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
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. 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. 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?