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Down a dozen hills, under a hundred skies …

A classmate once said to me "you lived in the mansion on Flanders Road," so I think it's important to start at the very beginning and clear up any lingering myths. In the winter of 1944 my parents bought a rambling 24-room house and 200 acres of land on the outskirts of Westborough. (Yep, my family always used the -ugh.) The property was just what my parents needed — the house offered space for their four children and an entire wing for my father's business, while the land around the house satisfied both his naturalist and entrepreneurial inclination. He created a pond for ice skating, built a rustic lean-to in the woods, took us on long walks in search of Indian arrowheads, and he gardened like crazy. He made and sold holiday wreaths at Christmas and sold small bunches of bittersweet and pussy willows in Boston. Later he sold some of our land for house lots and then gravel to area contractors, but those were ancillary areas of income; my father's primary business was that of an antiquarian bookseller who specialized in rare books and first editions with a focus on American literature. His business was known as the House of Whittemore.

It was a challenging and interesting way to make a living. He worked from home and he, and often we, as a family, spent a lot of time traveling to college and university libraries, antiquarian societies, and dusty bookshops all over New England and the Mid-Atlantic states. Many of his clients were national or international, so much of his business was conducted by mail. His income was unpredictable, and sometimes there was money and sometimes there wasn't enough. Both of my parents were collectors, who gravitated toward the unique and antique, and we were encouraged in the same vein; from an early age, I collected arrowheads, stamps, postcards and marbles, to mention a few. My parents felt there was always something to learn. Of course, they were right! For many years after my father's death in 1964, my mother earned her living as an antique dealer. Her knowledge was extensive and a direct result of pursuing an interest. She liked glassware and textiles, but she especially loved silver.

That wonderful country home was a challenge for my father — a man who wasn't at all handy! The house was built circa 1740 and it didn't have central heat when they bought it. All during my childhood, it was a work in progress. I remember my parents using a wood stove in the kitchen and in their bedroom. When I was very young, my mother would slide warming stones that had been heated on the wood stove and then wrapped in newspapers between the sheets on my bed to chase away the chill on cold winter nights! The tornado that hit Westborough in 1953 was a back-door blessing for us. Only weeks before the storm hit, my father had added "wind" insurance to his coverage! For more than 100 years only two families lived in that house!


Diana (left) and Joanna (right) in fourth grade photo


I am the youngest of six children; my oldest sibling was 16 when my twin sister and I arrived in 1945. My parents spent 14 years in Ashland before moving to Flanders Road, and they favored their Ashland-Framingham ties over new friendships in Westborough. That made it hard for me to fit in with my peers. I think my mother's plan to send us to private school was instrumental in her decision not to socialize in Westborough. Fortunately, ties that bind are lasting in spite of would-be obstacles, and I came away from Westborough schools with a sense of belonging that might not have been predicted, and I am grateful for that gift. Because I left Westborough for boarding school at the end of the eighth grade, I want to share a little about my high school years.

My first two years of high school were abysmal! I was immature with poor study habits and I was very homesick. I spent one summer at Wellesley High School taking summer school classes to make up courses that I'd failed. I remember being disappointed when my mother told me that I was going to Switzerland for my junior and senior year. All I really wanted was to go to Westborough High like everyone else. I left for Europe knowing that it would be two years before I would return, since the cost to come home for the summer would be prohibitive.

To my surprise, I loved Switzerland and the small, all-girls, French-speaking boarding school. We lived in beautiful chalets overlooking a valley in the Bernese Oberland, in the now very posh village of Gstaad. There was a private boys' school that had a winter campus in Gstaad, so we went tea-dancing in the afternoon and skied nearly every day in the winter! In six months I was speaking the language and had earned a place on the advanced ski team. I saw the ballet in Paris and had a front row seat for a spring show at the House of Dior. The following summer I lived with a family in England and spent time in London, on the Isle of Wight, and in Paris before returning to Gstaad for my senior year. The winter months were especially fun since our ski team competed interscholastically, and during my senior year I earned a bronze and a silver medal with the Swiss Ski School. The down side of this wonderful European experience was that I had very little guidance in looking toward college, so when I graduated, I had no idea what I would do next.


Photo taken in 1963


I returned to the states a seasoned traveler, but I was very immature and sheltered in other areas — no work experience, no budgeting experience, and very little dating experience.

After graduation, I worked for a few months at a clothing store in Philadelphia before returning to Westborough and a family in crisis. While we didn't realize what was happening at that time, my sister Sharon, who was just two years older than I, was experiencing the early stages of Schizophrenia — a mental illness that would alter her life immeasurably and, of course, had an immediate impact on our entire family. It was a heart-wrenching time for all of us. I went to work for Jordan Marsh in Framingham until the following fall.

In 1964 I enrolled at Grahm Junior College in Boston, but my father died that November, and although I finished the year, it was academically deficient — everything had taken a toll. I spent the next few years in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and California working at a variety of office jobs while waitressing part-time to supplement my paltry income. I hiked and skied when I could, and for two months one summer Joanna and I camped coast to coast!

In 1969 I married my first husband whom I'd met at college five years earlier. We were a poor match in too many ways, but we bought a house on the coast of Maine and had two beautiful children before we went our separate ways eight years later. I stayed in Maine with the children and went to work for a commercial fishing journal as their assistant office manager. In the early 80's I moved to Vermont to be near family and to finish the undergraduate degree that I'd begun years earlier. Thus began the long journey of juggling kids, jobs and studies, but I ultimately earned my BA in Writing and Literature.

In the mid 80's Joanna (who had recently divorced) and I decided to be financially creative and we bought a house together near Burlington, Vermont, and became a real "Kate and Allie" household. That arrangement worked well and afforded each of us opportunities that might otherwise have been difficult or impossible on a single parent's income. Those were wonderful years and our children grew closer than just first cousins. In the late 90's — when the children were finally grown — we each took up separate residences once again.


Diana holding her son's son Graham, Newt, Diana's son Bryce holding his nephew Sebastian, Bryce's wife Hope

During the years following my divorce, I did a lot of hiking and backpacking — in the Green Mountains, the Adirondacks, and long stretches of the Appalachian Trail. I realized that the only way to love living in the frigid north was to find something to do outside in the winter, too, so along the way, I traded my alpine skies for cross-country equipment and snowshoes. I even did some winter camping. The mere thought of winter camping gives me the chills these days! I balanced the outdoor activities with reading/writing groups and knitting projects. I spent 14 of those Vermont years as an editorial associate for a medical journal at UVM.


Son-in-law Ed holding Sebastian, daughter Megan holding Alexander


In 2002 I married a second time. I'm a lucky woman. This time the differences are complementary, and together we enjoy the outdoors — canoeing, RV camping and day hiking. We also enjoy cooking, music and traveling. A few years ago we built a home in northern Florida, but Florida didn't feel like home to me, so last year we agreed to make another choice. At the moment we are in transition and I am working as an office administrator at the Unitarian Society in Northampton — working on a miscellany of Society tasks including scheduling building space and producing the Sunday Times, a weekly bulletin of Society news and events. Additionally, I substitute teach in the Northampton Schools. Newt's field is computers. He's a systems and network support specialist. We expect to be settled in Virginia later this year.

We lost my sister Sharon in the fall of 2008, and I am grateful that I was in Massachusetts when she needed me most. My mother passed on seven years ago at the age of 96!

My son and daughter are married and raising their families in western Massachusetts. Bryce teaches at the primary level at a Montessori public school, and Megan, also a teacher, is at home with their two young sons. Newt and I love spending time with our three adorable grandsons! Joanna and I spend too much time on the telephone and catch up in person whenever possible.

I'm looking forward to the next class gathering. See you there!






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This page added 4/2/09
Last updated 9/10/11



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