Jane, Janey, Jane Lawder Gamble, Jane Lawder Gamble Heyward, Mrs. Heyward, Mom, Grandma. We are gathered here in our love for this person. Last Spring, when I visited my mother, she presented me with a small piece of scratch paper on which she had written down a series of dates that she considered important in her life. I thought this was information she was sharing with any visitor, so I didn’t hold on to the slip of paper. I wish I had. I am now trusting my memory to represent her well.
The paper started with her birth: February 18, 1917. However it made no mention of the earliest description of her infancy. This description was discovered in a letter written by her mother – who was given this advice for dealing with her screaming baby Jane: put this child outside in a box from 9AM to 10PM; only visit her for feeding. The advice was taken and it seemed to work. Apparently, Jane was much happier in the woods– even at the very start of her life. Now, that sounds like her, doesn’t it?
She doesn’t mention her childhood in Baltimore and then Brookline, Massachusetts. But what stood out for my mother was weekends at the farm in Taunton, summers in Maine, and her beloved camping trips with her father and Dr. Park, fly fishing along rivers in remote Cape Breton, Canada. She loved the long days in the wilds, exploring, fishing, outside morning, noon and night. Sounds like her, doesn’t it?
She doesn’t mention her years at the Winsor School and her giggle from the back of the classroom that her yearbook describes, or even her year in Switzerland where she spoke only French at her Swiss school. But Bryn Mawr College was fondly noted: the German house, her major in Greek and archeology and her subsequent trip to the Mediterranean where she spent the summer digging in Greece and then sleeping on the deck of the boat as it pulled in and out of harbors on the Black Sea and Mediterranean. Sounds like her doesn’t it?
1948 and her marriage to Henderson Heyward are duly noted, but she makes no mention of how it felt to adjust to the South in the 1950’s: to perm her hair and wear lipstick and always a skirt. Nor does she make note of her children’s birthdates: 1949, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1956, 1958. She loved birthdays actually, but she also loved activity, the child that could ski and ride and sail and, well…hike. Up the mountains, loaf of bread and peanut butter jar in hand. As for quiet times at home, how about hearing her read aloud the bloody Irish myths of Cahoulain, or the battle-filled King Arthur legends? Sounds like her, doesn’t it?
She makes no mention of the night when I was about 10 or 11 and I asked my father who he thought was the most beautiful woman in the world and he said, looking at my mother in her mink coat and red lipstick, “Your mother. And she becomes more beautiful with each passing year.” And I looked at her and knew it was true and would always be true. I doubt she heard it.
She notes the year she bought Laneway Farm, but not the years and years as a successful farm woman running the dairy farm, and her visits to Vermont and Washington state and Scotland and New Zealand dairy farms, or of her reknown in the field for her writing about cattle breeding and organic farming. Nor does she mention how much we children complained about her car that always smelled of manure, or riding in the truck that seemed ready to tip over when the cow in the back shifted position. And why did we always have to eat brown bread made out of carrots? And freshly squeezed orange juice full of stringy pulp? And why did she need to take that bread everywhere with her, even on the airplane? Sounds like her doesn’t it?
She doesn’t give dates to when Henderson stopped accompanying her for even part of her annual summer trips to Sorrento, Maine, so she could spend day in and day out exploring Schoodic Mountain, Champlain, the Black Hills, or the wildly windy waters of Frenchman’s Bay on her catamaran, long after any sane sailor knew to head in. Sounds like her doesn’t it?
She doesn’t mention her discovery of Old Rag Mountain in Virginia, and her gradual shift over the years from looking for available hiking trails to map reading and bushwhacking her way across terrain of any height nearby. Nor does she mention her blossoming friendship with Boo and many and any hiking friends and home schoolers, or how she moved faster than most people can walk, clipping branches and sharing as she went: about this bird or that wild flower. Scraped shins, bruised knees, gone for 2, 4, maybe 6 hours at a time. Sounds like her, doesn’t it?
She does mention Fortune’s Cove, 755 acres of exceptionally beautiful land in Nelson County, Virginia, now set aside for all to explore and enjoy. Her legacy for those who love the land as much as she did.
Grandchildren: each birth carefully marked down. More company for the trails. More children to play in her garden. More people to join her outside, more to love the earth in the way that she did: Did you know Arthur is a gardener at Monticello? Did you know Chafee has sailed all over the world? Did you know Hunter has taught children about farming? Did you know Suzanne is living in Kenya? Did you know Chloe and Vicka and Julia found puppies at the barn? Sounds like her doesn’t it?
She does mention her garden. For years and years we heard her say: “My garden is what keeps me alive” as she made her way from one chair to the next, noticing every bud, every scent of bloom. Like the woods when she was a baby, she was sustained by her love of the earth. Near the end, she added to that …” And my caretakers: Pat and Jackie and Ginny and Beth and Tressie and Edna” and more, and of course, my brother Jimmy, who day in and day out, year in and year out, checked in on her, found her the chairs, the elevators, perfectly placed birdfeeders that gave her such joy… and everyone who tended her garden and the farm. Much as she might never have admitted it, she loved people and we loved her back. She really loved people and people really loved her back. Sounds like my mother, doesn’t it? Sounds like the person we love so much.