Let me introduce you to Frances Louise Bosso Mollica. “Franny” for short.
She came into this world on May 27, 1923 in Altoona, the oldest of 6 kids. Her parents immagrated from Calabria, Italy. Her mother never learned english. Franny was my great-grandmother’s translator. She didn’t learn English until she was 7.
7 year old Franny, stood at the front of her class, and recited “Jacka be nimble, Jacka be quick. ” All the kids laughed at her. Her children would never learn to speak Italian.
She married Gerard Mollica, an Army man with a gruff voice and thunderous laugh. They raised 2 girls with rhyming names.
She was the only mother on the block who went to night school. Summer. 1969. My mother got married and Franny started nursing school. The oldest in her class. Franny had balls back when the only thing a proper lady in her 40′s should have under her skirt were a slip and stockings.
She graduated as president of her class choosing the “Impossible Dream” from the Man from LaMancha as their graduation march. It told the story of a little girl from Altoona.
Franny is my mother’s mother. She is my grandmother. She is my daughter’s great-grandmother, although they never got a chance to meet in person. They’ve met through stories and pictures and Girl Wonders carries her name as part of her own.
I called her Nana. This is how I remember her best:
She and my grandfather lived in a row house. She had a narrow, white paneled dressing room with thick, soft, dark blue carpet. It was just long enough for 11 – year old me to stretch my gangly self out keeping my elbows tucked into my side and pressing my toes against the end wall under the window.
I would lay there while she sat at her dressing table in a slip, a big white pointy bra, white stockings and sturdy white nursing shoes. She would carefully apply her make-up, taking her blush, her mascara, her lipstick off of a sleek, silver tray. Everything laid out neatly in Clinique green rows. Sometimes she’d wear a tiny dab of Channel No. 5. The only perfume I remember her wearing. We’d talk while she got ready. Bits of daily flotsam.
She’d slip on her nurses uniform. A nurse’s cap would be carefully pinned on top of her short, thick, black hair. She was beautiful.
Her dressing table sits in my bedroom. It holds an old cast iron sewing machine on which I taught myself to sew. In a wooden box, I have her last bottle of Channel No. 5. A gentle twist of the top. Warm, sweet soap smells become a fragrant time machine . My Nana. Me. In that narrow room.
Franny taught me how to dream. Dreaming is not wishing. It’s your heart whispering directions. You only have to listen to get there. Even if it takes 46 years.
She put the “Franny” in Franny Bolsa.
Franny who’s not really Franny but plays her on this blog