forum02aDI PaulMorrison
Carlisle now and in memory

A few weeks ago, in the long days and (occasional) fine weather of late spring, I drove back to Carlisle to go to an evening meeting with some friends discussing a novel we’d read. Due to my personality, I scheduled more driving time than needed, and because I knew I would enjoy strolling around Carlisle before the meeting. I’ve lived in many places and know that when I return to a former town, it strikes me with powerful emotions: pleasure in re-acquaintance, comfort in what has not changed, some regrets and nostalgia: a sense of what I have gained and have lost through my passage of time toward old age, through the leavings we take in life. 

I parked at the library and walked west past the Bank of America ATM building, pausing as any Carlislean must to look over the real estate ads. In Carlisle the latest real estate news, like gossip about romance at the office, is simply too important and too interesting to pass up. I turned left and hiked up School Street with the tiny, proudly patriotic Common on my right, remembering Old Home Day parades trundling by, flinging hard candies to the scrambling children. 

In the First Religious Society Infinity Garden I thought about the people I knew whose names are carved on the memorial stones there—mostly with two dates bookending their lives; some, like mine, still with just their first. At the school’s stupendous wooden play structure it was a sharp pleasure to see small children playing, recalling my own doing exactly that long ago. 

I walked up the steps to Corey Auditorium as my solitary salute to all the Town Meetings I attended, and to all the School Committee meetings (1998-2004); to Spaghetti Suppers, to the seventh-grade plays, and to all the parent-teacher nights. My daughter Ariel and her best friend Laura, two of the tallest girls in the 2002 seventh grade, were, of course, Munchkins in “The Wizard of Oz.” I was put on the salad line, a lower status than the Sauce Chefs apparently promoted by real earned merit. When I had just moved to town and was a complete unknown, I ran for School Committee.  Town fathers Tim Hult and Tim Morse neatly avoided a potential town problem should I be a wacko by vetting my views over a conference call. Either of them would have run against me had I failed their test, and would have of course crushed me. 

I walked down the pretty woodland path to our beautiful library and strolled around inside. Good memories. I walked west past Ferns (thank you for keeping that vibrantly going, Larry and Robin). I paused there to find the patio brick with our names incised. I walked past houses my children mobbed for candy at Halloween, past familiar rocks and trees along the path, to the Transfer Station. I must have lifted and tipped 1,000 heavy trash bins into those compactors, pondered thousands of valuables in the shed, and seen friends hundreds of times. 

I know that people move in and out constantly, but without a large commercial center of stores and restaurants constantly turning over, or houses razed and apartment blocks mushrooming, it always feels to me as though Carlisle doesn’t change. Of course it does, but not in its most important ways. Compare a few archived Mosquitos from 1998 or 2008 with 2018. It’s much the same, a very small town shining bright and made great by people. It’s a continuity worth keeping. ∆