The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 10, 2002



Celebrating 30 years reporting Carlisle news

Thirty years ago, Carlisle was changing from a farming community into a suburban town, and its population had jumped from 876 in 1950 to 2,871 by 1970. According to the town's most recent Annual Report, the population has since grown to 5,065.

The Mosquito started out in 1972 as a paper published 20 times a year, and ingenuity often compensated for a lack of technology. Articles appeared in a variety of fonts, depending on whose typewriter was used. Often, student artists were asked to illustrate an article with drawings when photographs were unavailable. The Mosquito is now published about 44 times a year. Personal computers, desktop publishing software and digital photography have all become welcome tools. In June of 2001 the Mosquito joined the Internet Age, and each new issue is now available online at

During this anniversary year, the Mosquito will celebrate the past 30 years in several ways. The history of the newspaper will be explored in print, and will also be the topic of a panel discussion on Thursday, May 16 at 7:30 p.m. (see the press release on page 24). A sampling of old articles will be reprinted now and then. If you have favorite articles from years past, send your suggestions to Feature Editor Marilyn Harte is preparing a special 4-page supplement to the anniversary issue, August 2

And finally, a team of volunteers is creating a book of old photos and articles, to be a social history of Carlisle, as seen through the pages of the Mosquito. We hope the book will be fun to read, and will be finished and on sale by December.

Great Dane

Great Dane! It came to me in the wee hours this morning.

Our neighbor Harriet had come calling a few days ago and joined my dog Kira and me on our morning walk. Harriet is very tall and jet-black; she has a voice deeper than a kettledrum and pointy ears that reach for the sky. Harriet is a dog. She is a ______.

Fill in the blank. I couldn't. I just couldn't remember what sort of breed Harriet is, and I'd known it before. This bothered me all day, and for days afterward, until this morning's epiphany when I awoke to "Harriet is a Great Dane."

What sort of memory loss was this? The common "senior moment" type or the dreaded and dreadful Alzheimer's? Most of us over 50 suffer from memory lapses. Where did I put my car keys? What was the name of that movie with John Travolta? Who wrote Silent Spring? Where, oh where, did I park my car at Alewife? The occasional inability to remember names, phone numbers or where you parked the car is different from serious memory loss, which typically is accompanied by confusion and personality changes, and is labeled dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

Perhaps I am overly sensitive to instances of memory loss. My mother died of Alzheimer's disease ten years ago, after an eight-year struggle against its deepening shadows. A few months ago, I saw the movie "Iris," about British author Iris Murdoch, her descent into Alzheimer's and the heroic, but human, response of her husband John Bayley. To me, the movie was harrowing whereas my companions found it primarily an uplifting love story. Images of the once-brilliant Murdoch watching "Teletubbies" on TV, or of my mother staring uncomprehendingly at a kitchen sponge, flicker before me whenever I forget someone's name or a movie title.

Not every serious memory loss is an early-warning symptom of Alzheimer's. When my husband started losing his way home from Crosby's and the Home Depot, we were certain Alzheimer's had again come knocking on our door. The diagnosis proved to be far more shocking, and a brain tumor claimed him four months later.

So when I do occasionally misplace my car keys or forget to mail a letter, I prefer to think of "senior moments," although I despise the term. It's ageist and insensitive, a phrase that unfairly connects getting older with memory loss and deficiency.

Years ago I interviewed Carlisle elders Guy Clark, Helen Wilkie, Beulah Swanson, Inga MacRae, Anna P. Johnson and Larry Sorli for the Carlisle Oral History Project. Each of them demonstrated an enviable zest for life and an unquenchable spirit, despite their years. The people I know who are in their seventies and eighties today may have senior moments, and are certainly entitled to them, yet they're fully engaged in the world, still highly functioning, they enjoy their retirement and their grandchildren, and, like the Carlisle elders, view the road ahead with grace and dignity and humor.

To allay my concerns about the inevitable senior moments and reduce the occasional Alzheimer's terror, I like to think about all the accumulated knowledge, experience and information crammed in my brain. Stored up there are seven years of French literature, all of Emily Gibson's lines from "Our Town," my son's first complete sentence, the words to "Yellow Submarine," the location of my misplaced high school ring, the names of all the dog breeds, and presumably a lot more. No wonder it took so long to access Great Dane. But I did remember Harriet's name.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito