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Best Gift Ever

December 1, 2017


Twenty Years Later:


Remembering My Dad and Sharing a Radio Broadcast


of the Best Gift Ever


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Twenty years ago on December 1, my most wonderful and cherished father, James F. Massa, passed away at age 84.  I–and all who knew him well and loved him–have missed him in so many ways over these two decades.


How blessed my sister and I were to have such a truly remarkable Dad!  Having him as a father has been and will always be the best gift of my life.  To honor and remember my dad on this December 1, I am sharing with you a piece from my book, THE CHRISTMAS CARRIAGE AND OTHER WRITINGS OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON, to show you an example of my dad’s giving and loving heart.  Then, after the memoir, I am sharing with you the link to a radio broadcast during which I discuss my best gifts ever and my dad.


* * *


Making a Christmas Card: 


Keeping a Christmas Memory of the Best Gift



By making my own Christmas card for 2012, I was able to keep a Christmas memory of the best gift which I ever received.  I highly recommend sharing such a memory fashioned into a Christmas card because I received more positive, nice comments about this Christmas card than any other card I have ever sent.  The comments from family members and friends across the miles gave me holiday smiles that lasted into the new year of 2013.


When my cousin Carole came from Florida for a visit from late November to early December of2012, we went to a local mall and arranged for my Leader Dog, Zoe, to have her photo taken with the nicest Santa.  Thus, I wanted this festive photo on the front of my holiday card and a photo of Prince, the pet dog about whom you will read shortly, on the inside of the card.  After I wrote the greetings and copy for the card, my cousin Carole was in charge of paste-up onto a master, as well as the photocopying.  “Jolly Holidays!” and “HO!  HO!  Ho!” were the greetings that were sprinkled around the photo of Zoe and Santa Claus.  The inside photo was one that I had taken in 1967.  For the photograph, I had placed a white throw rug over a round foot stool, which measured about 24 inches in diameter.  Wearing a red coat which I had made, Prince sat perfectly posed for this snapshot when he was five years old.  With this old photograph appeared the following text inside my 2012 Christmas card:



Fifty years ago this Christmas Eve, I received the best Christmas gift ever.  The gift endured for seventeen and a half years, and the sweet memory of this gift continues to sparkle.


By 1962, my paternal grandparents were no longer residing on the farm in Klondyke, Indiana: they had moved to the more modern house which was a short distance from our home in Blanford, Indiana.  On that Christmas Eve, while everyone—my grandparents, Uncle Charlie, my mother, my sister, and I—gathered in the living room of my grandparents’ home, my dad went into the basement.  A few minutes later, amidst all the chatter, he returned with a small cardboard box.  At the perfect moment, a tiny puppy popped his head up from the box and displayed a wide, red, satin ribbon tied around his neck in a partial bow.  Surprise!  My puppy for Christmas!  The Toy Manchester/Chihuahua was black with a white stripe on his chest and a little white on three paws.


Having lost Little Prince, my beagle/terrier mix, that October, I had been unhappily dogless for almost three months and was really needing a dog.  Unbeknownst to me, my dad had selected the Toy Manchester/Chihuahua puppy for me two weeks earlier.  My grandparents had kept the puppy until Christmas Eve.  (Years later, I learned that they were somewhat sad to relinquish the puppy.)


On that first cold night when we left my grandparents’ house, I tucked my Christmas puppy into my rust-colored coat so that only his tiny face peaked out.  In his new home that first night, my new puppy whimpered—despite the ticking clock covered with a blanket that we placed in his bedding.  So, eventually, I decided I should sleep on the floor with the wonderful puppy.  Within a couple of days, I named the pup Little Prince II; but we called him “Prince.”


As I look back fifty years to this most treasured gift from my cherished father, I look ahead to next July 11 (2013), which will mark the 100th anniversary of my dad’s birth.


Since June 6, 2009, I have been blessed with another dog who is black—my third Leader Dog, Zoe, who continues to be an amazing guide and dear companion.



May the gifts of Christmas


bring you


sweet memories,


a happy present,


and a healthy new year!



With our warmest holiday wishes,


Alice and Zoe


(first posted on my Wordwalk blog on December 11, 2013, and excerpted from page 41-44 of THE CHRISTMAS CARRIAGE AND OTHER WRITINGS OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON)


* * *




The “Best Gift Ever” was the topic of a portion of “The Morning Show” on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Ideas Network, on November 23, 2017, Thanksgiving.  During the 47-minute segment, radio host Kate Archer Kent welcomed me to the program twenty-seven minutes after the start of this archived recording.  When you have time during this busy season of the year, please click on the following link to listen to the Best Gift Ever” of a number of callers and guest Connie Kilmark, as well as my comments about my best gifts, my book, and my extraordinary dad:


Happy listening and gift-giving during this sparkling season of the year!

Alice and Willow, my fourth Leader Dog (a Black Labrador Retriever)


December 1, 2017, Friday (second post during this special week)




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