Jan appeared to be quiet and sedate but she was a smoldering torch with a deeply infectious giggle. She likely had to contain herself as her older brother was an instructor at the college. Whenever we could pull her away from the campus into biking, skiing, mountain climbing, nature transformed her into a vibrant imp.
Other times, she sat cross legged staring into a campfire strumming her guitar and singing- lost in the past, or perhaps the future.
Jan was not one to be afraid. Since her family and 5 siblings had moved many times and she relocated from Hawaii to attend school in Nebraska, she was always willing to attempt that which was foreign and new.
She was the first in the group to marry, followed closely by 3 of us, as we all slowly exchanged our honored surnames for simple, easily to spell new names. These changes cut back on the repeated spelling of our 6 unusual surnames along with the frequently snipped, ‘Your last name is WHAT? You are kidding, right?’
In the pouring rain, Jan had a beautiful peach satin and silk wedding at the Nebraska campus music hall one week after her graduation. I was ecstatic to return to the people and places I had learned to call home and ditched my own college graduation in Colorado to fly to Lincoln.
I was chagrined to point out to Jan that I would be limping up the aisle at her wedding as I had broken my foot one week prior while cross country skiing. (in 35 years, this is the best yarn I can come up with.)
It was old home week. And we did have a college prank left in us. I did not like the way the sharp edges of my plaster cast snagged the gorgeous full length peach gown. Three of us soaked the plaster in the nearby swollen river until it slipped away.
The wedding was fairy tale come to life. A way to find closure and bid farewell to my dear friends, knowing we would have to make our own happily ever afters. Knowing we would likely not meet again. But I have a bright reminder of that wonderful week, my foot aches when I walk in the winter snows with my dog. Small price to pay for a chance to wear matching peach shoes.
Jan’s life is one of great adventures. After one year in Wyoming, she moved with her husband to Nigeria, Africa where they taught for 4 years. This might well be a book she writes of her own accord. She began her family there with two children. She, then, moved with her family to towns throughout the West: Nebraska, Wyoming, and Colorado. (she might be one of those reaching the 30 moves in 30 years). Unbeknownst to the others, one of her 5 children share a name in common with Meg’s family.
Then a leap. With a move to the east coast, Jan and her husband hoped to better support their burgeoning family of 7. With gifts come losses, such is a thread among the six.
It was a cultural shock to live in a large metro, so different from the small towns they had grown to love. Jan bemoans her new backyard as “the crime capital of the country.” She suddenly became the bread winner of the family when her husband took ill. Jan also lost her beloved brother and her mother suddenly in the early 1980’s.
Jan promised herself every year or so that she would stop saying, “never in my wildest dreams would I ever have imagined this happening to us.” As she developed and created a Preschool and Kindergarten for 105 rural children in needy circumstances, to help with her own family finances.
She is now the proud grandmother of what she refers to as “double twins”. That’s right. Two sets of twin girls born to the oldest daughter; all four girls still under the age of 5. She took a leave of absence to assist her daughter with this “never in my wildest dreams”.
She indicates to us via email: Days have run together, showers have been infrequent, delight, fatigue, tea parties, and sheer exhaustion are a way of life but I would not trade it for the world. I have found God’s faithfulness, love, comfort, and peace does surpass all understanding and I am so thankful for it. And I cannot tell you what a tremendous gift it is to have you all back in my life. I have found living on the east coast most difficult compared to the openness we knew in Nebraska. Her younger brother lives there still, in Peggy’s hometown.
But she once again has a large family surrounding her. The twin sets are beautiful, blond, energetic and can be seen blooming along the Eastern Seaboard. Shades of a burning firebrand raised in Hawaii and moved to Nebraska.
Odd it seems, how we turn and turn around full circle to find ourselves back home again. I haven’t found time to ask Jan if she keeps up with her guitar but I am guessing when she has that spare moment in the day, we can find her with that faraway look in her eyes as she watches Westward, with longing at the final flames of an East Coast sunset from an ancient tree stump.