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Dear Molly

Dear Molly,

40 years ago today, I was over at our great-grandmother’s house, and she had a few friends over sitting on the couch. I got to watch TV, and Planet of the Apes was on. You always hated when I told you that was something I remembered so vividly about the day, so, you know, as a big sister, I gotta make sure I don’t miss it in this letter.

Chris Franquemont (holding Molly) and Ed Franquemont, 1975
Chris Franquemont (holding Molly) and Ed Franquemont, 1975

The phone call came in the early afternoon; the little brother I’d been anticipating was a little girl who weighed 5 and a half pounds. “I wonder what her name is?” everyone started wondering, because clearly it wouldn’t be Little Raoul, which is what you’d been called when you were a bump in my mother’s belly. Everyone sitting around thought Grace sounded like the perfect name.

Ed came and got me, and told everyone your name was Molly Anne, and then he and I went to the hospital to see you. We had chocolate chip banana bread that Barbara had baked, wrapped in tinfoil, and when we got to the hospital, our mother came out and sat with us, but not you. “I don’t have a knife,” my father said, unwrapping the tinfoil package. He broke off pieces of chocolate chip banana bread for everyone. Mine was from the end, which I liked, but it was also shaped like a broken foot, which I didn’t like. I was about to bring this up when my mother said, “Here she comes!” and helped me stand on a chair to look through the window behind us.

A lady dressed in white wheeled up a cart to the window, and smiled. And that was the first time I saw you. You were tiny, and red, with fuzzy red hair, and you were crying. I felt bad about being upset about my weirdly-shaped banana bread. I thought maybe you would like a piece and might not cry anymore if you had some, but you were on the other side of a window, and even then, inside a cart. “She’s very small,” our mother said, “so she has to be in the incubator for a while.”

Abby and Molly, 1975
Abby and Molly, 1975

I was so proud of my new baby sister. It made me mad that you couldn’t come home and play right away. I just wanted you and me to get on with the lives I’d daydreamed for us as your much wiser, more mature, and more experienced sister (that’s right, I was three years old, and I knew STUFF).

Tracey Cain and Molly Franquemont, 1978
Tracey Cain and Molly Franquemont, 1978

Having a little sister was never like I expected it to be. Being a big sister wasn’t either. And you upstaged me at every turn. You were cuter, more charming, had better people skills. I’d make a friend who’d come over to visit me, and then they’d spend the whole visit playing with you and I’d have to give up and go read a book. I didn’t know, until later, that you always thought much the same, and struggled with things like that English teacher wondering why you didn’t want to read Kafka in seventh grade like your big sister. You always looked good in dresses, and in pictures, and I never did. But you always thought everyone could see how many times your nose had been broken and envied me for not being accident-prone.

Molly, in 1979, enjoying having her hair styled by Grandma Claudia
Molly, in 1979, enjoying having her hair styled by Grandma Claudia
1983, Riobamba Ecuador, where even Molly's school uniform cardigan managed to always look fancier than mine
1983, Riobamba Ecuador, where even Molly’s school uniform cardigan managed to always look fancier than mine
Molly and Abby, 1986
Molly and Abby, 1986
Molly, 1990, Tsukuba-shi, Ibaraki-ken,  Japan
Molly, 1990, Tsukuba-shi, Ibaraki-ken, Japan
Molly, 1992, Ithaca High School Lacrosse
Molly, 1992, Ithaca High School Lacrosse
Molly, 1993, with her painting of Grandma Claudia
Molly, 1993, with her painting of Grandma Claudia
Mama Molly and her daughter Quilla, Christmas 1996
Mama Molly and her daughter Quilla, Christmas 1996

I wish we knew where you were, today, when you should be having a party for your fortieth birthday. Forty years is no shit. I’m your big sister, so I know, because I got there first. Or, well, I guess maybe “at all.” It’s been more than 2 years since you disappeared, and with everything that went down, maybe I should be trying to just use phrases like “my sister was” more often. But it’s hard, because… somehow I can’t help thinking it’s all a mistake and I can’t possibly not have a baby sister anymore. Deep down I know you’re gone, because you would have moved heaven and earth to be here with the rest of us these past 2 years. But I can’t close the door on the idea that maybe, just maybe… well, I don’t know what to hope, sometimes, you know? I don’t hope you’re trapped in someone’s basement dungeon, but I also don’t hope you’re dead and never to be found, so maybe the basement dungeon would be better. Maybe I should hope you have amnesia and are having a wonderful time somewhere. But that sounds weird too. I guess I hope you’re at peace, and I wish you were here, and I wish I thought we’ll ever find out.

I miss you. I’m thinking of you a lot lately. Sometimes it sucks being the last one left here. Heck, mostly it does. I know I used to bitch constantly about how I just wanted you to go away and leave me alone, but I never meant it like this. I just wish so much that I could call you up and say happy birthday. I wish you were still around to piss me off, because that’s definitely a little sister’s job and I kinda got used to it after all.

Lots of us miss you.


