefully over the curve in our white-rock driveway–

as if the southwest wind had sculpted the tree’s form.

This tree shaded the bedroom

which I shared with my sister

in the home with no air-conditioning,

our big back porch that became a family room,

our blueish-green water pump,

red Fords that were parked on the J-shaped driveway,

and part of our west field that later became a yard.

Of the trees on the north side of our home,

the grandest one

had a limb that held

a sturdy rope and a circular swing

that allowed me to cool off and dream.

This family historic maple

generously gave cooling shade to our front yard,

sidewalk, and our beloved front porch

where we sat with my cherished dad

on the wooden, Melodious swing.

Neighbors, company from near and far

joined us on this refreshing porch

that was framed with one evergreen and four spirea bushes

over which we jumped onto the soft, cool grass

to run and try to catch lightning bugs

that made the Indiana evening of summer sparkle–

not with complaints of being too hot,

but with small-town life

that, nurtured by those majestic maples,

led to the pleasantly warm,

un-air-conditioned poetic paths of my life.

* * *

Stay cool, and enjoy your journey into July, 2021!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

July 7, 2021, Wednesday

Thank you and Happy 245th Birthday, America!

Thank You, America!

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Thank you, America,

for welcoming to your eastern shore,

in the early 1900s,

four immigrants from Italy–

later to become

the parents of my parents

and good citizens of the adopted,

the chosen country–

America.

Thank you, Lady Liberty,

for holding high your torch

to light the way

to Ellis Island,

where my grandparents’ dreams

first met  land of the USA.

Thank you, Indiana,

for giving my paternal grandparents

some of your precious farmland–

a grape arbor, too.

Thank you, Indiana,

for allowing my maternal grandparents

to build a grocery store and Italian bakery

in your Vermillion County.

Thank you, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini,

for blessing these four immigrants

from Italy to Indiana,

with a safe voyage,

with seven sons

and five daughters,

with eighteen grandchildren–

all of whom went on to do well

in this new home of our immigrant forefathers.

From the banks of the Wabash

to the shores of Lake Michigan,

from the foothills of the Rockies to Disneyland,

from the shores of the Atlantic to the Pacific Northwest–

all the relatives

of those first four immigrants

of our family tree

wink at you, Lady Liberty,

and wave our thanks

in red, white, and blue wishes

for a Happy Fourth of July!

* * *

NOTE:  Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini is one of the patron saints of immigrants.

Best wishes to you and your family

for a safe, sunny, and very Happy Fourth of July!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

June 30, 2021, Wednesday

Musical Chairs of Container Gardening

The Musical Chairs of Container Gardening

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

                One of the great advantages of a container garden is periodically being able to re-arrange the containers.  As I move the fifteen to seventeen containers of my little garden, I compare this enjoyable summertime activity to Musical Chairs.  Do you remember the game Musical Chairs which we used to play at birthday parties or other childhood parties?  Well, my weight-lifting exercise of the summer is lifting and moving the containers of my garden.

Each warm season, I like to add something new to my little garden.  This year, the “something new” is a container of zinnias which I started from seed–right before the cold snap of May.  Although the sprouting took a bit longer than expected, the zinnias have quickly grown and thickened to be strong plants.  How eager I am for the blooms to remind me of my maternal grandmother’s zinnia garden–located to the side of her large building which once housed the grocery store, Italian bakery, dance hall, and residence.  Yes, her garden to the east and the west of the water pump contained only an abundance of two varieties of zinnias in the colors of yellow-gold, autumnal orange and magenta.  The border of her zinnia garden was made with Clinton (Indiana) bricks placed upright at a diagonal.  Somewhere in my mind’s photo album, I keep a picture of my grandmother, with her long hair braided into a bun at the nape of her neck, wearing her typical black-and-white dress to mid-calf, bending over to tend to her zinnias in my hometown of Blanford, Indiana.  Thus, I thought the time had come for my planting zinnias.  Only one problem!  The lovely leaves make me itch!  Oh, well, I hope the zinnias will thrive in my “Musical-Chairs Garden.”

                Currently, near my front stoop is only one container of coral pink geraniums.  The front of my townhouse faces west and has been getting full, very hot sun many days of recent weeks.  In my garden behind my townhouse, joining the zinnias are more coral geraniums, white geraniums, and pink geraniums.  In the herb department, I have a Genovese basil and another basil plant, along with two rosemary plants, a sage plant, and a spearmint plant.  On Mother’s Day weekend, I began my garden with one container of lavender which is a lush and lovely plant.  How I do enjoy the fragrances of my garden–especially after watering or after a rare rain this season!  Although my pink tulips, purple hyacinths, and mini daffodils are no longer playing “Musical Chairs” in my garden, my little peacock container still sprightly sits atop the ledge of my deck on the east side to hold onto the silk flowers that survived the winter snows. 

                On the café table, between a coral geranium and a rosemary plant is my “Garden-ian Angel.”  My new sculpture addition to my garden this year is a statue of Saint Francis of Assisi.  As is typical, the Saint Francis statue has a fawn near the saint’s left knee, a bird on his left shoulder, and a bird in his right hand; the left hand of Saint Francis is open upward.  Recently, Saint Francis is between a white geranium and a basil plant.  He rests upon one of the end tables beside my bench.  The first day I placed the statue, my Leader Dog Willow placed her head upon the table at the foot of the statue.  Almost each day, Willow still walks over to the statue of Saint Francis–just as if she knows that Saint Francis is the patron saint of animals, the environment, and Italy.

                Thanks to Facetime, I have given garden tours to my sister in Colorado and to my aunt in Minnesota.  I do relish a great deal of conversational mileage from such a little garden and look forward to more Face time garden tours of my “Musical-Chairs Garden.” 

                Willow and I thoroughly enjoy our little garden, and we hope that you also have a garden to tend and enjoy this summer.

Best wishes for a happy gardening summer!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

June 23, 2021, Wednesday

Happy Father’s Day, 2021!

Swimming Lessons and Other Life Lessons

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

NOTE:  Since today, June 20, 2021, is Father’s Day, I dedicate this blog post in loving memory of my dad–James F. Massa (July 11, 1913-December 1, 1997).  Additionally, since this pre-summer of 2021 has been so extremely hot in so many states of the USA, I pulled from WORDWALK 2015 archives a blog post about swimming and my remarkable dad.

* * *

            In the summers of my youth, the Aragon Swimming Pool was a prime attraction.  Located on the north end of Clinton, Indiana, and approximately seven miles from my home in Blanford–the Aragon included an especially large pool, two three-foot diving boards, one ten-foot diving board, a children’s swimming (or wading) pool, two areas for sun bathing (before the days of sunscreen as we know of its importance  today), two concession areas, a trampoline area (which I especially liked), dressing areas, and a ballroom (where my junior class held the Clinton High School Junior-Senior Prom–“Whispers of the Orient” in May of 1967).  Between the parking area and the entrance to the Aragon was a pleasant park with picnic tables, some playground equipment, a shelter with more picnic tables, and a miniature golf course.  Throughout the years that I went to the Aragon, it was owned by the Tony Fenoglio family, of Clinton. 

            While I first started enjoying the Aragon in the mid 1950s, my dad’s association with this huge swimming pool began around 1927 or 1928  when he was employed as a life guard there at age fourteen to fifteen.  A few times, he told me the story of one of his job duties of swimming around the massive pool with a bucket in hand to disperse the chemicals into the water.  Of course, my dad was always a strong swimmer. 

            Somewhat surprisingly, when my father was stationed in California before deploying to Europe during World War II, he met the famous Olympic swimmer (who won five Olympic gold medals from 1924-28) Johnny Weissmuller at the Brown Derby.  When Dad met Mr. Weissmuller in 1941, the MGM and RKO star was at the height of his fame in the Tarzan movies.  As was typical in those days, Mr. Weissmuller bought my dad, who was dressed in his Army uniform, a drink. 

            Within five years after my dad returned to civilian life and his wife in Indiana, my sister and I completed our family.  When my sister and I arrived at the appropriate age for taking swimming lessons, we went to the Aragon for the very early morning Red Cross swimming lessons.  In such a large swimming pool in west-central Indiana, in June, the water had an initial chill.  Not only was I not happy about the cool water, I did not care for my instructor and her method of teaching.  The experience was not a successful one:  I was not progressing toward the goal of being a swimmer.  The trust which I did not have with the swimming instructor was easily and naturally bestowed upon my dad.  I can distinctly remember my “riding piggyback” on my dad while he swam through not the shallow end nor the very deep end of the pool, but in the area of medium depth, nearer the south side of the pool.  Besides swimming with me on his back, my dad periodically dived under water, but managed to keep my head above the water level.  Oh, how I did trust him–like no other person!  How I did quickly learn to love the water!  Then, my father taught me how to swim.  Although these lessons from my father were almost six decades ago, I recall these special times so clearly and am grateful for the many lessons my dad directly and indirectly taught me. 

            For many years, after an afternoon of swimming, my sister and I, at the concession near the entrance/exit of the Aragon, enjoyed a chocolate-dipped ice cream cone or freshly-popped popcorn sold in tempting cones made of wax paper in a myriad of bright colors.  During our pre-teen and teenage years, the Aragon was a wonderful place to go with friends.

            Fortunately, both my father and mother enjoyed traveling; so, each summer, our family enjoyed at least one road trip.  During the hours of being in the car, I happily anticipated being able to swim at the motel where we would land at the end of the day of driving.  While we toured 38 states of the USA, historical sites, museums, famous houses, and parks–swimming was always a special treat of our vacations.  Nevertheless, I have never swum in another swimming pool that was even near the size of the Aragon.  How fortunate Southern Vermillion County was to have such a swimming pool!  My parents and others of their generation sometimes referred to the Aragon as “Happyland”–undoubtedly, the name of the place before the attraction was dubbed the Aragon. 

With the trust and love I had for my dad, my childhood was a “Happy Land.”  Much of what I am today is thanks to the life lessons which my dad so gently and lovingly gave to me.  I only wish I had more of his positive outlook, his ability to see only the good in other people, his easy smile, and his twinkling eyes.  From Earth to Heaven, “Thanks and love always, Dad; Happy Father’s Day!”

Happy swimming and summer vacations!

Happy Father’s Day!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

June 20, 2021, Sunday