Great Grandmother Frances: Healer as Host

Reposting about my Great Grandmother Frances today! It is one of my first posts from years ago when nobody read my blog!

It is an excerpt of an article I published called “Therapist As Host: Making my guests feel welcome” in The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work 2006 No.3, Published by Dulwich Centre. To see full article go here and scroll half way down: Therapist as Host: Making My Guests Feel Welcome.

Healer as Host

Frances Enzero healed people by taking them into her family
Frances Enzero 1942

About two years ago, I videotaped my grandmother talk about her family when she was young. Grandma Lily is the last of her siblings and we wanted these stories to be ever available to us by documenting them in this way.

My grandmother loves to talk about her rich history of growing up first generation Italian in New York City during the great depression and I heard her talk about this many times. Despite this, however, I had never before heard stories about my grandmother’s mother. The stories I heard that day moved me tremendously!

My great-grandmother Frances loved to cook and bake. She raised eight children on her husband’s small income as a barber and, it seems, fed most of New York City. Grandma Lily spoke of constant company being fed at my great-grandmother’s table.

Feeding people was her calling

Working women, her children’s friends, the down-and-out, meter readers, and the delivery persons, were all treated as her cherished guests. She cared for them, talked and laughed with them, shared their stories and comforted many of them. Bags of chocolate chips as big as chairs were ordered regularly and, for Easter one year, she ordered a crate of eggs as big as an oven! Everything was consumed in the warmth of a kitchen filled with love. I can almost smell the cakes and pizza!

When the kids were older and married, most of them and their growing families still lived together in the same house. They built a store off the front of their home and opened a small grocery and sandwich shop. Lily described to me that, in addition to the whole family, many other people helped out in the store.

People who had trouble in their lives, were grieving or otherwise struggling, would be ‘taken in’ by Frances and her family by coming to work in the store. After several months these helpers would be feeling much better about their lives and would then move on. This left me wondering about Frances. [Grandmother quotes.]

Healing Frances

How did being in her company affect these people so drastically? What does hospitality like this provide a person? Did feeling cared for, loved and accepted make the difference in these people’s lives? Or was this due to the conversations that were shared while they ate together? Or was it just that someone believed in them?

Assuming that this loving treatment did make all the difference, I aim to emulate my great grandmother in my life and care for the people and families that consult me in these same ways.

Did you ever feel the healing power of someone who treated you as a treasured guest?

26 thoughts on “Great Grandmother Frances: Healer as Host”

  1. I did read that post more than once before. I can’t remember if I commented or not, but if not, it’s because I never noticed the question at the end, and what I would have loved to write as a comment was something about my grand mother.
    In exactly 20 days, it will be the end of the 32nd year without teta (that’s how i call her). She raised me from birth till I was 5, but even after that, she was my family, and i needed to see her everyday. She showed me love, she fed me with her hands, she told me stories at bed time, she sang for me, talked about her past. She hugged me, and said she loves me. She taught me compassion, honesty,and showed me the essence of real life which is love, unconditional love.
    Every single year on the 10th of March, I struggle to be able to handle all the confusing emotions that come back to me. The longest and most important conversation we had, was the last one. It has lasted just few seconds. She looked at me in the eyes, just few seconds that said SO LONG. We said goodbye, and both smiled.
    I love her so much

  2. I remember my grandmother as very eccentric and possibly a hoarder by today’s standards. She would save little scraps of paper because it had a pretty picture on it and later someone would find it taped inside a birthday card that she had made from other beautiful pieces of paper she had. She saved scraps of cloth that she would make quilts for people. I still have the one she made for me. It’s pretty ratty now but I still cherish it. Her house was always a mess and whenever any family members would go there we would do a little cleaning mostly with her giving directions from her chair in the living room where she spent most of her time because she was very overweight and had a lot of other physical issues which made it hard for her to get around. She had been this way for as long as I can remember. She was very religious and taught me Bible versus from A-Z. If I try hard I could probably recite them even today. Even when I joined a church of which she did not believe was truly Christian in her eyes she still showed me love and affection while trying to talk me into leaving my church. I saw that she was doing this because she was afraid for me and wanted me to go to heaven (which meant through her beliefs) but never judged ME. She loved me so much that she was expressing her concern that I would not make it to heaven if I stayed with my church. It was unconditional love because she still loved me even though I was going to a church that she had great issues with.

    My grandmother turned out to be the only family member that didn’t judge or turn her back on me when I was going through some terrible times. She loved me no matter what. When she passed away in the mid-80s I missed her so much but her love has stayed with me to this day. I will always love her even with all of her eccentricities.

    Jodi, I think that you have definitely inherited your great-grandmother’s generosity and caring. You give to those you meet the same “feeling cared for, loved and accepted” and speaking for myself you “make the difference in these people’s lives.” I cannot thank you enough for all you’ve given me and the world with your unconditional love both in person and through your blogs. I am so happy that you re-posted this. It has brought back wonderful memories of my grandmother!

    1. Thank you so much Stanley for all you shared and such nice comments about me. This is grandmother is why you are such a giving heart. You took her characteristics instead of the many who hurt you. I am grateful to her!

  3. It would take me far too long to write about my grandmothers in this post. I am grateful to have had them so long — one died in 2004, the other in 2005, when I was in my mid-40s. I often feel their guiding presence even now. I connect with one of them when I work in my garden, as she was a sturdy farmer’s wife who continued to work magic with plants long after moving into town. The other was a feisty, fierce woman full of love and life. We had trouble keeping up with her as she marched around in her high heels! With both of them I felt cherished, and still do!
    Nadine Feldman recently posted..It Ain’t the Hot FlashesMy Profile

    1. I lost my maternal grandfather to Alzheimer’s. It is a sad disease! I am sure she is up there so proud of you with all yoga re accomplishing!

  4. Jodi, this is such a lovely story. Your great-grandmother was a beautiful woman inside and out. (From your picture it looks like you have her eyes?) My paternal grandmother, who died before I was born, was also known for feeding people, friends, neighbors, strangers and their children, during the Depression.

    I also enjoyed the article about “Therapist as Host,” especially the “Welcome Letter” for kids. I saw adolescents for years and tried to make them feel this way; I think a letter like this might have been nice. I imagine your practice as a warm, welcoming, safe and healing place!
    Lisa W. Rosenberg recently posted..Why I Believe Marriage Equality = Common SenseMy Profile

  5. What a wonderful story. Sadly,my paternal grandmother died when I was very young, and my maternal grandmother shared very few stories, but I did find out that her grandfather and grandmother came to America from Ireland on a ship called Creole, where they lost their first baby en route. Her father was their third living child, and ended up owning a horse farm/ranch in Wisconsin.
    Beverly Diehl recently posted..Men in Uniform – Who Could Ask for Anything More? #MancandyMondayMy Profile

  6. I loved this. I, too, would like to emulate my great-grandmother. I miss her and think of her a lot still. I even remember her telephone number and it’s been some time since she passed at 95. I’d be a much better woman to be like her. Thanks for sharing yours with us.
    totsymae1011 recently posted..Ichwhay Ayway Isway Upway?My Profile

    1. Totsy, You are a beautiful woman! I am sure she is looking down appreciating you. Don’t you wish you can call heaven sometimes?

  7. wonderful post.. I’ve lost both of mine now. I don’t think I can write about them here on your site. Both women were strong and fearless, demanded and pushed. They had hard lives and their men weren’t always the best. I do love these women because they gave me strength. Thank you for reminding where I come from. Much needed today.
    Brenda recently posted..Field of DreamsMy Profile

  8. Jodi, Jodi, Jodi;
    I see what you mean. Your grandmother worked her good through her kitchen and her store. My mother worked her magic in her theater AND her kitchen as well. Mostly anyone from the theater community was welcome to join her at the table. She took plays from her theater school, performed by school aged kids, fully and well costumed, with portable sets ALL over Monterey County, Southern Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties as well. Where? To elementary schools – rural, suburban, urban. What got to me was taking these plays to the children of migrant worker in deeply rural agricultural areas – kids who might not have ever seen theater. And here they could see kids their own ages performing so well! Warms your heart doesn’t it.

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