The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 8, 2002



Guest commentary:
A special feeling once and again

During the early 1980s, we had a group of guys in Carlisle who would get together for every Celtics playoff game. We would rotate houses and root together for a very special team. That team may not have had the best athletes but it can be argued that it may have been the best team that ever played basketball. Very often all five players would touch the ball before a surprisingly easy lay-up would be scored. We loved them all and shared a very special feeling for the hard work and unselfishness that made them the team that they were.

It's been a while since we've had that feeling. I remember it slipping away as I sat at the Café de Monde in New Orleans the day after the 1986 Super Bowl and read not only about the Patriots' crushing loss but the 11 players who had failed drug tests that year. That same year I remember quietly leaving a huge World Series party in Carlisle, not wanting to talk to anybody after the ball went through Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner's legs.

In 1997, after the Super Bowl loss, I remember trying to explain to my son and his friends why on earth the coach would quit the team during the week of the most important game the team ever played. Two years ago, we suffered with the bad calls as the Red Sox lost to the Yankees but we suffered more from the behavior of some of our fans at Fenway. For a time it seemed we would not regain that special feeling about our professional teams.

This year, however, it all came back. With the Patriots, we were privileged to watch a true team. Not only did they win it all but they displayed the type of behavior and unselfishness that we want our children to see and emulate. The decision to be introduced as a team, rather than as individuals preceding Sunday's game, exemplifies what this team was about. Have we ever seen an athlete handle a difficult situation with the class and dignity that Drew Bledsoe displayed this year?

This past Sunday evening, we gathered at parties with friends and were truly proud of these men, not only as athletes but as people to be admired. That special feeling came back.

Other people's houses

February -- that says it all. It's time to look ahead to summer.

My cousins in Holland want to exchange houses this summer their really nice home (I've seen it) in an upscale Amsterdam suburb for mine. I considered it, but Carlisle is where I want to be when the tomatoes start ripening and the weeds threaten the dianthus. And then I thought of Tilling.

The fictional rural village of Tilling in 1930s England is the setting of E. F. Benson's Mapp and Lucia, a rollicking, satirical tale of the epic battle for social supremacy between two formidable women, Elizabeth Mapp and newcomer Lucia Lucas. Each summer Tillingites enjoy the longtime custom of house exchanges, based on a ladder system that cuts across all layers of the town's society. It begins with the queen of Tilling society, Elizabeth Mapp, who rents her manor house to Lucia. Mapp leases the modest home of one of her friends, who in turn rents a smaller house. The ladder bottoms out with a laborer's cottage rented by another Mapp friend while the laborer and his family move to a nearby shanty, happily collecting rent.

"Each of these ladies would wake in the morning in an unfamiliar room," wrote Benson, "would sit in unaccustomed chairs, read each other's books (and possibly letters), look at each other's pictures . . . without the wrench of leaving Tilling at all. No true Tillingite was really happy away from her town."

Sound familiar? Are true Carlisleans ever really happy away from their town, especially in the ephemeral New England summer? Since our homes, too, run the gamut from manor houses to cottages, just imagine our own summer ladder system. Families could view Carlisle life from a fresh angle, and never leave town. People in the center might like to relocate to the Cranberry Bog for a month or two; families on the Billerica line might move closer to the center. Deck house dwellers might enjoy an historical house for a change, and vice versa.

Yet tearing ourselves away from town would open up vistas far beyond our fair meadows, woods and streams. Before Carlisle, my family and I often lived in other people's houses, usually for a semester at a time but twice for a year. San Francisco, Minneapolis, Ann Arbor, New York, and Cambridge were our temporary addresses. We read other people's books, didn't read their letters, adjusted to other kitchens and other beds, and fed other cats. Our son played with other kids' toys, we met kindly neighbors, watered greener lawns, and hoped that still other people were taking good care of our house and pets.

Our favorite home away from home was a poet's house in Cambridge, a marvelous book-lined Victorian near Harvard Square, where red and pink geraniums bloomed in a sun-splashed third-floor study. Even now the pungent scent of geraniums can transport me instantly to that room, that house, that uncomplicated time in my life.

Several friends and relatives have arranged successful international house exchanges through the Internet. Europeans see themselves in New York, Orlando, New Orleans and San Francisco, while Americans yearn for, not surprisingly, London, Tuscany and Provence. These arrangements really work; I have yet to hear an owner's horror story about a smashed antique vase, wine-stained carpet or totaled SUV.

"Villa in Como, Italy," reads one posting on "Sleeps 8, non-smokers, car exchange. July, August. Seeks New York, Hamptons." Would they consider my Carlisle house and pool instead of the Hamptons, I wonder? I could be very happy on Lake Como ­ or maybe even on a canal in Amsterdam.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito