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Another Love Letter from My Dad during World War II

 

For This Valentine’s Day of 2018,

 

Another Love Letter from Europe during World War II

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa and her father, James F. Massa

 

 

My parents, James and Mary Massa, were married in a very simple ceremony in Rockville, Indiana, on December 4, 1942, while my dad was serving in the Army .  For just three days less than 55 years, they were each other’s Valentine.

 

Throughout their marriage, my parents saved a multitude of greeting cards of various types, from each other and from my sister and me.  All of these cards were placed in the large, lowest drawer  of the tall chest-of-drawers in their bedroom; they kept some other mementos in this deep and wide drawer also.  One year, during the later years of their marriage, my mother decided that she would go through the cards which Dad had given to her; and then she would recycle the card to her Jimmy for the particular occasion.  Then, Dad decided to follow suit:  rather than shopping at a card store, he, too, perused the collection of cards in the lowest drawer and selected a card to recycle to my mother.  At first, they found this new custom more humorous than I did; nevertheless, after a while, I arrived at the mindset that this new tradition of exchanging cards from their earlier years was precious.

 

In our keepsakes, my sister and I do not have a February-postmarked letter from my dad to my mother during World War II.  Perhaps, the February letter was (or letters were) lost or deliberately not handed down to my sister and me.  Thus, this third letter which I am sharing on WORDWALK is dated a few months after February, during a brighter and happier time.  As I copy this letter below, I think of all the service men and women who are unable to be with their loved ones on this Valentine’s Day, and I keep them in my thoughts and prayers.

 

* * *

 

May 3, 1945

 

Dearest Wife,

 

Received your letter and was sure glad to hear from you.  I’ve been listening to the radio, and the news seems pretty good.

 

How’s Lydia [my mother’s next older sister who was expecting her first baby] feeling?  I sure hope she doesn’t have any trouble.

 

How’s the weather there?  Has it warmed up any yet?  It’s partly chilly here also.

 

I received a letter from Charlie [my dad’s older brother who was serving as a mechanic, perhaps, in England at this time] and one from Johnny [my dad’s next younger brother who was serving in the Infantry, in Europe].  They are alright.

 

Honey, I really miss you.  I can’t hardly wait till I get home to you.

 

How’s Billy and Donald Ray [young nephews]? Tell them I said “Hello.”  How’s the blond at the office?  [My sister and I have no idea who this person at the office is.  While my father was overseas, my mother worked at the Welfare Department at the Vermillion County Courthouse of Indiana; she also worked at her parents’ grocery store in Blanford, Indiana.]  Tell the folks I said “Hello.”

 

Honey, closing with loads of love and kisses.

Your husband, Jimmy

 

* * *

 

The above letter was written on a “V–MAIL,” which measures four by five inches.  As I noted in other blog posts, my extraordinary father was in the 638th Tank Destroyer Battalion.  Our family was so blessed because after serving in World War II, my dad and his three brothers–Charlie, Johnny, and Jules–came back home to Indiana safe and well.

 

Hoping that you have enjoyed a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

 

February 14, 2018, Wednesday

 

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Another Heart-warming Visit with Peanut

 

To Warm Your Heart This February,

 

Enjoy Another Visit with Peanut of Blind Faith Farm

 

(Book by Wisconsin Writer Jim Thompson)

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

As we enter into the snow-filled, frigid, days and nights of February, are you ready for an extraordinarily heart-warming story?  This week’s WORDWALK blog post is unusual because I am primarily sharing with you a link to a segment that was broadcast on Milwaukee’s television channel 58 program CBS 58 SUNDAY MORNING on February 4, 2018.  While this post is a follow-up to the book review that I shared on September 27, 2017, the February 5 broadcast was a follow-up to a feature story aired on the same program last November 19.  Reporter Jacquelyn Abad again takes us to Jim and Laura Thompson’s Blind Faith Farm where Peanut happily meets a new friend–Bennett.

 

With a four-paw recommendation from my Leader Dog Willow and a five-star recommendation from me, I encourage you to take four minutes of your time to listen to and watch the following link for another heart-warming adventure of Peanut of Blind Faith Farm (which takes you to the Channel 58 website with a “play video” button that is easily accessible).

 

https://www.cbs58.com/news/jefferson-county-lamb-inspires-childrens-book-for-the-blind

 

After watching the video, if you would like to read more about Peanut and Blind Faith Farm or if you would like to purchase a copy or copies of Jim Thompson’s heart-warming book Peanut of Blind Faith Farm, please visit the following website:

 

http://www.blindfaithfarm.com

 

SPECIAL REQUEST:  In the comment section of this blog post, please add a comment about the video, the book Peanut of Blind Faith Farm, or another heart-warming book which you recommend for winter reading.  Thanks!

 

Happy February!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

 

February 7, 2018, Wednesday

 

January Sunbeams (A Poem)

 

January Sunbeams

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

Having survived a number of the record-setting gray days

on this Frozen Tundra, beside the lake–

I graciously welcome into my abode

the rare January sunbeams

that take their rest for a few short hours

upon the beige carpet of my living room.

 

“Willow, come!  Sunbeams!”

I cheer for my guide dog.

When she joins me, I encourage her:

“You have to catch these sunbeams.”

My British Black Labrador complies:

she nestles down into the rare sunshine comforter.

In this patch of sunbeam,

I know Willow does not dream of

her blue boots, red coat, nor salt.

My mellow Lab is in

a yellow Jell-O of cozy contentment.

 

After catching her limit of January sunbeams,

Willow returns to her bed,

beside my computer desk,

and patiently awaits the sounder

that alerts her

to my computer’s shutting down–

our cue to arise for a winter walk.

 

To waylay cabin fever,

Willow and I leave some January sunbeams

alone in the warmth of our living room

while we, bedecked in Arctic attire,

head outside

and hope other January sunbeams

will follow us,

warm our path,

brighten this January day,

lighten the load of this Wisconsin winter.

 

Enjoy this “Once-in-a-Blue-Moon” Day!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

 

POST-SCRIPT:  Once again, I give many thanks to all of you who added a comment on my previous blog post (“A Collage of Aunts:  An Update,” January 24).

 

January 31, 2018, Wednesday

 

A Collage of Aunts (An Update)

 

NOTE:  For this week’s WORDWALK post, I revised the essay “A Collage of Aunts,” which I first posted on January 29, 2014, in the midst of Polar Vortex II.  Since my Aunt Kathy will celebrate her twenty-first-plus-six-decades birthday this weekend, I thought that my family and, hopefully, you will enjoy this updated version of “A Collage of Aunts.”

 

A Collage of Aunts

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

The Milwaukee Streetcar Project seems a little less bothersome if I count my blessings—instead of days, months, and years that my guide dogs and I have been surrounded by construction.  Among the blessings which I count are my

seven aunts.  Only one of my dear aunts is still living—my Aunt Kathy, whose birthday this weekend, prompted me to ponder my “Collage of Aunts.”

 

Only one of my aunts—Aunt Rosemary—died in infancy.  On Memorial Days and at other times when we went to the cemetery in Clinton, Indiana, we visited Aunt Rosemary’s small grave.  I do wonder what she would have been like if she had been given the gift of a long life as all the other aunts received.  I remember hearing that my Aunt Rosemary was a beautiful baby; I wonder what she would have looked like as an adult and what she would have done.  Would she have had 20/20 vision or worn glasses?  Would she have melded into the collage of my aunts?  Would she have become a liberated woman before the era of women’s liberation—as my other aunts and my mother?

 

Although I grew up in a small rural town during the 50s and 60s, my aunts were excellent examples of the many choices I could have in my future.  I did not need the women’s liberation movement because I grew up with these strong, independent, supportive, and caring aunts.  Both directly and indirectly, they taught me so much and enriched my life.  Sharing with you a mini-portrait of each of these aunts is challenging because there is so much to tell about these special women.

 

Often, I have thought that an entire book should be written about my mother’s oldest sister—my Aunt Zita—who was so special to me and who was an extraordinary woman of her generation.  If you have read my blog of May 20, 2013, you know how she was always there when my family needed her.  When my mother became postmaster, one year prior to my entering grade school, I often stayed with Aunt Zita.  She was the more tolerant and supportive of my creative ways.  I enjoyed being at her restaurant which she managed alone after the much too early passing of her husband.  With her especially calm demeanor and dedicated employees, Aunt Zita ran her extremely successful Italian restaurant with an appearance of great ease.  In her living room, attached to the restaurant, I used to devour the World Book Encyclopedias which were at easy reach for me from her bookshelf.  While managing the restaurant and being head cook, Aunt Zita raised her two sons and sent them to college.  At the restaurant, our extended family had an abundance of happy times.

 

Of all my aunts, only one chose not to work outside her home.  My mother’s other sister—Aunt Lydia—worked on the farm that she and her husband called “home.”  For her generation, she was tall; and she had beautiful hair.  Aunt Lydia loved to talk.  When I was between jobs for a period of time, Aunt Lydia called me on the phone most afternoons.  She always had news to share, but also managed to give me some gentle advice and had a quiet manner of understanding others.  Like all my aunts, Aunt Lydia was a very good cook; for one of my favorite recipes from Aunt Lydia, please refer to my blog post of September 5, 2013, where you can read a little more about this aunt who raised three children on their Illinois farm which I so enjoyed visiting.

 

Although each of my aunts was blessed with laughter and a sense of humor, Aunt Theda was the one who greatly enjoyed telling a humorous story or a joke.  She had a memorable laugh:  when I think of my Aunt Zita’s restaurant, one of the sounds that echoes in my mind is the laughter of Aunt Theda who was a waitress at Binole’s Restaurant for many years.  Then, Aunt Theda decided to go to “Beauty School” to become a beautician.  For decades, she worked as a hairdresser and owned her own shop.  I remember so distinctly that after my cousin Carole (Aunt Theda’s only child), two of our grade-school friends, and I went to a movie at Clinton, Indiana’s Palace Theatre on a Sunday, we walked to Aunt Theda’s shop for a ride home; however, she treated each of us to a “wash and set”—quite a treat when I was in the seventh grade.  Like all my aunts, Aunt Theda had a powerful work ethic.  Undoubtedly, if there had ever been a car race among the aunts, Aunt Theda would have won.  She did have a heavy foot to fly through those seven miles between our hometown of Blanford and Clinton, where her business was located.  Even at age 80, she was still the beautician for a few of her longtime customers.

 

No one of my generation became a restauranteur nor hairdresser:  almost all of us became teachers.  While all of my aunts taught me so much, only one of them was a teacher by profession.  The wife of my dad’s youngest brother (Jules) taught at the elementary level in her home state of California for many years.  One of her two children also became a teacher.  For decades, Aunt Kay was involved in politics.  After she retired from teaching, this aunt from the West Coast became a travel agent and conducted some tours: this profession seemed to suit her very well because she and my Uncle Jules had traveled around the world throughout their long marriage.  Besides traveling to exotic places, they also, from time to time, came to the small town of Blanford for a visit.  I looked forward to their visits because I knew great and stimulating conversations would ensue.  Aunt Kay was one of the most intelligent people whom I ever met.  Since she knew so much about such a wide variety of topics, I always thought she should have been a contestant on my favorite show—Jeopardy.  I think she would have been a five-time winner and would have returned to the show for the Tournament of Champions.  (Please visit my archived blog post of February 5, 2014, for Aunt Kay’s Quiche recipe.)

 

Like Aunt Kay, Aunt Louise had a mind at which I marveled.  Even into her 90s, Aunt Louise, the wife of my dad’s next younger brother (Johnny), had an unbelievable memory—not just for events or happenings, but for the corresponding dates.  As the years progressed, Aunt Louise became even dearer and sweeter in my mind.  Having raised two sons who were devoted to their parents, Aunt Louise and Uncle Johnny were perfectly matched in so many ways.  They viewed life from a very positive and happy pair of glasses.  Even during harder times, they were able to look ahead to brighter days and enjoy life.  For decades, they traveled to Las Vegas three or four times a year.  With family gathered around, they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in Las Vegas.  They were always sharply dressed.  Since they lived 90 miles away in Indianapolis, my parents and I enjoyed meeting my aunt and uncle at Turkey Run State Park for dinner at the lodge and a nice Sunday visit.  Due to their very positive attitudes, Aunt Louise lived to age 92; and Uncle Johnny also lived to age 92.  The famous radio commentator Paul Harvey really should have noted this couple’s 67 years of marriage.  Aunt Louise certainly left me a goal to live my life with a more positive attitude.

 

Fortunately for many others and for me, 26 years after my paternal grandmother’s first child (“Charlie”) was born and 24 years after my dad (“Jimmy”) was born—my grandma gave birth to my Aunt Kathy; thus, I am still blessed with one “young” aunt who should write a book about her childhood when she was growing up on the farm with four much older brothers.  In 1956, my dad’s sister married my mother’s nephew Bill; thus, our families (who had known each other in Italy) had become even more connected. In the summer of 2013, my cousin Carole and I—who were flower girls for my aunt’s wedding—went to Minnesota to help Aunt Kathy and Bill celebrate their 57th wedding anniversary.  (For a fun gift for their 57th anniversary, instead of a bottle of champagne, I gave them a bottle of Heinz 57 Steak Sauce.)

 

Through the years, Aunt Kathy moved to two Eastern states and two other Midwestern states for her husband’s work as a chemist and food plant manager; likewise, her three adult children live far from “home.”  Despite the miles between us, Aunt Kathy and I have remained close.  Perhaps, too often, I told my nephews, when they were in a not-so-talkative stage, that I would send them to the “Aunt Kathy School of Conversation!” Yes, on the phone or in person, Aunt Kathy is a most pleasant force of rapid conversation.  I like people who can easily carry on a good conversation.  Undoubtedly, her superb communication skills and her vibrant energy led also to her being an outstanding employee.  When she was in her teens, Aunt Kathy began working at the Vermillion County Hospital; along with raising her three children, she continued to work at doctors’ offices and at medical clinics as a medical transcriptionist.  Although she has been retired in Minnesota for a number of years, Aunt Kathy is quite active at the Y and with church groups.  Besides being blessed with good health and good neighbors, Aunt Kathy is blessed with four beautiful and extremely intelligent grandchildren, as well as one darling great-granddaughter who loves Elvis’ music and her “G.G.” (great-grandma).  Thus, traveling to Mexico, Oregon, and Ohio is important to my “jet-setting” aunt.

 

When my sister and I visited our Minnesota relatives in August of 2011, my aunt gave to me a gift which I cherish.  During the time that my dad was in the Army (1941-1945), he gave his little sister a powder compact shaped like an Army hat.  Her giving me this gift from my extraordinary father continues to mean so very much to me.  In December of 2016, when I sent copies of my book, The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season, to family members and friends as Christmas gifts, Aunt Kathy called me after reading my holiday book.  On a voice-mail message, my aunt, filled with emotion, managed to say, “Your parents would be so proud of you.”  These words from my Aunt Kathy meant more to me than any words from even a reviewer from The New York Times could mean.

 

While I would not visit Aunt Kathy in Minnesota in the middle of winter, visiting my aunt is as close to being home with my family as this “senior-citizen writer, once-upon-a-time flower girl” can be.  Aunt Kathy is far away from Indiana, but her heart still exudes that Hoosier and Italian-family spirit which still warms and nourishes my soul.

 

Each of my aunts is unique and remembered so fondly; each touched my life and embellished it in so many ways.  God bless all my special aunts!

 

SPECIAL REQUEST:  In the “Comments Section” of this blog, please share a note about a special aunt of yours; or, if you know my Aunt Kathy, please add a birthday wish for her.  Thanks!

 

Counting blessings and sending birthday wishes to my Aunt Kathy,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

 

January 24, 2018, Wednesday

 

 

Celebrating the Fifth Anniversary of WORDWALK

 

Celebrating the Fifth Anniversary of WORDWALK

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

Confetti–or snowflakes–kick off  the celebration of the fifth anniversary of my WORDWALK blog!

 

On January 19, 2013, I initiated this weekly blog entitled WORDWALK–with much-appreciated technical assistance from my friend Jenna Merten.  On that Saturday afternoon, I never thought about writing my 262nd blog post five years later; nevertheless, you are reading post number 262.  During these five years, my blog has amassed 13,802 views; of course, your reading this post just increased this number.  Thanks!

 

On this January 17, when I perused the statistical information which Word Press provides to me about my blog, I found the listing of the most viewed posts.  Below I will note the ten most popular posts of this past year and will provide the number where each falls in the most viewed list of all of my posts throughout these five years.  If you missed reading one of the following, you can find the post in the archives of WORDWALK.

 

  1. Blanford’s Mountain: A Gob Pile of Adventures and Memories (#6 in all-time ranking–posted on February 15, 2017)

 

  1. Leader Dog Willow Celebrates Birthday with Press Conference (#10 in all-time ranking–posted on October 18, 2017)

 

  1. Book Review: Peanut of Blind Faith Farm (#11 in all-time ranking–posted on September 27, 2017)

 

  1. Tributes to High School Teachers (#12 in all-time ranking–posted on May 17, 2017)

 

  1. Vacuuming Vignette: More Dog Tales (#15 in all-time ranking–posted on February 22, 2017)

 

  1. Thinking of the Little Italy Festival (#16 in all-time ranking–posted on August 30, 2017)

 

  1. Eating Lemons at the Library (#17 in all-time ranking–posted on August 23, 2017)

 

  1. My First Guide Dog: The Keller Years (#18 in all-time ranking–posted on March 22, 2017)

 

  1. Piles of Autumn Leaves (#19 in all-time ranking–posted on September 13, 2017)

 

  1. 1944: V-mail from My Father (#20 in all-time ranking–posted on November 8, 2017)

 

The highest number of views my blog has received on any one day is 141.  In these five years, 1387 comments were posted onto my blog.  During the upcoming weeks of 2018, I hope you will add to the number of comments on my blog or give a “like” to one of my posts.  If you prefer, you may e-mail me privately at:

ajm321kh@wi.rr.com

 

Blogging is a good way for a retired instructor of English to keep in touch with the craft of writing.  Additionally, blogging has allowed me to preserve more family and hometown history.

 

With special thanks to all of my WORDWALK readers,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow (who is mighty proud to be second on this year’s list of most viewed posts)

 

January 17, 2018, Wednesday

 

 

Holding Wintered Memories

 

Holding Wintered Memories

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

My wintered memories float gracefully

on springtime ponds and summer lakes;

but now, in this fourth season of the year,

my tears freeze

so that my memories skate–

glide upon the smooth iced surface

and fancifully form

figure-eight’s.

 

Can You crochet

my memories into snowflakes

falling from Your skies

so that I may always recall,

before my wintered eyes,

the precious moments of holiday seasons?

Let the dear memories woven into snowflakes

gently kiss my rosy cheeks,

and let my boots tread heavily

upon the snowflakes

woven with memories

that tire my skater’s soul.

 

Then, too, some of my memory tears–

tears of gladness and tears of sadness–

form ever-growing icicles

from my snow-covered roof.

Let these frozen memories

hold on,

hold on,

hold on  …

become thicker

and longer,

longer,

longer.

I pray

my frozen memories last

until my last day

with a great guide dog

in this wintered wonderland.

 

While I do not profess to be old,

I confess that I am of that certain age

when I hold less hope

and hold more memories.

So, please

let the winter wind always

whisper to me,

warm my heart with,

and ever let me hold in my knitted-gloved hands

treasured wintered memories.

 

 

May this winter of 2018 treat you kindly and keep you well,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

 

January 10, 2018, Wednesday

 

Greeting the New Year with Poetry and a Tribute to Louis Braille

 

Greeting the New Year with Poetry of the Five Senses and a Tribute to Louis Braille

 

I hope that 2018 is beginning in a wonderful way for all of my Wordwalk readers.  For my first blog of 2018, I am sharing with you a poem which I entered in a contest this past October.  Although the poem did not win a prize, it was well-received by my critique group and other readers.  For the national contest, the poem had to focus on the five senses.  I hope that all five of your senses–plus common sense–are in perfect tune for you throughout the upcoming year.

 

Fugue in Five Senses

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

On stage, at the concert grand,

thanks to the braille music the pianist studied,

she smiles with joyful confidence

as her long fingers stretch over octaves

of cool ivory keys

that share warm melodious notes

with an audience, unseen beyond the spotlight

which smells of the heat of this solo moment.

 

Then, the applause bounces into her ears

as she bows

and takes into her talented hands

the comforting harness and leash

of her cherished guide dog–

her second sight–

that leads the pianist stage right,

where someone hands her

a fragrant, single, apricot-colored rose

and a chocolate raspberry truffle

to celebrate

her “Fugue in Five Senses.”

 

 

Best wishes for a sparkling, poetic, and happy 2018!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

 

POST-SCRIPT:  January 4, will mark the 208th anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille, the inventor of the system of raised dots that we call “braille” to honor this most famous person from Coupvray, France.  A teacher and church organist, Louis Braille also created braille music.  On January 6, 1852, Louis Braille died of tuberculosis.

Through the centuries and still each day, Louis Braille continues to touch the lives of countless people around the world.

 

January 3, 2018, Wednesday