Friday, May 7, 1999
Caring about Other People's Children
Sometimes it seems that these are the worst of times to be raising a teenager. Parents are under seigefrom the media that tells us we are to blame if our children are troubled; from modern technology, which has put an adult world at our children's fingertips, and then tries to sell us various gizmos to keep them out. Society tells us we are neglectful if we do not know what is in our teenagers' diaries, but smothering if we do not allow them to test their wings. With the skill of a Flying Wallenda, parents must negotiate that middle ground, often no wider than a tightrope wire. In the midst of this blame frenzy, how easy it is to ignore the quiet heroes of our societythe parents who work hard to provide a safe place for our children to grow up. You see them all around you: they volunteer at the school, offer courses through the recreation commission. They're the ones who let teens party at their homes and keep an eye open to be sure there's no drinking. They realize that, in order to have a safe community, we have to care about all the children, not just our own.
So that is why, as Mother's Day approaches, I commend the parents at Concord-Carlisle High School who work hard every year to make the Senior Safari work. Senior Safari is a party, given for the past eight years, for seniors on the night of graduation. It offers them a safe place to celebrate with friends from 9:30 p.m. until 5 a.m., while enjoying a variety of activities and refreshments. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the night is that it is run by parents whose children do not reap any benefits from this. Because it was determined that the seniors would feel ill-at-ease at a farewell event with their parents looking on, Senior Safari has always been put on by parents of underclassmen. To stay up until all hours of the night in order to ensure that some other person's son or daughter parties safely has to be the height of unselfishness. But that's what good parents do. They are truly community heroes.
Several months ago I actually allowed a telemarketer to finish her presentation. She was offering to have a salesman come to our home and demonstrate their replacement windows. Since we had already decided to consider replacing our windows, we agreed to the visit. The salesman arrived with samples of their "Cadillac" of replacement windows, which are custom made to order here in Massachusetts. After an hour and a half demonstration, the cost to replace all of our windows was placed on the table. My wife's response was, "We put a son through law school for less than this!" The salesman then offered us an automatic discount if we would sign on the bottom line that night. When we still didn't bite, he called his superior and was allowed to discount the price still further to about 40 percent of the original price. We did not purchase those windows, but I recently saw a sign in front of a house on Treble Cove Road in Billerica announcing that somebody did.
We have lived in our house for 26 years. In 1980 we put on a major addition, consisting of a kitchen-family room. Since then we've replaced a deck, installed a water softening system and repainted the house on several occasions. Our last major project, about five years ago, was to replace the roof. The house is showing its age, and since we intend to remain in Carlisle for some time, we have identified many areas in need of repair or renovation, including replacing the windows, putting on vinyl siding to obviate the need for repainting, refinishing the kitchen cabinets, upgrading or replacing the bathrooms, etc., etc. We are obviously out of touch with the current costs of these kinds of projects and have decided to solicit proposals from several national providers of renovation projects as well as local contractors. We have had our first demonstration of vinyl siding from Sears, and the quoted price was not quite as shocking as the window quote. Choosing a vendor is not going to be easy, since the low bid may not be the best deal. I still suffer from the feeling that having a Carlisle address automatically raises the price, no matter whom you are dealing with.
What we really need is to be able to talk to people who have recently gone through one of these projects, thereby getting some idea of average costs and, more importantly, the providers who do good work and are reasonably priced and trustworthy. It would be nice if there was some sort of clearing house to share information concerning renovations and renovators. Perhaps an Internet-savvy Carlisle teen might consider setting up a web site or bulletin board for this purpose as a CCHS senior project.
Obviously, we will not select any provider without checking references from others who have had work done by them recently, and hopefully will be able to inspect the results. We will probably be spending many nights and weekends in the near future listening to renovators' presentations. Wish us luck.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito