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My Dad and a Lullaby

July 11, 2019


Remembering My Dad on the 106th Anniversary of His Birth:


James F. Massa (1913-1997)


by his second daughter, Alice Jane-Marie Massa



While many of you may have heard of or are hearing of “Christmas in July,” I am certain that you are not expecting a July 11 WORDWALK blog post focused around “An Irish Lullaby.”  Further, you may wonder what an Irish song has to do with my Italian-American father who learned Italian before English.  My dad–born on July 11, 1913–had a rich, pleasant, melodious, and ear-catching baritone voice.  Perhaps, the song that more people heard him sing was “That’s an Irish Lullaby,” also known as “Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral” (coincidentally originally written in 1913, by James Royce Shannon).


Unlike my dad’s friend Josie Colombo, Dad never sang on stage nor at a radio or television station:  my father was best known for singing to babies and toddlers of our extended family.  His manner of putting little ones to slumberland was to pace back-and-forth through a large room while he was softly singing and gently bouncing the baby in his arms.  Soon, the darling child was resting his/her head on Dad’s shoulder; within a short time, the baby was ready for a quiet night of dreams and slumber.


In the 1940s, the tradition for some of the newlyweds of my family was that the young couple would first live in the very large room at the top of the extremely high staircase located in the residence area behind the Italian store and bakery of my maternal grandparents.  Besides this first bedroom, the large upstairs included an expansive dance hall (only used for storage during my lifetime) on the south side of the building and three large bedrooms on the north side.  During the short time that my parents lived in this upper story, my Aunt Lydia (one of my mother’s sisters) and Uncle Sandy (Alessandro) were also living there with their first infant.  Before the days of the pertussis vaccination, my young cousin contracted whooping cough.  With all of her coughing, sleeping came with great difficulty.  Many times, I have heard the story of how my dad –her Uncle Jimmy–was the one to walk and walk while holding her until she could fall asleep for a nap or bedtime.  After my dad had come home from serving in the Army in Europe during World War II and before my sister and I were born, Dad was pleased to be able to help with the baby who had whooping cough.


In more recent years, at a family wedding reception, two cousins somehow came around to discussing whom their favorite uncle was.  From two different generations, the two cousins agreed, without a doubt, their favorite uncle was “Uncle Jimmy.”


Although I cannot recall Dad singing “An Irish Lullaby” to me, I am sure that he did.  More importantly, I certainly clearly remember his singing the lovely lullaby to children of our extended family; and I even happily recall his singing “Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral” in the kitchen of our Blanford, Indiana, home.  I wish I had a recording of his singing this tune; but I am ever so grateful that the notes echo sweetly and softly in my head and heart.


Please find below the URL for finding the link to Bing Crosby’s rendition of “That’s an Irish Lullaby.”



May the sweet sounds of summer fill your July days with happiness,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


July 11, 2019, Thursday



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  1. I’d forgotten about this Irish lullabye. I sang it years ago at a nursing home when I worked there, especially around St. Patrick’s Day. I’ll have to remember that next March when I entertain at various senior facilities. Thank you for reminding me.

  2. Katherine Binole permalink

    Alice, what a great remembrance of your dad on his birthday. I so remember him walking back and forth in your living room singing the Irish lullaby carrying Mary and you when you were babies. Later, he sang and walked my three babies. He did have a nice singing voice. I’m so glad you bring back such beautiful memories. Love, Aunt Kathy

    • Hi, Aunt Kathy–Special thanks for adding your recollections to this blog post about Dad!  Your lovely comment is greatly appreciated.

      Talk with you soon!

      Love, Alice and Willow

  3. Dear Alice,
    I have a favorite photo of Dad holding our older son Lee when he was just a few days old. I can just hear Dad singing that special Irish lullaby to Lee during that precious bonding time. Thank you for the lovely memories of Dad and that song!
    Love, Mary

  4. Carole permalink

    Alice, I will always remember Uncle Jimmy’s beautiful voice being so soothing and peaceful! What a wonderful remembrance for his 106th birthday anniversary!


    • Carole–So heartwarming to know that you also keep remembrances of my dad/your uncle!

      Best always–Alice and Willow

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