Jan Long Collins had been looking after our 3-year-old daughter for a year when I realized I didn’t know her last name. To us, she was just Jan — a spirited, smart, affectionate woman in her late 50s who lived, conveniently, around the corner. Always accommodating, but ready to throw fire at anyone who crossed her. In her eyes, an occasional gleam of mayhem. And, oh, a natural with kids.
She lived, then as now, with her partner, Simon Ritt, a member of the country rock band The Darlings, in a house filled with books, magazines, and art. Hanging on the walls were versions of pictures by Matisse, de Lempicka, and Picasso that she had painted herself.