Remembering Grandma Farm

 

NOTE:  With many thanks to my creative friend Lynda Lambert for asking me to be one of her “guest bloggers,” I happily share with you a post from my Word walk blog.  The following memoir and poem comprised a Word walk post on May 14, 2014.  The accompanying photos of my grandmother’s lace pieces were taken this summer by my sister, Mary Elizabeth Fanyo, of Colorado.  As you enjoy looking at the photos, remember that my grandmother never crocheted from a pattern–except the patterns that were in her artistic mind.

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Remembering Grandma Farm on the 122nd Anniversary of Her Birth:

 May 17, 1892-February 27, 1988

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Photography by Mary Fanyo

 

 

At times when I am walking home from Metro Market with a bag full of groceries in my right arm, other groceries in my backpack, and my left hand on my Leader Dog’s harness handle—I  think of my paternal grandmother, Elizabeth (Liza) Massa, who too frequently walked the three miles from Klondyke, Indiana, to the nearest town of Clinton to purchase groceries.  While I am walking just a few blocks home, I ponder the load my grandmother carried for a few miles.  Since she lived on the small farm at the curve in the gravel road in Klondyke, so many of us called this remarkably strong woman “Grandma Farm.”

 

Born in Levone, Italy, on May 17, 1892, my grandmother quickly matured into a very young woman whose dreams looked toward a new life in the United States of America.  Having had a not too easy life in Northern Italy where she was raised by her peddler father and an unkind stepmother, Liza worked for a ship captain and his family before she and her dreams set sail.  In 1910, my grandmother took the SS La Savoie from La Havre, France, to New York.  The story is that aboard this ship, she danced across the Atlantic Ocean.  At Ellis Island, Liza became “Elizabeth.”  My grandmother ventured onward to the Midwest; soon after arriving in Indiana, Elizabeth kept her promise and married a tall, thin coal miner (who was also from Levone) on June 29, 1910.  James and Elizabeth Massa had six children.  After the arrival of sons Charles (Charlie) in 1911, James (Jimmy, my father) in 1913, and John (Johnny) in 1916—my grandmother gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Rosemary in 1925; but sadly, Aunt Rosemary died in infancy.  Then, my grandmother had two more children—Jules in 1926 and Katherine Mae in 1937.  Besides raising her five surviving children, cooking, gardening, working on the farm, keeping a meticulously clean farmhouse and outhouse—my grandmother learned English and loved to talk with family and her many friends.  Both of my grandparents were truly proud to become citizens of the United States.

 

Blog15_SCAN_Massa_Lace4The period which demonstrated her greatest strength and her greatest worries was during World War II when four blue stars were proudly displayed on a window of the farmhouse.  Yes, all four of my grandmother’s sons served in the United States Army, in Europe, during WW II.  Throughout those long years, I cannot begin to imagine how many prayers and rosaries my grandmother must have said nor how many tears she must have shed.  Most fortunately, all four of her sons returned safely home after serving their country.  Soon after the homecomings, the years of enjoying grandchildren—ten of us–ensued.

 

I can still picture my grandmother wearing her dark royal blue and white dress and donning a hat for her daughter’s wedding on June 16, 1956.  A few years later, in 1960, what a celebration our family had for my grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary!  Grandma even wore a corsage for the dinner at Binole’s Restaurant, followed by a reception at Aunt Kathy’s house.

 

When I was in high school, my grandparents left the farm with its grape arbor and front-porch swing to move to a nice house with indoor plumbing—a house just across the very small town of Blanford where my parents, my sister, and I lived.

 

Whether in Klondyke playing cards with her good friends Julia and Dominic or in Blanford visiting with relatives at a family reunion, Grandma Farm knew how to have a good and happy time with company around her.  Although life was not always easy for my grandmother, she had a way of finding and sharing good cheer and keeping up with modern times.  When her beloved daughter Kathy and her family moved to New Jersey, my grandmother—with Italian salami and brick cheese in her train case—flew in a jet to the East Coast to visit her daughter, son-in-law, and the three grandchildren—as well as visit our nation’s capital.  When my sister was married in 1975, my grandmother attended her first wedding reception at a hotel.  Throughout the years, Grandma Farm wrote a letter each week to her son Jules who still lives in California.  Watching the news on television, reading The Daily Clintonian newspaper, talking with her friends and family at her home or on the telephone—Grandma kept in touch.  Besides her ready laugh, she had a forceful voice and was not at all hesitant about giving advice.  Although Grandma continued to speak Italian at times, she was perfectly adept at speaking English, with a little Italian accent.  Not even once did I hear her talk about returning to the “Old Country”—her family, friends, and home were in America, the country of which she was a proud citizen.

 

Although I most remember my grandmother’s apple pies, apple turnovers, and yellow cake—I am gratefully surrounded by her artistry.  When she came to the United States from Northern Italy, my grandmother brought with her—only in her mind—the skills and patterns for remarkable crocheting.  Not only did Grandma Farm crochet afghans for all her children and their spouses, grandchildren, and others—Grandma crocheted from thread exquisite lace pieces.  Called “doilies” by some, my grandmother’s lace pieces numbered into the hundreds and were of many patterns and sizes.  Her lace pieces would rank her as a textile artist today.  Although the majority of the lace pieces were white or ecru, some thread which she worked into her patterns were pink, blue, and green.  Even though the lace pieces were traditionally starched, I still use her lace pieces, but do not starch them.  Her lace pieces of varying shapes were made to adorn the tops of tables, end tables, bookcases, and my piano.  While many of her designs are floral patterns, others are geometric patterns.  Having these treasured lace pieces in various rooms of my townhouse allows me to keep warm memories of my very artistic grandmother who—despite her arthritis—could crochet with yarn or thread faster and more precisely than you could ever imagine.

 

One day, a number of years ago, after the death of my grandmother at almost 96 years, I began pondering the lace pieces that were around me and thought of the following poem as a tribute to her textile artistry.  Blog15_SCAN_Massa_Lace2

At a local copy shop, I had note cards made with this poem on the front of the  card and gave sets of these cards to relatives.  This poem has special meaning for me, and I reprise it here to honor the 122nd anniversary of Elizabeth Massa’s birth.

 

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Lace Pieces

 

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

 

 

More than just dust-catchers,

 

these snowflake look-alikes—

 

lace pieces from the Old Country—

 

become starched artistic monuments

 

which once could have dressed angels

 

at the Sistine Chapel,

 

now rest pristine on tables

 

to gather soft memories of

 

hands that crocheted them,

 

hands that starched them,

 

piece by piece—

 

not for famous chapels,

 

but for family hope chests.

 

 

God bless all on our Massa Family Tree and all on your family tree, too!

Alice

 

May 14, 2014, Wednesday—the eleventh month birthday

of Grandma Farm’s great-great-granddaughter Lanie

 

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Biography:  Alice Jane-Marie Massa

After earning two master’s degrees and teaching for 25 years, Alice Jane-Marie Massa retired from teaching writing and public speaking at a technical college.

Alice invites you to visit her blog:  http://alice13wordwalk.wordpress.com, where she posts her poetry, essays, short stories, recipes, or memoirs each Wednesday.  Her writings on Wordwalk frequently focus on her guide dogs, her rural hometown, her Italian family heritage, and holidays.  Being the current president of Behind Our Eyes also fills hours of her retirement.  Away from her desk, Alice most enjoys long walks with her third Leader Dog (Zoe), container gardening, and the television program Jeopardy.

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Copyright 2015.  Featured  GUEST BLOGGER on

SCANdalous-Recollections Blog

28 November 2015 – by Lynda McKinney Lambert.

All rights reserved by the author, Alice Jane-Marie Massa.

 

 

Happy SCANdalous Birthday!

Send off the FIREWORKS

LIGHT UP THE SKY-

This week  is our HAPPY SCANdalous BIRTHDAY Celebration

 

 

ONE YEAR of publishing essays  is a landmark so let’s CELEBRATE!.

Let’s take a LOOK BACK to what I was  thinking about one year ago as I wrote the first blog article on the new blog.

The FIRST  article I wrote and  published is

“When I Begin my Day with Mozart.”

