Sent Away For Good

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





Often when I am Doing the Dishes…

About Franny, Part 2

I enjoy hand-washing the dishes that don’t fit into the dishwasher. It’s the peaceful monotony of activity which appeals to me.  Often when I am taking care of the odd and over-sized dishes in my yellow kitchen, I get the feeling of a presence in close proximity to me. Instinctively I call out “Hey, Ma!, How are you today?”  Perhaps that sounds crazy. But I don’t leave it at that. I tell Franny about my day. The sound of her voice and a faint whiff of the Lark cigarettes she loved smoking come to the surface of my memory.  I am not a religious person, but a spiritual one, so these occurrences do not startle me at all. In fact, when my siblings and I were growing up it wasn’t uncommon to hear our mom warn us with “if you don’t behave, I’ll come back and haunt you when you’re grown up” followed by an impish and loud laugh. Franny was always true to her word.
Associating my mom with in the kitchen is something all of her seven children did. She was a skilled cook and boasted that she learned how to cook a complete dinner by the time she was eight years old. Franny excelled at cooking because she was expected to help out at her aunt’s home regardless of the task. Back in the late 1930s, home economics was still taught in schools – to girls. My mom’s precocious ability often made her the “punching bag” of the home-ec teacher.  She was proud of all of the scrumptious dishes and cakes and pies which she regularly whipped up for her brood. Years later what amazes me the most is that Franny never needed a cookbook. “It’s all up here in my crazy ol’ brain”, she loved to say. Each child had his or her favorite dish but knew that the weekly meal featuring liver was just as important. I could not stomach liver. The mere odor of it sent my insides into cramp mode. Nonetheless, my mom insisted, and I obeyed. Thankfully she was a sport about it and made sure my brothers left the smallest piece for me.

At a recent restaurant meal with my daughter, she asked me if I ever noticed anything in the kitchen, in front of the sink, to be exact.  Before I  could tear my eyes away from the menu, she said “Sometimes, when I’m at the kitchen sink, I have the feeling that a hand brushes over my hair. It’s a weird feeling.” I aspirated a sip of hot tea and gave her a surprised look which immediately transformed into a revelatory smile. “I suspect that it was your grandmother just admiring your long hair.” Her eyebrows lifted at my quick answer. To add credence to my explanation I reminded her of the story behind her name.  While pregnant with my daughter, who I knew to be a girl child, my husband and I could not agree upon a name for the baby to be.  Out of the blue several days before my girl was born, Franny appeared to me in a dream and in her playful way said,
“It’s easy, name the child “L—y Frances!”  I did, and the resemblance to the grandmother she never met is uncanny.
My daughter then asked me if I could tell her all of the family secrets during our dinner for two.  That my 17-year old would bring up family secrets in such a matter of fact way paved the way for a lengthy, albeit unfinished telling of how my mother grew up in the Boot Heel of Missouri.  She couldn’t begin to imagine how the story wold unfold.
“Well, to quote your grandmother” I began,  “You wouldn’t believe it, but my very own mother gave me away when I was just three years old, but I’m still a-walkin’ and a-talkin’!”   After Franny’s accident, she would mention this cruel detail more often. Her incomprehension of her mother’s dark decision kept the emotional pain alive for Franny for her entire life. (to be continued)

Franny: Target practice in a sand pit           ca. 1950



About Franny

I used to promise myself that one day I would set the alarm, get up early, brew the legendary cup of coffee and then begin writing about Franny, my late mother.  For years, that particularly morning never seemed to materialize. It wasn’t until my daughter began asking me questions about her heritage that I decided to commit myself and put my memories of my mother’s life into a story.  But how do I tell my mother’s story when she is no longer here to proofread it or provide me with a real critique? Good question. Fortunately, none of those reservations contain the slightest bit of importance.  Just tell the story through the memory of love and all will be well. This is what I tell myself.

Though born in Flint, Michigan in the Fall of 1929, Franny grew up in a small town in the bootheel of Missouri. She had a big voice and a particularly fine sense of humor. As far back as I can remember, she used to own up to the fact that her own birth had been the cause for the Stock Market Crash of 1929. She set her audience laughing because she was tickled by her own self-deprecation. Her croaky guffaw could be heard into the next county. Her laugh was a mixture Phyllis Diller and Lucille Ball.

My mom didn’t live a long life. She died at the age of 58. In our modern era that is not old. I was 25 years old at the time and quickly learned how to pretend that all was well. The last 9 years of Franny’s life were fraught with accidents, hospitalisations, surgeries and a total loss of independance.  She had been involved in a terrible car accident which left her with a massive head injury and a host of other injuries which plagued her for the remainder of her days. Fate is a cruel master. A drunk driver hit her car causing her to rocket through the windshield just a few months after she had gotten her own alcohol consumption under control. Yes, Fate can be unfathomable. In 1977, I was 14 years old and didn’t wonder why my mom hadn’t been wearing a seatbelt.

Franny ca.1946




I had been looking good for an affordable standing desk when my creative spirit received a visit from Lady Necessity, the Mother of Invention.
The solution was as simple as placing a pretty end table on my desk and glueing together 2 empty wine cases. Presto!Change-o! ! I couldn’t be happier with the results. No more joint pain from sitting and no budget sabotaged by the purchase of a non-descipt model from an online boutique.  Even my cat approves!

Standing desk





Resolution Evolution Revolution

Hats off, WordPress! Today, I discovered the Annual Report relating to my WordPress blog during 2015. Just for me. The graphics are beautifully shiny.  I seem to have not noticed it last year.  Be that as it may. I am glad to have it. It made my day brighter.    Since I am a born sucker for bells and whistles the WP firework rosette elicited a smile from me. I live for surprises of this nature.
It might seem strange, but I am already dreaming about my annual report for 2016.  Silly, since it is only the third day of January.
Nevertheless, a minor detail will not rear itself into a stumbling block between my brain and my keyboard. It will not! The resolution revolution fomenting within the bastions of my less than iron will has taken command.  I hope to rehabilitate my posting fidelity. After all, my distinguished name is connected to this blog.  Don’t laugh, esteemed reader. My heart is in the right place, and 2016 will be the year in which I conquer my innate laziness and my tendency to procrastinate. But most importantly, the days of my weaker self, my inner “Schweinehund”, as the Germans say, are numbered.

Ready to continue!
Ready to continue!

This morning I read an article on the Grammarly Blog  (see link below) which has motivated me into swift action. It is all about “Why You Should Put Your Resolutions in Writing”. The author tells us of the good intentions supporting every resolution made during the first month of each new year. Apparently only 46 percent of us will stick to our plan six months down the road.  However, if we commit our resolutions to paper, we then become accountable to ourselves. The supporting research shows that by writing down our goals, we are 42 percent more likely to cross the goal finish line. This is good news. So, reflect upon what you would like to change or achieve during this new year, write it down, print out a copy of your resolution (s) and tack it up near your workstation. Awaken your feelings of true accountability!

I would be nice if you would participate in my Resolution poll. Thank you.

Good luck and Better Health in 2016

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