About Franny, Part 3

Why would a mother give up her only child, a precocious green-eyed beauty?  I never dared to ask my mom this question. More times than I care to remember, Franny, my mom, would proclaim out of the blue that her mother had given her away when she was just three years old.  I recall the feelings of disbelief I swallowed. I never asked why. Through my adult eyes, I assume that some crippling inner pain would force these ominous words out of her mouth from time to time. Apparently, this was her way to exorcise the pain of abandonment. Her feelings of abandonment probably led her to find solace in the vapors of alcohol. Who could blame her? There were no child psychologists on call at the time-  As I write this new installment, I am sitting at my dining room table on a quiet overcast Saturday afternoon in February. My three cats are snoozing, strategically placed about the room. I always write with background music. Mahler symphonies fit perfectly because of the inherent pathos.  Mahler lost a couple of his daughters at young ages.  He adored his children according to his biographers. My mother adored her seven children.Thus, Mahler has soundtrack honors. I was number six and the first girl.  Did my grandmother even love her daughter? If she did, how could she have sent her away to live with her aunt in Missouri? My family guards lots of secrets. This same grandmother would go on to have a second family, but without Franny. I have never met them. Unfortunately,  the relatives privy to the answer to this burning question are all dead and buried.  As I age, it is the cloak of pathos covering Franny’s story which drives me.  I feel smothered as well as motivated because I am on a mission to compile the story from the snippets of details I have heard over the years.

When my dear father passed away ten years ago, I was honored with the task of sorting through his personal belonging. It was a difficult task which demanded a tribute of tears. I discovered boxes of letters spanning my parents’ marriage, hoarded jars of pennies,JFK Half-Dollars,  black and white photos and  lots of Father’s Day gifts. After World War 2, my father had left his native Missouri for the jobs in Michigan, so the young and growing family made a lot of trips from the North back “down home” to Missouri. Sometimes my father would have to return to his job after a few days, so my older brothers regularly spent summers with the southern relatives. People wrote letters to each other in those days and I found many slightly yellowed enveloped with a 3 cent purple George Washington stamp. In the back of my mind, I was hoping to find some letter which would shed some light on my questions. No luck!

Missouri summers with Franny and the grandparents, who were, in fact, great uncle and great  aunt.This is where the sinkhole in my family history appears. My maternal grandmother was a registered nurse married to an artist painter. For reasons known only to them, my grandmother, Franny’s mother sent her away to live with her Aunt and Uncle in Dexter, Missouri. The year would have been 1932-1933. The Great Depression was in full swing and Franny was all of 3 years old. Strangely enough, years before when I was in my teens, I heard the answer to this question from the mouth of Franny’s mother. Only I had forgotten over the years, occupied with finishing high school, going to university.

Fast forward to the 1980s. After Franny’s accident, her mother began to write to me approximately once a month.This wasn’t the first time we had exchanged letters. Over the course of my teen years, she would regularly send my mom  packages of candied cactus fruit. She lived in Tucson, Arizona. Her existence had always intrigued me for three reasons. Number one, she was the mother, who had given away her own daughter at a crucial point in the little girl’s life, number two, I had yet to meet her in person. Only letters from far off Arizona and number three, she never returned to get her little daughter. Never.  Yet, she still considered Franny as her daughter even when Franny maintained her story. Strange. Let’s call her by her initials for the time being, A.M. Her version of my mother’s young years seems to be known only to me. At the beginning of the Depression she decided to travel to Arizona to pursue her career as a registered nurse.

How odd is this?  It does not make sense. There are so many holes in the fabric of my mother’s  family history. How do I put the torn ends together? I have enlisted the help of one of my brothers, who is a hobby genealogist. After studying the birth and death records of Franny’s family, I hope to put this puzzle together.  But Franny was much more than a toddler, who was sent away. I hope that my older siblings reading these pages will clue me in to their recollections.



Franny at about 30 years of age