Friday, March 30, 2001
Talking Back and Talking Trash
Spring (believe it or not) is finally here. The crocuses and red-wing blackbirds return, along with two very special events here at the paper. April at the Mosquito means our editorial review meeting and the Trash Party, two events that are entirely dependent on the public for success.
The editorial review meeting is held on the first Monday of April, this year on April 2. This is an annual meeting that is held during a regular board of directors' meeting, where the public is invited to come by and ask questions, offer criticism or praise, as well as make suggestions on how to improve their town newspaper. All three editors will be there to listen and respond. In the past, editorial policy review discussions have affected the way we have handled our police blotter, editorials, letters to the editor and photos, to name just a few. It's a congenial atmosphere where feedback is appreciated, so if you have something constructive to say, join us this Monday at our offices at 872 Westford Street at 7:45 p.m.
If talking back isn't your thing, perhaps talking trash is. Once again, the incredibly optimistic members of the newspaper's board of directors have planned the town Trash Party for early April, in order to avoid baseball season and the emergence of poison ivy. In case you are new to this, here's the drill. The Mosquito sponsors a townwide garbage clean-up day every year called the Trash Party. Residents are encouraged to emerge from their winter holes and clean up the trash that has collected along Carlisle roads for months. Now here's the brilliant part: if you call Trash Party coordinator Bob Orlando at 369-1690 and let him know where you'll be cleaning, all you need to do is gather the trash in garbage bags and leave them by the side of the road. Trained Trash Party personnel will come in trucks to whisk the filled bags off to the transfer station. If you stop by the center of town, next to Daisy's Market, we'll even supply you with the bags, and offer you a free cup of coffee before you leave. How can you miss a party like that?
So take your pick, but one way or the other, please lend a hand to the Mosquito this month.
In Carlisle now, we build million dollar homes. We tear down priceless ones. So, as the roof snows recede, the furnaces cool and the spring floods seep into our basements, let's pause to consider the worth of houses. Especially old housesthose cobble-nailed, cedar-joisted, ancient, plastered, creaking, drafty barks in which we navigate life's oceans, traveling low in the water with our heavy cargo of memories.
Here's a memory. It is the edge of Boston, early in December 1972. An aging widow, rich only in her sense of place, weary from days of dreamy, reluctant packing, takes hold of the front doorknob for the last time in the house where she's lived for over thirty years and raised five children. She pauses in the dim hallway, looks about one last time and says softly, and very sadly, "Goodbye, little house."
I think of that woman and her house as I drive around Carlisle and see smaller houses stripped, hollowed and ready to be razed by new owners or, worse still, developers intent on making way for something bigger, grandermore profitable.
Sometimesjust sometimesit's understandable. Antiquated houses with ancient appliances, badly in need of costly repairs or renovations, are often perched like dwarfs on acres of extremely costly land. They've become liabilities rather than assets to purchasers who paid a fortune for the land and whose family needs far outstrip their collection of awkward, undersized rooms.
Sometimes, in Carlisle and elsewhere, owners merely build onto the house, showing a respect for the past and, in some cases, the superior design and construction of the original. Sometimes, too, against all odds, they preserve the original precisely for its history, however personal, and its beauty and its parcel of memories. But more often we see a humble, but graceful abode demolished and replaced with a rambling, tasteless, ill-constructed enormity designed primarily to satisfy the owner's untrammeled need to make a conspicuous display of wealth.
What is this growing hunger for grandiosity? Early in the '90s, I toured an obscure Florida college campus that had been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The substantial open space was bright and green, the buildings low, understated, full of interconnected, rambling nooks and crannies. The scale was consolingly human. And this "human scale" is what we long forand mourn foras we watch glassy monoliths darken and dwarf ancient rooftops from Boston to Paris. Solitary mortals and their memories die in the shadows.
Which brings me back to that widow leaving her old house. She was my mother. That house was my house, too. It's still there, still the same color, still, so far as I know, occupied by the same family that bought it from us.
That's comforting, and nowadays rare. As I drive around Carlisle, I see the sign announcing "New Construction" at a driveway of a diminutive, vacant, doomed old dwelling. And I hear those words again. "Good-bye, little house."
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito