Monday, December 19, 2011

Remembering Jane

Jane connected with all generations of our family-we’re very fortunate.

As children, Jane and Jan spent weekends together at Laneway Farm in Taunton, but the two really didn’t get to know each other until later, in the summer of 1932, when Jane arrived in Switzerland with her mother and Aunt. Jan, who had been living with a governess in Neufchatel since the fall of 1931, was more than delighted to see her. Janie had come over for the year to learn French.

Together the two girls and the two Elizabeths spent the summer hiking near Zermatt. Jan said that Janie was “fearless” and helped her conquer the steep trails and ambitious heights as they savored Switzerland’s views.

In the academic year that followed, Janie lived at Villa Yema outside Neufchatel while Jan was in town with her mother and siblings, who had came over that August. The two would get together most weekends, with Jan riding trolley up to the Villa for Friday night dinners.

I now realize that Jane had something to do with my sailing career, which began in the mid 1960’s. When I was nine or ten, Jimmy drafted me as crew on the Wee Scot, Night & Day. He probably would have been better off sailing solo. Trying to impress him I’d often yell “starboard” to approaching boats, regardless of the situation, and if we heeled more than 15 degrees I’d retreat from my hiking duties in a panic, sure that the end was imminent. Miraculously, my contract was renewed the following summer. In retrospect, I’m sure Jimmy wouldn’t have taken me on without intervention from his mother.

Jane was always good-natured and even keeled. Once, Jimmy invited me for a sleepover at Guestwick and I remember how cool it felt to be hanging out with a teenager. The elation died the following morning when I woke to hear Jimmy say, “Your bed is covered with blood.” I’d had a nosebleed and ruined the sheets. Mortified, I went downstairs to receive punishment from Jane. She simply smiled, took the soiled sheets and said, “Now, what would you like for breakfast? Cereal?”

For a couple of summers, Jane hosted delicious lunches at Guestwick for the teenage crowd. Louisa, Linc, Brucie and the Huber boys were there. I can remember conversation about hiking, sailing, politics, the war in Vietnam, and colleges as we drank that delicious ice tea with mint and ate roast chicken or beef. It was a great way for all of us to connect as we raced through August, but it was especially generous of Jane- I’m sure that sitting around a dining room table wasn’t her top priority.

At some point in the 70’s Hank Sharpe produced the film “The Maine Connection” as a contemporary take of the “Peterborough Pearls.” Jane kindly agreed to let him use her car, Foxhaven, in the film. A few days later Jane was strolling across the meadow north of Redicut to discover Foxhaven roaring up the dock road at 55 m.p.h., with a chase vehicle a few feet behind. She screamed, “Hank, Hank. What is going on!” Hank put down his movie camera to explain that this was a critical moment in the film, but Jane would have none of it. “This wasn’t what I expected. I want my car back.” I think that’s the only time I saw Jane get agitated, but even then she was controlled.

In the 1990’s, Heather and I rented Ref Roof for several summers. The phone would often ring before 8 a.m.; it was Janie. She’d ask a few quick questions, excitedly and then get to the point. “Is Alex there please?” I’d put Alex, age 8, on the line and listen as she organized a morning hike to the Anvil trail for the children of Weirhaven. “Please tell Claire. Meet at the Red Barn at 8:30. Your parents are welcome.” She’d hang up. Sometimes we would come, but more often not because it was better to let her work her magic. We’ve always loved hiking as a family and we can thank Janie for getting us started.

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