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When I Begin my Day with Mozart…an essay by Lynda McKinney Lambert

I did not know at the time I wrote it that it would launch my writing into a new career. One year later I am a “freelance writer.”

The essay was published in LIGHT Magazine, Sept/October issue, 2015.  This magazine is published by Christian Record, PO Box 6097, Lincoln, NB 68596.  (I will post the original essay below my comments here so you can read it.)

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Some STATS on Scandalous-Recollections at the one year anniversary:

Most popular post this first year is “Kaleidoscope: Collecting Patterns of Light and Dreams.”  777 views

I wrote this story, originally, as a GUEST BLOGGER, for Amy Bovaird’s blog.

Here is the link if you want to read it:

Kaleidoscope: Collecting Patterns of Light and Dreams

How many visitors did we have in the first twelve months?  1,308 visitors

How many VIEWS did my posts have?   2,247 views

 

 

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Essay:  When I Begin my Day with Mozart

(First published on November 11, 2014)

Today:

I put the morning coffee on to brew and then reached   for a CD of Mozart’s Violin Sonata in B flat. After I carefully placed it in the CD player.  pushed the  “play” button on the remote  and my Bose player began filling  the kitchen with music. The soft, slow opening lines of the Largo – Allegro began. I listened.  A piano and a violin began to gracefully move  me to listen closely  to this  composition, written  centuries ago. The lyrical melody  begins and I close my eyes  awhile before I continue writing my essay. There is something compelling about Mozart’s music; it gently  urges  me to stop whatever I am doing.  The music  takes me back in time – but not the time in the Eighteenth century when the music was first performed for a royal audience.  It is  my own time,  near the end of the Twentieth century when the music of Mozart became a core element in my personal  life. While listening to this music,  my mind is taken on a journey far away from this present  chilly, gray November day. My  musings  create layers of memories.

As I begin writing the opening thoughts of this essay,  I enjoy  my  cup of fresh coffee. I spiced it up with some hazelnut creamer. The days and years of past times  come visiting me  once again as I slowly recall  my first exciting days in Austria.  Yes! It  was just  Mozart and me.

Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg, Austria

When Mozart first performed this original composition on April 29, 1784, in Vienna, there was a surprising bit of information that came out of the  original  performance.   It’s  a  unique story  that lies behind the music I am listening to today.   In the audience, that day was  Emperor Joseph II.  As Mozart played the piano, the Emperor made a shocking discovery.  He had eventually  noticed that  Mozart was actually looking at blank sheets of “music” instead of the traditional written music that a musician would use.    It turns out that Mozart did not have time to copy the composition that was in his mind. He had to play it from his memory and did not want the audience to  know he had no actual sheet music. Therefore, He put the blank sheets on the piano and began to play that day. You can read about this and other interesting facts about Mozart by visiting this link

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violin_Sonata_No._32_(Mozart)

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My first trip to Europe was  in the summer of 1991. The trip was a gift I gave myself  to celebrate a goal I had completed in May.  I  finished my MFA degree  at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV. Soon after my graduation, I arrived in Salzburg, Austria at the beginning. My arrival  was  just in time to join in the celebration festivities  for the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s death. My month-long visit was filled with special art exhibitions in palaces and museums, all focused on  some aspect of Mozart’s life or his music.   I attended as many concerts as I could, and viewed special exhibits of art that month. OH, I was hooked on Mozart! I walked through his birth house, and  death house, and stood  inside the churches where he performed for masses.  I attended the Mozart Mass at the Dom du Salzburg and basked in the sweet aroma of swirling,  smoky incense as the priests entered the sanctuary.  I even found the grave sites of  his family members and his wife, Costanza.   Like most tourists, I purchased the famous   Mozart candy, Mozart t-shirts and sent out lots of  Mozart postcards to all my friends and family.

I know you must want to know what took me there that month.  I had enrolled in a drawing class that was taught by a former professor. We students  were in classes Monday through Thursday mornings.  I was so excited to be there and was prolific in my art adventure.  I created a  body of work on the theme of Mozart’s death and  music.  I wrote continuously as I traveled and viewed exhibitions and listened to concerts. I made many ink sketches on white paper. I chose to do all the artworks black and white. The works on paper would make it easier for me to transport  them back to the US.  After I returned  back home, I put my  work together and it became a traveling art exhibition. The mixed-media works on paper appeared in museums and galleries.  I called my show,“Memory of a Requiem.”

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     Ten years after my first trip,  some of my poems, sketches,  and reflections from that experience were crafted into a book, “Concerti:  Psalms for the Pilgrimage.” The book was published by KotaPress.

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Prior to the  trip to Austria, I was in graduate school pursuing my MFA degree.  I worked diligently during those two intense years doing  research, creating art,  and teaching. At times, I  was so  exhausted from working days and nights. When I went back to my apartment for a rest and some meals, I often  refreshed  my mind by listening to Mozart’s music. I was particularly  drawn to his Requiem Mass because it echoed my own weariness.   My visit to the city of  Mozart’s  birth and death was a natural choice.

***

While in Austria, I made an intention for my own life.  I realized that I fell in love with Austria, the artworks,  architecture,  the people I met, and the music of the masterful composers who lived in Austria over the centuries. I intended to order my life in such a way that I would spend my summers there every year. Of course, I had no idea how that would happen, or if it could happen, but I knew it would be the life I would choose to live.

Eventually, my own professional teaching career began when I  accepted  a tenure-track position at Geneva College,  a private college in western Pennsylvania.  This was just five years after I had visited Austria for the first time as a student myself. As a new  Professor of Fine Arts and Humanities, I  quickly realized there was no study program for  students that provided the opportunity to study in  Austria or Germany.   I proposed to create such a course and the following year I was back in the city I love, with students of my own. This was the first of many years that I would have the joy of bringing students to Austria every summer. I taught a course called, “Drawing and Writing in Salzburg.”

My students came from  across America

to work in a studio in a small village in the Alps.

Most days, we met early in the morning and then traveled somewhere to draw and write at  the different places we explored. It was a dream that became my reality. I had the joy of sharing this magnificent country with my students every summer for a  month-long sojourn. On  long weekends, we traveled together through  Germany, Czech Republic, and  Italy.  We climbed mountains; we  stood on a mountain peak and gazed  down in amazement at the eagles lying beneath us.  On one such sunny afternoon,  I  locked  arms with one of the students and we  skipped down a high   Alpine path.  We stopped only when we ran out of energy and we bent over double,  laughing together,  gasping for breath.   We wrote poems and stories  in our  journals; we wrote about our own experiences.  Art was the focus of all we did. We  created drawings and paintings in our morning studio and took our sketchbooks and journals to the  streets and mountain pathways. Together, we trekked our way through the new places we found. Later,  our sketchbooks and journals would provide us with information and memories to work with once we were back home and working on new projects.

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Gradually, over the years,  I began to realize that the seeds of what we love become the life we live when we set our intentions in that direction.   On that first visit, I had set something in motion that would become my life journey at a later time.  It would be years, though, before I would understand it all. 

Now, sitting here in my office typing up this essay, I listen closely as the final piece of music comes to a conclusion. The piano and the violin have been playing together as I write. Each instrument is strong and one never overpowers the other – they are a good match!

If you would like to enjoy this lovely work of art by Mozart, you can listen to it here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-KDzAYOroI

The Violin Sonata continues  and I listen to the rapid notes of the piano moving of playfully  through the house in what seems like a race with the violin.  I can envision a spring afternoon in an Alpine meadow.  At other moments, the violin and piano seem to me to be romping in the sunshine, chasing each other about on the lawn of a Bavarian castle, or around a formal rose garden in the city. . At times, if sounds like the piano takes the lead, yet, this is not the case. The violin weaves through the many notes and in the end they are one.  I listen as applause breaks out immediately as the piano and violin strike the final note together.

This day will take me on other, more mundane  journeys as I walk my dogs, care for my cats, take my husband to the hospital for a check-up, and edit this essay tonight. At special moments throughout my day, I just might hear a few bars of Mozart’s Violin Sonata in B flat  Oh,  I hope so!  Oh, I hope…at the end of this day the music and I are on the same note.

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Essay by Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

Visit my website for additional information at: “Walking by Inner Vision”