Remembering my Teenage Years with Dad in New Hampshire

New York, N.Y.  I first met Luan (Louise) Fiber through my Dad just after Halloween the year I was eleven.   They were dating.   By Easter, I liked her enough to bring her lilies from the Episcopal church after the morning service.   It was the early 1970’s in Oxford, Ohio — home of Miami University.   George McGovern was gaining ground.   Norman Lear ‘s All in the Family was on TV.   The 26th Amendment lowered our voting age from 21 to 18.

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Luan loved the Barnstormers Summer Theatre in nearby Tamworth, New Hampshire.

The times were confusing, but I was even more confused to watch my father with Luan because he was so madly in love with her.   I had never in my young life seen him express such joy.   More incredible, that joy – their youthful passion – burned between them for 30 incredible years.   She became Luan Fiber Luce, my step-mother.

When I was twelve, with the two of them recently married, we travelled to New Hampshire to purchase our family compound in the Ossippee Mountains.   We stayed in the Tamworth Inn, with me camping by the brook.   We trekked each day through the White Mountains to find our family’s dream property.   At night, we would catch a show at the Barnstormers Summer Theatre, a tradition that lasted every year.

We found our dream 40 acres on Connor Pond, Central Ossippee, ten miles off the main road, stretching from the mouth of the cold stream that fed the deep lake all the way up to Sun Rock at the top of the mountain.   We quickly learned that our new, scattered neighbors were as inviting as the beautiful lake and frolicking streams.

Dad, Luan and I – as well as Luan’s nephews – spent the next six years or so building a three-story wooden home on the side of the mountain, up our one-mile driveway.   The driveway alone, perched atop an esker stretching through the forest, took a year to complete.

I remember almost losing my hand in a chain saw accident as that driveway pushed up the mountain.   I was perhaps 14.   Dad raced the car down the mountain over the washboard-like dirt roads to the narrow highway that led to the hospital, with Luan gripping his arm all the way.   We made the then-one-hour long trek in just 30 minutes.   They were my heroes.

Luan ran the plywood-and-plastic shelter we lived in every summer as the house on the hillside slowly but surely stretched to the sky.   Dad had the forest timbered by an old New Hampshire native with a horse team.   A portion of that native timber built our home, with beams far wider than most.

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Our compound in New Hampshire has bard owls and black bears.

I stayed in my tent down by the brook.   One hot morning I awoke late to find them both locked in the car, with the windows closed, reading the New York Times and Boston Globe.   Why?!   My dad had come down the path to wake me up for breakfast and had found an enormous black bear sleeping at the door of my tent.   Not wanting to panic me, he had decided it was safest to retreat.   He knew his son could out-sleep a bear – and he was right.

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Connor Pond is not far from where they filmed “On Golden Pond.”

One early summer, Dad and Luan bought me a green Lincoln canoe and Dad taught me how to jack-rabbit and Eskimo roll in it, skills he had learned as an Eagle Scout.   Dad showed me how I could drink directly from the crystal-clear streams and lake.   Luan was less of an outdoorsman, but boy was she a trooper!   Dad would paddle Luan around the mile-wide pond at dusk.   They were perhaps the most romantic older couple I have known.

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I must admit that autumn in New Hampshire tops even Central Park.

Winters were also possible in the house when it was finished, with the many fireplaces and wood-burning cast iron stoves.   I remember several Christmases with cross-country skiing, sledding, and lots of family – nieces, nephews, brother and sister, parents and partners.   Lots and lots of deep snow – and hot chocolate.

Luan, as Dad, taught French.   Luan was an expert in cross-cultural studies and Francophone African literature.   Her special interest was women in the developing world.   My own world expanded as I would hear the two of them expound on Togo, China, Luxembourg over meals cooked on our Coleman camp stove.

I went on to study German and Japanese.   Unlike my sister, I could not bear the thought of trying to learn French and being corrected by my parents for their entire lives.   Actually, my father and whole family spoke French fluently when I was five because we lived in Paris, but that is another story.

Dad and Luan taught, researched and wrote in Paris and Luxembourg about one year every five.   I have fond memories of Luan in both and believe she was more a Parisian at heart than a Midwesterner.   I visited them in Paris when I was an exchange student to Germany.   Over dinner, a waiter thought she was French, I German, and Dad American.   Pop was crushed.

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I brought my friend and mento, New York City activist Betty Millard up to Connor Pond to visit my family once.   Betty had lived in Paris in her youth anad the three of them chatted endlessly about life and France.

Years later I came out to them.   Luan was completely not surprised, but I think my Dad was flabbergasted.   However, as a good liberal, he got over it quickly.   When I adopted my son – a Chinese-Indonesian infant named Mathew, they warmly welcomed him into our family.   Luan posted his photos all over their home.   Matt is now a teen and times roll on.

Dad and Luan are no longer with us, as I am no longer a teen.   Dad loved New England, but he loved Luan even more.   I learned from him that you need to let love lead you in life.   For that, and the green canoe, and dinners served by lantern, and the courage and conviction to think and express oneself that I learned from them both, I am eternally grateful.   These are the traits I am doing my best to pass on to my own son.

The Luce Index
91 – George McGovern
91 – Norman Lear
83 – Stanford Leonard Luce, Jr.

Also by Jim Luce:

Remembering Louise Fiber Luce (1935 – 2010)

Remembering my Father, Stanford Leonard Luce (1923 – 2007)

Remembering Elizabeth Luce Allyn Stokes (1925 – 2003)

Remembering my Friend and Mentor, Social Activist Betty Millard (1911-2010)

Remembering Cheddi and Janet Jagan, Presidents of Guyana

Remembering Bella Abzug, Liberal Legend of NYC’s Upper East Side

About Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens

View all posts by Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce (www.lucefoundation.org) writes and speaks on Thought Leaders and Global Citizens. Bringing 26 years management experience within both investment banking and the non-profit sector, Jim has worked for Daiwa Bank, Merrill Lynch, a spin-off of Lazard Freres, and two not-for profit organizations and a foundation he founded. As Founder & CEO of Orphans International Worldwide (www.oiww.org), he is working with a strong network of committed professionals to build interfaith, interracial, Internet-connected orphanages in Haiti and Indonesia, and creating a new, family-care model for orphans in Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

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