of you may be familiar with "The
Butterfly Effect" usually attributed to Edward
Lorenz. The theory (simply put) is that a
butterfly flapping its wings in Tahiti can produce a tornado in Kansas.
Also known as the Chaos Theory, and discussed by Leibniz as early as the 17th
century, it arises when a system is unusually sensitive to its initial conditions
so that a small disturbance of the system changes each subsequent behavior in
a way that grows exponentially with time. Probably the most famous example of chaos,
however, is this so-called "butterfly
effect", suggesting that the tiny air disturbance from the flapping of a
butterfly's wings (or any seemingly insignificant event) can ultimately lead
to a powerful and unpredictable change -- dramatic consequences. Over the past
two weeks, I, for one, have become intrigued by this theory.
A small "DISTURBANCE" of the system we call Mother Earth occurred on February 1st, 1927, (in Seattle, WA), when my mother, Jean Marie Lande was born, and most of us know the dramatic, exponentially growing consequences that resulted (and will continue to do so). The second child (and first daughter) born to my grandparents, Clarence Oliver and Adelia Babcock Lande, my mother grew up on a farm where she led a relatively care-free existence and spent much of her time on horseback.
Her father (or my grandfather) was a first-generation Norwegian immigrant who grew up in North Dakota, graduated from college, and went on to receive a law degree, though he never practiced law after coming to Seattle.
My mother's mother also graduated from college, but she grew up in Montana and was chosen by Teddy Roosevelt to break wild horses for the U.S. cavalry during WW I, when she was a young girl. She was an original "HORSE WHISPERER". My mother's grandfather counted Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley among his friends, and he had a "wild west" show of his own.
My mother's parents set education as a top priority, and all three children had a passion for learning. My mother often told me that the highlight of her childhood were the day-long, weekly trips to the library.
Some of my mother's best childhood friends were Japanese immigrants, some of whom worked on their farm and others who lived in her neighborhood. One day her Japanese friends disappeared, sent to US internment camps with little to no warning. This injustice was one of many that affected my mother deeply.
Jean Lande thrived in high school, studying civics and math (the only girl to be in the most advanced math class), and she loved the debate team. She was then the first person from her high school to take the College Boards (now known as SATs). Most of her classmates did not even consider going to college, but my mother chose Vassar. Though she'd never seen Vassar and knew little about it, the mother of her friend, Joan, had graduated from there and encouraged Mom to apply. And so, on August 25th, 1945, my mother and Joan boarded the train for Poughkeepsie, NY making my mother the first member of her family to travel East of the Mississippi. When the taxi pulled up to the grand, rose-covered brick entrance to Vassar College, my mother experienced another first: This pivotal life-changing moment -- arriving at Vassar College -- was heralded by her first-ever violent, electrical storm, and she was in awe of Mother Nature's ovation.
It took my mother some time to become accustomed to Vassar and the East Coast society girls she encountered there. She also felt that her high school hadn't prepared her as well as she'd hoped (or needed). An entry in her diary from September of 1945 sounds like it could have been written by her earlier this year -- "I am systematizing my work and if I will obey a schedule I may get organized. As it is I am way behind and seem to waste so much time in procrastinating." Some things clearly didn't change.
My mother rather quickly decided
that she'd only spend one year at Vassar, as it was too far away
from home and she missed her family terribly. Soon after my mother
arrived at Vassar, the Dean of Students (feeling a bit sorry for
this girl so far from home) set her up to have dinner with the "other girl from the West". My mother loved to tell the story of how the other western girl was from Pittsburgh!
Mom worked hard and grew to love Vassar for its first-rate education and the fascinating, motivated women she met there. She even convinced her younger sister, Doris, to apply the next year. With a major in political science, Mom enjoyed debating politics (surprisingly, she was a Republican at the time!)
In her sophomore year, a handsome man (in uniform) came to visit his sister (who lived on Mom's floor at Vassar). She was introduced to this soldier, and my mother never took another look at any other man. A year and a half later (she was on the 3-year plan), she graduated from Vassar (and the soldier -- our father) graduated from Princeton. Very soon after, they were married in the Shakespeare Garden on the Vassar campus. Sometime later my mother told a dear friend from home: Some of us marry well: We are allowed the freedom to be ourselves.
My brother, John and I were born while my father was completing his doctorate at the University of Washington, so Mom had a few more years living in Seattle, which she loved. In 1957, we moved to Hanover, and each winter she reminded us of how "CIVILIZED" winters were in the Pacific Northwest. But she grew to love NH with a passion and soon it was clearly her destiny and her home. She certainly kept busy - cleaning the Connecticut River, saving Franconia Notch, and generally creating much-needed chaos in the State (and, indeed, in the Nation).
During a large part of my early years I assumed that my mother was fundamentally like others. Of course, early on, I also knew there were dramatic ways in which she was NOT typical: I assumed that all fathers and mothers shared household duties, for example. In elementary school, I remember being confused by the way the other children always said that their MOTHERS had made their lunches for school, as my father had always made mine. As a teenager, I heard that it was typical for mothers to tell their daughters that they were too young to shave their legs, and I braced myself for the same reply from my mother when I received my first invitation to a coed pool party (at the Epplys'). Instead, my mother looked me squarely in the eyes and said, "Before you decide to shave your legs, you'd better think hard about whether you're doing it because YOU want smooth, shiny legs or because you believe that BOYS like smooth, shiny legs. If you're going to do it, do it because it's how YOU want to look." In this (seemingly insignificant) three-minute conversation, my mother made an important and timely point that gave me pause. Over the years, the value of her message grew exponentially, helping me to challenge my instinct to conform and, in fact, making me a better mother of my own teenage girls. It wasn't until I left home that I realized that some people treated those who worked in their homes differently than they treated friends and family. Every person who came into our house was treated with the same dignity. It didn't matter if he/she were running for president or vacuuming the floor when the party was over. In fact, my mother had a way of seeing the potential in all people. It was hard for her to keep a good secretary, for example, because she'd inevitably look for ways to help them move on to higher level jobs. If her secretary hadn't finished college, Mom might find a way to get funding so that she could finish her degree. She believed in having dreams and pursuing them -- not just for herself, but for those who had been less fortunate or whose dreams had been stifled somewhere along the way.
