Friday, June 29, 2001
There's no place like home
Summertime is in full swing, With graduations a thing of the past, people have started packing their bags and heading to the hills of New Hampshire and Vermont or to the beaches of Cape Cod and the Islands. I don't know what fraction of Carlisle residents go away in the summer, but by my reckoning it's quite substantial. For some of us, however, the best place to be is right here at home.
The side streets of town have emptied out of everyday traffic, making this the perfect time for a walk to the library to check out one of those books that have been suggested for summer reading. A trip to Great Brook Farm offers trails to hike, farm animals to observe and an ice cream treat for everyone in the family.
As I extol the joys of a summer spent in Carlisle, let me list my reasons. First of all, who would want to miss an Old Home Day celebration with the road races, pancake breakfast, parade, pet show and barbecue supper? How many times has your child asked you to sign him up for RecCom summer camp?
On Thursday nights throughout July there is the possibility of a trip to Fruitlands in Harvard to hear a Concord band concert and enjoy a picnic on the grounds looking out across the valley towards Mt. Wachusett. In late July, the Lowell Folk Music Festival is only a short ride away to a wonderful weekend full of music and dance. Look for the schedule of events, which should appear in a July issue of the Mosquito. Then there is always the opportunity for an early morning boat ride down the Concord River. Just stop at the boat landing in Concord to rent a canoe.
For day trips there are possibilities aplenty. A trip to the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts offers a wide variety of activities the Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts at Tanglewood; Shakespeare and Company's final performance, A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Mount, before they move to a new location in Lenox; Hancock Shaker Village; the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge; and MassMOCA in North Adams.
Some of my old haunts I'm avoiding. They have become overcrowded tourist-stops and the traffic is daunting. But I'll gladly stay in quiet Carlisle in the summer when half the population goes out of town. Maybe I'll go for a swim at Walden Pond during the week. In late July, I'll probably pick blueberries at a favorite spot in town. And if I get ambitious, I'll spend more time tending to my vegetable garden. Afterwards, of course, I'll go for an ice cream cone at Kimball's.
The joys of reading to (older) children
Though my personal reading list stretches irretrievably to infinity, I have managed to complete many books over the past five years by reading to my children at bedtime. Not traditional bedtime stories, since my son and daughter have just finished the fifth and eighth grades, respectively. Instead we've been reading classics by the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson and Jules Verne.
What a joy it was to read to them as preschoolers, as they discovered the magic of words, en route to becoming independent readers who devoured books for school or their own enjoyment! After a time, when we returned to reading aloud together, their increasing maturity and thoughtfulness made the experience even more rewarding. I strongly recommend reading to your older children.
I started reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy to my eldest when she was in the fourth grade. Finishing the four books took well over a year. It was fun to revisit tales I'd enjoyed in high school, long enough ago to have forgotten some of the wonderful twists and turns that make Bilbo's and Frodo's adventures so exhilarating. Sharing that exhilaration with my daughter as she approached an age when spending time with Dad would become more of a trial was priceless. Occasionally, we'd run out of time at moments so exciting that we both eagerly anticipated the next evening's read.
With that success behind us, we tackled another fantasy series, A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels by Madeleine L'Engle. These books explore some fairly scary and complex conceptual and philosophical issues and sparked some interesting discussions. Sometimes, she would read a chapter to me. Making that mental shift to a different kind of attention, from reader to listener, enlightened me about my daughter's experience of being read to.
There was evidently enough enjoyment in this shared reading that my daughter proposed a variation: reading books together as a family at dinnertime. Though reading while eating violates standard dinner etiquette, we've done it, taking turns as readers. Our family has enjoyed The Wind in the Willows and, believe it or not, the Mary Poppins books by P.L. Travers. The original Mary P. is much more prickly and interesting than the character Julie Andrews portrayed in the movie.
I've had similar experiences with the classics I've read to my son this past year Treasure Island, Journey to the Center of the Earth (surprisingly funny bits along the thrilling journey) and Robinson Crusoe. Tonight we'll finish Jack London's White Fang, having enjoyed The Call of the Wild and the classic short story, To Build a Fire. White Fang presents the world from the point of view of the wolf hero. Needless to say, London's approach has none of Disney's cutesy anthropomorphism. It's Nature in all its harsh violence, and my fifth grader might have been a bit overwhelmed by it on his own. Reading it together, we shared many a wide-eyed glance, wondering why we were still rooting for such a vicious killer. The warm, happy ending was a relief for us both.
Reading to my children has also given me the opportunity to discover great children's books written since I was a child, including Three Terrible Trins, The Giver, Abel's Island, The BFG, and Arthur, For the Very First Time.
Although my daughter would now rather write in her diary or read on her own than have dear old Dad take up her precious time, my son and I are set to begin The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It will be a great year of reading.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito