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Punctuating Summer

August 28, 2019


Punctuating Summer


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



DISCLAIMER:  Despite what you may initially think, this blog post is not about punctuation.  However, because I deal with punctuation so pleasantly and frequently, I do sometimes ponder in punctuation.  Thus, I have been thinking how Memorial Day Weekend seems to be the opening parenthesis of summer while Labor Day Weekend appears as the closing parenthesis of summer.  Coincidentally, these two parentheses of summer toll the highpoints of my missing my home state of Indiana.  At the end of May and the onset of the summery season, strains of “Back Home Again in Indiana” from the opening ceremonies of the Indianapolis 500 mirror my sentiments.  As we step forward to the Labor Day Weekend, the recollections of Clinton’s Little Italy Festival fill my Wisconsin atmosphere with the fragrance of grapes and the Italian songs crescendoing from a stage near the Wabash River.


Despite my personal connections with these two holidays, I certainly have understood, since childhood, the meaning and significance of Memorial Day and Labor Day.  However, a few days ago, an apt radio anchor was interviewing a television anchor who is younger than the interviewer and much younger than I.  In responding to a question about her preferences in regard to travel, the young woman referred to our upcoming September holiday as “Memorial Day weekend.”  When the interviewer gently corrected the television anchor, she quickly replied, “Oh, I know so many people who mix up the names of these two holidays.”  Really?  Are these people in her circle of friends and/or co-workers?  Is this confusion a generational happening, or is the confusion merely noted to cover up or diminish the mistake made by someone who has difficulty admitting her own fallibility?  Not to worry–this young lady will not ruin my Labor Day Weekend nor detract from my musings about punctuating the pleasurable season of summer.


Additionally, I have been thinking of the harbingers of the end of summer.  We always hear and read about the harbingers of spring.  What about the harbingers of the end of summer?  Leader Dog Willow wants to express her observations first.  According to Willow, she is definitely holding onto more of her black, shiny hair for the coming colder weather.  Secondly, my fourth Leader Dog emphasizes that some dry, fallen leaves are already coming to her attention as she walks, works, and guides in our downtown Milwaukee neighborhood.


More harbingers of the end of summer include cooler nights and early mornings, school talk and happenings, my grand-nephew Caden’s birthday, pre-season football games, chrysanthemums (of which I added yellow and purple mum plants to my container garden), only two races left in the Indy-car season, my friend Lynda’s birthday, the different scents in the cooler air, state fairs of Wisconsin and Indiana, remembrances of my school days and my teaching days which has divided all of my life into semesters and vacations.  Also, my taste buds shift from the strawberries, cherries, blackberries, and peaches of summer to the cinnamon-and-spice, pumpkin flavors of autumn.


Two evenings ago truly seemed like an autumnal August night, and the predicted low for this August 28 is 56 degrees.  I do enjoy the changing seasons, but I would like to apply another punctuation mark to the season of winter–the dash!


Finally, in honor of my home state of Indiana and Clinton’s Little Italy Festival, I will re-post below a poem which appeared in THE DAILY CLINTONIAN in August of 2017 and which has previously appeared on WORDWALK (August 30, 2017).


Much to my amazement, last year’s festival coincided with the 50th reunion of my Clinton High School Class of 1968.  Thus, thinking of the festival places, events, and food which I have so enjoyed in previous years, as well as the fifty-two years since the CHS Class of ’68 began its senior year, I was inspired two years ago to write the following prose poem which is creative nonfiction.  The “creative nonfiction” comes into play in just a couple of spots in the poem.  For example, although the authentic gondola is still a part of the Little Italy Festival parade, one can no longer take a ride in the festival’s gondola on the Wabash River.



Fifty Years later, Meet Me


poem by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Once again, fifty years later,

meet me

at the Little Italy Festival.

This time,

follow the green, white, and red lines

down Ninth Street,

and meet me

at Immigrant Square,

west of the Coal Fountain,

in the striped shadows of the twenty-six flags

which represent countries

from where Clinton area residents

have immigrated.


Meet me

in front of the statue of the immigrant,


with his one hand waving

and his other hand

holding a valise.


Meet me

by the drinking fountain

called “Il Toro”–

the Bull–

like Luigi,

crafted near my ancestral home,

in Torino.


Then, we will go

to the riverfront,

down the terraced banks

where Joe Airola

nurtured his grapevines.

On the Wabash River,

we will ride

in an authentic gondola.


Returning from our taste of Venezia,

we will eat spumoni

as we sit beside

the Quattro Stagioni Fountain,

listen to music of the main stage,

and absorb the multilingual chatter of festival-goers.


Back to Ninth Street,

we will tour the Little Italian House,

Il Mercato, and the Wine Museum

where you can buy my book.

Then, in the Wine Garden,

we can sit

under lush Grapevines and Hoosier stars,

sip Chianti,

listen to a polka band,

talk of old times

and fresh tomorrows.


Don’t be concerned:

at Immigrant Square,

in the midst of the crowd,

you will recognize me:

I will be the one

with the Black Labrador

guide dog.

Meet us.


* * *


To learn more about the Little Italy Festival which has taken place each year since 1966, you may visit one of the following:


Best Wishes for a sunny and happy Labor Day Weekend!

Alice Massa and Leader Dog Willow


August 28, 2019, Wednesday



From → Uncategorized

  1. Dear Alice,
    As always, I appreciate your thoughtful insights and creative observations—for example, the idea of Memorial Day and Labor Day being the parentheses of summer! You also mentioned preseason football games. One preseason game in particular is certainly a highlight of the summer for my seven-year-old grandson Tyson (your great nephew), who was the Denver Broncos Kickoff Kid in last night’s game. Tyson was to run out on the field to get the tee each time the Broncos kicked off! Because the Broncos won the game scoring twenty points, Tyson was able to do his job five times. Running very fast to get to the center of the field and back quickly, he was focused, yet grinning with excitement by the time he got back to the sidelines. His quick action was even shown on the Jumbotron! Tyson loves to play sports, including football, so this event will definitely be a memorable experience for him.
    Enjoy the Labor Day weekend with Willow!

    • Hi, Mary–Thanks for sharing on WORDWALK Tyson’s big sports news!  Congratulations, Tyson!

      Mary–Enjoy Labor Day Weekend and the fall semester with your pre-K students!

      Alice and Willow

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