The Saga of Franny Quist, Her Love of Family, and Her Quest for the Perfect Family Reunion Because This May Be Her Last!
Welcome To The Quist Family Reunion
Underlying Family Dynamics and Drama Relating to the Quist Family Gathering
It is an uncommonly hot morning on July 25th, 2009 at the Charleston mansion of Franny Quist-Pierson, an elderly matriach of eighty years of age. Summers in the southern part of South Carolina at this time of the year are usually hot and crisp, not hot and balmy. It was at least ninety degrees in the shade.
Franny was preparing a feast with her two sisters Lauren Quist-Heynes and Annie May Quist; Francesca Hollands, her daughter; Yvettte Quist, her niece; and Aretha Hollands, her granddaughter. Franny was adept at cooking southern specialities such as fried chicken, honeyed ham with pineapples and a dash of sage seasoning, corn on the cob, potato salad with eggs and pickles, spareribs, black eye peas, chitterlings, red rice, hot buttermilk biscuits, red velvet cake, and green salad with homemade buttermilk dressing. Dessert would be sweet potato pie, black velvet cake(a recipe using black tea and dark chocolate mix), rice pudding, and sweet coconut pineapple custard pie. This magnificent food would be washed down with homemade sweet cinnamon and mint tea, lemonade, and non-alcoholic pina colada.
This would be the first Quist family reunion in twenty years. All of the remaining eight living Quist siblings and their children will be at the reunion in addition to one hundred relatives which include second and third cousins.. Franny is hoping for this as she is getting on in years and her health has not been good lately. After Franny's last doctor's visit, the last prognosis was that her eyesight has been constantly failing and her heart is weakening. Despite those things, it is Franny's utmost desire to make a memorable feast for this family reunion as she is uncertain whether her health will remain the same or worsen as she gets older. Franny lives in the mansion with her sister, Annie Mae, who has a rheumatic heart condition, and her brother, Izzy, who has just been separated from his fourth wife.
Franny was born in Pauline, South Carolina the third of ten children in the Quist family, an impoverished sharecropping family who are the descendants of enslaved Africans. The nine other children in the Quist family were Guinevere, Romulus, Annie May, Romeo, Izzy, Jacob, Noah, Lauren, and Elizabeth ( Betsy). Martin Quist, their father, was a pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. Pastor Quist was the fourteenth of twenty children in a sharecropping family.
As a child, Pastor Quist was a prodigious student and was slated for higher things; however, he had to quit school in the fourth grade at the insistence of his father. His father, Avery Quist, maintained that education was a waste of time for Black people as the only jobs were menial and other sharecropping jobs. Pastor Quist wanted to be either a doctor or a mathematician and when he told his parents this, they laughed at him, stating that he was dreaming too high for a poor Black person.
Pastor Quist's prospects were highly limited and because of a lack of educaton, his existence was poverty stricken at most. Pastor Quist performed a series of odd jobs after he left his parents. Pastor Quist wanted to return to school but that was impossible with the minimum wages and the long ours he worked. Pastor Quist's church administered to sharecropper and other poor farmers. Pastor Quist did not earn enough money as a preacher and he often had to supplement his income by performing a variety of odd jobs which barely sustained the family.
The mother, Jane Mouw-Quist, finished high school. Rumor was that she came from a family of doctors and educators. Jane was one of three sisters. The Mouw family would have been considered upper middle class by early twentieth century standards. Jane's mother was a pediatrician and feminist who was a proponent of women's reproductive rights. Jane was raised by her parents to believe in the importance of culture and education. When Jane graduated from high school, it was the familial expectation that she would attend college and later medical school. However, Jane neither did these things, electing to marry Pastor Quist had a fourth education and came from an impoverished sharecropper family. Jane's parents, of course, was very disappointed in her lifestyle choice.
Pastor Quist did not expect to have the large number of children that he had; however,Jane was either too unknowledgeable about or tooindolent to use any type of preventives. Jane was an overburdened mother who was often ill-tempered with her growing brood of children. Jane become so overwhelmed by it all that she had Guinevere and later Franny raise her increasing brood of children. Jane did not find motherhood to be a chore but something to perfunctorily perform.
It was extremely onerous for Pastor Quist to be the sole provider for ten children but nevertheless he did it. If it was not for Jane's wealthy unmarried third cousin, who was one of tthe first and few Black female doctors in Boston, Massachusetts, who regularly donated clothes and books, the Quist family would be in ever deeper poverty. In spite of impoverished familiy conditons, Pastor Quist managed to impart to his ten children the importance of education beyond the secondary level and to have careers, not jobs. Pastor Quist also educated his ten children on the importance of planning for your children.
Franny was considered a child prodigy by Pastor Quist and neighbors alike. At three years of age, Franny could memorize and recite Biblical verses at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. Franny also excelled in school and even won a scholarship to attend a exclusive Methodist boarding school. However this never materialized as she got into a relationship with a wealther, older boy in a nearby city which ended in pregnancy when she was fifteen. It was Franny's hope and dream to attend boarding school and subsequently attend college to become a lawyer.
As a result of the pregancy, Franny had to abruptly leave school, becoming a sharecropper herself. After a while to escape the life of sharecropping and being a second parent to her eight brothers and sisters, she married a scion of a Black upper class family. However, that marriage did not last long due to his philandering with other women. Subsequently, Franny left the South for New York City to be a housekeeper for a wealthy German Jewish family, the Lowensteins on 85th Street and Park Avenue which is located on the Upper East Side. Franny worked for the Lowensteins until her retirement at sixty years of age.
In the interim, Franny sent her daughter, Francesca, to exclusive schools from the elementary to the secondary level. Francesca, her only child, inherited her mother's prodigious intellectual. As a result of being a straight A student, Francesca won several scholarships to Ivy League universities including Yale, Harvard, and Oxford Universities. However, Francesca elected to attend New York University where she had a double major in Anthropology and Journalism. Francesca ultimately works for a well known newspaper.
Franny brought a mansion in Charleston subsequent to her retirement due to highly lucrative investments in the stock market. Franny realizes that she is getting older and that her health is failing. It is Franny's dream to have a huge family reunion because inwardly, she knows that she does not have long to live. A week before she has scheduled a famiy reunion, it was diagnosed that she has cancer and may not live until 2010. In addition to that, all of the older Quist and Mouw relatives are dying off in droves. The last death was in 2005 when a maternal aunt died at the age of ninety. Franny wants to see all of her family before she dies.
Franny is very devoted to her immediate and extended family. By estimation, the Quist and Mouw family has at least three hundred members which include first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and other distant cousins. Among Franny's siblings, there are eight left. The Quist second child, the Reverend Romulus Quist, died of a heart attack in 1988, and the last child, Dr. Elizabeth Quist, a neurosurgeon, died of pneumonia, in 1998.
Franny's main concern is her oldest sister, Guinevere Quist-Wilson, an ex-nursing administrator is in a nursing home because of alzheimer's disease. Guinevere has a daughter, Greyce, who has recently retired from her position as a Human Resource Specialist II. It pains Franny that Guinevere no longer recognizes her voice on the telephone.
Franny wanted Guinevere to live with her at the mansion rather in some cold and impersonal nursing home. Franny is trying to get the remnant of her family together for what may be her last family reunion. Franny, Francesca, Annie May, Lauren, Yvette, and Aretha are sending letters, telegrams, and e-mails to the remaining and extended relatives. Franny further realized that it would be difficult to reach some relative as they have dispersed to different parts of the United States, Canada, and France. In addition to that, there are many relatives who are estranged from the family e.g. Greyce Wilson who has not seen the Quist-Mouw family for thirty-five years.
Franny and Annie Mae has called and written to Greyce several times but to no avail. It is Greyce's intention to never have contact with her relatives again. Franny has called and written Greyce several times but to no avail. It is Greyce's contention that she is better that the Quist family whose origins were impoverished sharecroppers. Greyce has only wealthy friends even though she was born into a middle class family in Harlem. Like Francesca, Greyce attended exclusive private schools including the university level. Greyce is what one would describe as elitist.
It has been well known that Greyce has no love towards the Quist family which is the maternal side of her family. Greyce asserts that she has nothing in common with the Quist family. The Quist family, especially its older members, are Southern, rural, conservative, and fundamentalist in religious beliefs while Greyce is Northern, urban, sophisticated, and leans towards New Age metaphysical spiritual beliefs.
Franny have received many declinations from many relatives ,including Greyce, regarding the family reunion. Franny is very hurt about this. Franny so badly wanted her niece, Greyce,to attend the family reunion. Franny has not seen Greyce in sixteen years and she wanted to see her niece for what is probably the last time. Although Franny sent invitations to assorted relatives regarding the family reunion, only ninety people answered.
Most of all, Franny wanted Guinevere to attend the family reunion. Although Franny tried to contact Greyce several times by telephone and by letters, she did not respond. Greyce no longer wished to see either her mother or the rest of the Quist family ever again.
Since Franny was strongly determined to have Guinevere at the family reunion, she contacted Michaela Mouw-Harrington, a distant cousin living in New York City's Tribeca area. Franny instructed Michaela to contact the nursing home Guinevere was residing in to get permission to take her to the family reunion. Michaela several times called Greyce and even visited her but to no avail. Greyce had an intense animosity against Michaela.
Greyce was forcibly retired and as a result, became angry and depressed. Greyce naturally wanted another job but could not get one. Greyce naturally became suicidal and her moods became darker. Michaela noticed this and had Greyce placed under psychiatric observation. Greyce did not want this, believing that Michaela was interferring with her life. Greyce refused to speak to and have anything to do with Michaela and began to hate her after she was released from the hospital.
Michaela nevertheless contacted the nursing home and got permission to take Guinevere to the family reunion. Michaela went with Guinevere to the family union. Michaela eventually had Guinevere released from the nursing home to live with Franny and her other siblings at the mansion.
At the family gathering, Franny was happy and greeting her ninety relatives which included five siblings, ten nieces and nephews, one grandchild, twelve grandnieces and nephews, and two great grandchildren. Everyone was happy to see each other and eating good food. Motown music from the 1960s and 1970s was playing and everyone was dancing. Then a car drove up with Mchaelai and Guinevere. Franny was so happy to see them and hugged them tightly. Franny saw Guinevere and she cried. Guinevere too cried, wishing that her daughter Greyce would have visited her more often in the nursing home and be with her at this beautiful family gathering. Franny, too, wished to see Greyce at the family gathering for she had not see her in sixteen years. Franny had an underlying feeling that she may not live until 2010 but then maybe she will be alive in 2010.