When my mother died unexpectedly on June 9th (in the midst of an extraordinary electrical storm outside her window), my personal loss was overwhelming. Of course, my entire family felt the same way. My brother and I had lost our mother, my children had lost their cherished grandmother, and my father had lost his very best friend -- a fundamental part of himself. What I didn't realize at the time, however, was the degree to which her life had affected so many, MANY others ... some I've never known.
We knew that she was a well-known political force ... the "Doyenne" of NH Democratic politics, if you will ... but my family and I have been awakened to another dimension. In the past two weeks, we have received many wonderful notes and phone calls from those who want us to know how she has changed their lives -- by showing an interest in them, believing in them, or by helping them to believe in themselves. We simply had no way of knowing the breadth of her reach or the exponential effects of her individual decisions or actions __
She rarely gave herself enough credit or sang her own praises.
In fact, Mom was quick to laugh off or shun accolades of all sorts.
Some of her many public accomplishments were outlined in the obituaries.
As you can imagine, however, her resume paints only a small part
the full picture.
My mother often hired Dartmouth undergraduates (usually women) to do all sorts of work for and with her. Some are in the chapel today. One of her earlier students, Lisa Quirk Kaija, spent an enormous amount of time with my mother over her years at Dartmouth. Another, Anne Downey, was a bit later. Later still came Katie Stiff. Of course, these are just a few. The other day we heard from a student who is now living in Russia and wanted us to know how much she learned from working with my mother.
I'd like to read just a sample of some of the notes from former students who worked with her:
"Jean was my mentor at Dartmouth. She was one of the people who helped me to come out of my shell and realize that I had contributions to make to the College. I worked for her at the Institute on Canada and the U.S., but mostly I just absorbed her energy and enthusiasm for tackling any interest."And another:
"Both of your parents were a compelling presence in my impressionable Dartmouth years, but your mother probably more than anyone I encountered in my early adulthood. She taught me about setting priorities, balancing work and family, and maintaining quality of character. She taught me that a positive outlook has the potential to supersede all obstacles. Above all, she was a lady, though she might not appreciate my use of that term. I admired her principled stands in the world of politics and hoped that someday I could demonstrate a small portion of her confidence and poise. I know that I was just one of the numerous young women she took under her wing, but I considered it a distinct privilege. Every day at 4 Webster Terrace was fresh and pregnant with possibilities."Still another:
"She had so much wisdom that she shared with me. I admired Jean so much -- not just Jean the professional, but also Jean the mother, Jean the person. Jean had a profound influence on me. I see her as my most important mentor and a real soul mate, despite the disparity in our ages. I knew I could count on her for so many things from sound professional advice to fun and friendship."We lived next door to the exceptional Betty and Dick Eberhart family while growing up in Hanover. They were really an extension of our own family, and Betty and my mother had a rich, wonderful friendship, Their daughter, Gretchen, recently wrote us these words:
"When I think of Mom and Jean I get a picture of a simpler, easier, slower world, and yet they were two of the people I think most able to adjust to change, and they went after change full tilt. They both believed in progress, in positive evolution, in human beings learning from past mistakes and incorporating that knowledge into making a better world, in opening all of us to a different place, in not holding onto the past, except out of great respect. Neither of them was terribly religious, but they both had such a great faith in humanity. People were what made them both tick."No one enjoyed life more than my mother. This was frequently evident in her laugh -- her loud, heartfelt, full-bodied laugh. Her oldest friend, from her childhood in Seattle, wrote:
"After knowing her for most of my life, I have a few indelible memories: the echoes of her chortling, confident laughter -- a kind of punctuation at a truth observed. She radiated the clarity of a bright star, so incisive, poignant, creative a thinker. A rare gift. Her truly open-hearted spirit surely served others -- in work, marriage, and parenting. Assuming your joint responsibility for Doris's four children in addition to your John and Martha is a testimony to your deep caring attitudes."
"I often wish I was
or a toddling daisy.
whom all these problems of the dust
might not terrify -
and should my machinery
get slightly out of gear,
please, kind ladies and gentlemen,
some one stop the wheel."
One of our great good fortunes as a family is that my parents had already examined and discussed what choices they wanted, in the event that either one of them required heroic measures in order to survive. There was no ambiguity, nothing left undecided or unsaid. No second guessing. Nonetheless, one is never prepared. My mother had remarked that she particularly liked a quote my father chose for his speech that evening in New London - from E.M. Forster's Howard's End:
"The tragedy of preparedness has scarcely been handled save by the Greeks. Life is indeed dangerous, but not in a way moralists would have us believe. It is indeed unmanageable, but the essence of it is not a battle. It is unmanageable because it is a romance, and its essence is romantic beauty."
Jean Marie Lande Hennessey -- "Maj" -- "Aunt Jean" -- "MOM"
Thank you for giving us courage:
The courage to do the right thing, even when it's the hardest thing to do,
The courage to celebrate what is good,
The courage to question what seems wrong,
And the courage to grieve what we have lost.
She was one-of-a-kind:
Authentic, Imaginative, Vivacious, Inquisitive, Empathic, Strong-Willed, Devoted, Hard-Working, Optimistic ... She had a dramatic effect on all who knew her. She made us better for having known her, and that is what will live on eternally ... and grow exponentially.