“Thanks, Mary” ~ Guest Blogger, Carolyn Neil Franzini

Dear Mary,

Remembering those high school days years ago, the images are still crystal clear…the “in group girls” with ratted hair, matching wool skirts and sweaters purchased at Nineteen South, the place to buy in Fort Scott.  The dances at “Teen Town” on Thursday nights and football games on Friday nights were the places to go.

All were aware of the look and the things to do, but of course not all were in the “in group.” I was certainly down the economic ladder steps from most in the “in group.” One is always aware of where their position is as a result of family income, race or other unavoidable labels. Maybe I would not have liked being in the “in group” even if that had been a choice. I was okay and I knew I would improve my life when I had the opportunity after college.

I had my own group in my grade, but I also had a friend a grade younger than me. Your family and ours went to the same church, and Marylin and I went to CGF youth activities together. You and Ray were very supportive of me. I often spent the night at your house after church youth group meetings on Wednesday evenings. I loved to spend the night at your house. It was much nicer than mine; the central heat and air always provided temperature comfort, and you always made a lovely breakfast. Sometimes it was food I had not had before, like corned beef gravy on toast. Sometimes we were were almost late to school because we wanted to sleep in just five more minutes. I always remember how I felt in growing up situations, and staying at your house alwasy provided an “I’m okay” feeling.

Thanks for being a warm remembrance, Mary. With love, Carolyn


Hi, Mom. Carolyn wrote you this memory of growing up and spending many nights at our house after youth group. She was always very special to you and Dad, almost like another daughter, and even when we painted my room a bright yellow, you grimaced but applauded our efforts.

Now you would applaud all of Carolyn’s efforts, Mom, and would be very proud of her.

Carolyn and her husband live in Morehead, KY. They have three grown children and two grandchildren. She is a retired educator and treats every day as a gift. Learning about other cultures is her passion, and Carolyn has visited China seven times, once taking Kentucky students along with her for the cultural experience.

She recently ran a 5K race with her daughter and 6-year-old grandson, and she’s running for city council election in November.

Yes, Mom, you and Dad would be very proud of Carolyn. And I’m very proud of you, and the warm welcome you gave to my friends. Kindness and hospitality were your trademarks. I love you, Mom.   Marylin



Filed under lessons about life, memories for great-grandchildren, teachers, writing

10 responses to ““Thanks, Mary” ~ Guest Blogger, Carolyn Neil Franzini

  1. Wow. What an interesting life and post. Such a lovely heartfelt letter. Your mother has made quite an impression on many people.

    • If it weren’t for her advanced dementia, Julia, my mom would say that all the friends–and my special high school friends like Carolyn–were the ones who made an impression on her, and a difference in her life.

  2. Molly

    Carolyn…I love this rememberance of Grandma and Grandpa. I find it almost scary that your niece and I had a similar type relationship as you and my mom did. I can’t speak for your niece, but I am sure that Fort Scott and the normal “teen ager” things to do there weren’t exactly her cup of tea….she was always meant for bigger and better things – just as you were, obviously.

    I have found life interesting, through finding old friends (or acquaintances) on FACEBOOK, it seems that the people who were really “in” according to most, didn’t really feel that way at the time. I think that while growing up no one really feels secure in who they are, but those of us that continue following our own sense of direction end up becoming very successful.

    I know that my grandma (and grandpa) love(d) your niece, and so I am sure that they absolutely adored you. The majority of stories that mom tells about growing up involve you, and so I know that you meant a lot to her too.

    The Neil Family will always hold a very special place in all the Shepherd, Warner, Mosher hearts!

  3. Marie

    Hello Marylin and Carolyn,

    It is Marie, my whole family follows this blog all the time now. Willow (my daughter) was very vocal about the 3 word statements, and my husband, Sam, was one of the winners in the greeting card contest (and he never lets us forget it), but I had to be the one to respond to this particular story.

    Carolyn, I believe if Missouri was any closer to Kansas we would have been best friends. I could never get my hair to rat just right, my home-made wool skirts never quite matched my hand-me-down sweaters, I was never asked to the teen dances, and I had to work on the farm on Friday nights instead of going to the football game.

    Beyond all that, I never felt like I fit in because I had one more strike against me, I was a Farm Girl. We didn’t even have electricity or running water in the house until I was in middle school. But, I was like you in that I knew in my heart of hearts that there was life after and beyond high school and my small town I lived in.

    I am not sure that I have gone as far as you have, but I feel I have made a difference. I was thrilled to read at the end of the blog about all that you have gone on to do with your life, I was cheering for you throughout the entire story!

    Congratulations, Carolyn, on being highly successful!


    • Marie, Fort Scott is only a few miles from the Missouri line. I think you and Carolyn would have had many things in common. If we’d only known you, and if you lived close enough, you could have joined in on some of our antics. Like the time Carolyn worked and saved and got contact lenses. We sat on the floor of my bedroom and used the long mirror to “practice” putting one of her contacts in MY eye! It took forever to get it out, but I guess no real damage was done as neither of us is blind… If our daughters ever did anything so stupid, we wouldn’t be laughing about it.
      Thanks for your comments, Marie. I love hearing from you, Willow and Sam, and Carolyn will be answering you soon. ~ Marylin

  4. carolyn franzini

    Dear Marie,
    I truly appreciated the thoughts you shared. It is impossible to put it all together in high school and not be concerned about your looks, your body, your family resources, your car etc. Self esteem and core values are provided by your family and will carry you through a lot. Some people say that pain makes you stronger-not sure about that one.
    My friendship with Marilyn and her family was important to me then as well as today.
    Thanks so much for responding to my guest blog, I appreciate your comments.

    • If I had a choice, Carolyn, I’d vote for no pain–or at least less–but it does make us stronger and wiser in the long run. You struck many growing-up memories with your blog, not just about being at my house with my family, but about life in general. I love the way you write. I want you to write again and tell the story your shared about the girl in China who met someone on the internet. You have so much to share, so consider it. Please.

  5. reading this took me back to the late 60’s and ‘Sylvia Chalmers’ my first true love at school …. nice memories

    • In the UK, did Sylvia Chalmers rat her hair and wear plaid skirts with matching sweaters? Maybe not, but my guess is that first true loves at school in the UK and US share some similar heart-throbbing characteristics. Thanks, Tom.

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