Be well, whereever and however you may be. You are not forgotten. Especially not on your birthday.



27 thoughts on “Dear Molly

  1. Thinking of you Abby!! And I pray she gets your “happy birthday!!” Sending my birthday wishes to her also!! (((BIG HUGS!!)))

  2. ::sob:: The next time that I see you, I am giving you a hug, for no reason.

  3. You are always my family. I love you and send hundreds of hugs.

  4. Beautiful letter. I can’t imagine this was easy to write, and I sure hope your lovely sister sees it. All the best.

  5. Happy Birthday, Molly. Let Them know You Are Ok, Hon. BeWell. Be Safe.

  6. I’m a little bit lost for words after reading this… 🙁
    Just wanted to leave you a big virtual hug.

  7. My baby sister means so much to me. When she turned 14, and I was 16, she ran away and basically stayed away until she was 22. I was deeply depressed that She left us, me. She came back to us … I pray your sister comes back to you. Much love to you and your sister.

  8. Oh, Abbie, such heartbreak. But what a beautiful set of memories of your sister. Thank you for making her live in our hearts.

  9. I had no idea 🙁 sending you lots of love on this day. I can’t imagine..

  10. With a beautiful story, here we are 43 years later one sister is an accomplished woman proud of her son going off to prom and one in missing with all the love, emptiness and guilt in between. Many threads run in this homespun Franquemont cloth.

  11. Happy Birthday, Molly, and wherever you are, I hope you are at peace. When we were 4 years old we walked up to each other in a chaotic preschool classroom and our bond was instant. You were my first best friend. I miss our summer sleepovers that lasted for days, until Gayle or Chris had to send one of us home; only to get a call the next day that we wanted to be back together. We played and hiked Oak Hill and waded through the field to visit Aunt Vickie. We picked flowers and made wreaths and danced when there wasn’t any music. The time we spent swimming and talking, enjoying a most beautiful, peaceful and simplistic life is my most treasured. I carry still have my half of our best friends locket in my jewelry box, and more than anything, I wish I could find you again. I miss you and I love you. Happy 40th my sweet friend.

    1. So much love to you, Tracey, and I still remember your phone number from back in those days. And how much Teddy Bear grew in one week when you and he stayed with us because your folks were going… somewhere. And so many things. And from your comment I remember so clearly so many of those days, and I think about you and your family often.

  12. Thank you, Abby, from little sisters everywhere.

  13. Every time you write of Molly I think about the limbo space, the not-knowing-and-likely-never-will. I’ve experienced plenty of that but never at such a heart wrenching level. I wish words were truly a comfort.

  14. She will always live on in your memory and heart. Thinking of you.

  15. Oh Abby, just sending hugs…. Just before I read this I had gotten off the phone with my sister. My heart goes out to you. I hope that somehow, someday, you get answers

  16. Hard to say anything. All I can do is tell you how much I admire you, for how strong a woman you are, and how honest and true your heart has stood, after all that you’ve been through. Much love.

  17. Just wanted to say, I read this and I hear you, still being there for your sister.

  18. Wish there was something to make it better.

  19. Hi, I knew Molly growing up in Ithaca in my teens, I just wanted to say how sorry I am, my thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family. I hope they are all at peace, and wish you love in this time.

    1. Hi Rich, and thanks — I remember you, and also know some of your siblings. 😉 Thanks for keeping us all in your thoughts, and love to you and yours as well.

  20. Abby, I had no idea. This is heartbreaking. You wrote a beautiful letter. May Molly be at peace. Sending you lots of love from the other side of the world. Keren

  21. Hello Abby, my heart goes out to you in this terrible & difficult situation.
    The only good thing I can think is: at least you had Molly as a sister & got to share all you did. I feel for you & thank you for posting all you did as this is all I get to know of you & Molly & Chris & Ed, having loved you all so long ago…
    Hope the Spring & Summer help you through the next while. So glad you have your husband & son to love. Still hoping to meet w/ you in the Fall if you are still planning to come East then. All best wishes,

  22. Abby- You were and have always been a legend among those of us that loved Molly. She bragged about you, your courage to leave home, your brains to teach yourself complicated crazy things that most of us never even tried to understand and, after you had your boy, she bragged about you as a Mom. When I close my eyes and listen I can hear her saying things she always said, I can hearing her talking about my “Baby Taylor” as she lovingly calls him no matter how tall or old he is. I too can’t help but glom on to some crazy idea that she will show up some day, having just been practicing silence and solitude in that mysterious way that only she could. Thank you for putting all of this in to words, many of us weep with you. And I thank you also for being a legend among the next generation of women who were finding our way. Molly loves you, that I know for sure!

  23. Miss her with all my heart!!! EVERY SINGLE DAY! CANNOT begin to imagine your own hurt! Thank You so much for posting photos, they brought me to tears! I always say,”I miss that baby” and to see those pictures made me smile and cry! ONE OF A KIND she and she is missed like she wouldn’t understand!!!

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