Friday, August 2, 2002

Features

The ad sounded like it was written just for me: "Part-time editor, no experience needed, we will train. Work with friendly people and learn more about Carlisle. Hours flexible." Still, I was hesitant. Even though, in a former life, I'd been an English teacher, I'd never worked on a newspaper. "Do it," my husband said. So I did, for the next eight years.

I arrived in the office on South Street fresh from the western suburbs of Philadelphia, where towns are named for their post offices or railway stations, and no one is even sure where the local government meets. I'd been in town for only three months, and had never lived in New England before. I'd never heard of Carlisle, Chelmsford or Bedford, didn't know a selectman from a conservation commissioner, or a cranberry bog from a wetland, and thought a rotary was something you used to beat eggs with. No matter, I plunged headfirst into local politics, and before it was all over knew far more about the politics, history and people of Carlisle than I had ever known of the town in which I had spent the previous 30 years of my life.
Jackie at work (photo by Midge Eliasen)

The Superette (long since transformed into Daisy's) was the quaintest store I'd ever seen; the gas station (now gone), a rural icon. I was charmed by the post office, then tucked down in the corner of an old church, and I marveled at the white-steepled church that still dominates the village green, just like those on all the post cards I'd ever seen. I went to my first Town Meeting and watched in disbelief as people spent serious amounts of time discussing whether to buy new tires for the fire truck. A few years later, during the debate over the siting of a Town Hall, I researched the history of the quest for a Town Hall and discovered that it had been a subject of debate in town since about the time that Cotton Mather was a boy. I met people who had been foresighted enough, years before development pressures began, to spearhead a movement to keep Carlisle green and rural by buying up conservation land. I met people who placed flowers at a stand by the side of the road and trusted others to leave payment in a jar, and people who picked up the mail and left a note telling me I owed two cents for the postage they had to add.

In 1997, I left for the strange new worlds of Los Angeles and later, Washington, DC. Both places seem a million miles away from the rotary, the Town Hall and the quiet country roads of Carlisle, but I've carried two valued memories with me. I remember the intelligent, thoughtful, committed and caring people I worked with: Carolynn Luby, whose impending motherhood opened the door of the editorship for me, and Susan Emmons, self-effacing and hard working — the rock on whom the Mosquito is built; Marilyn Harte, long-time features editor and steadfast friend, and Mary Hult, who came to help, became a valued friend, and replaced me when I left; and many, many others whose friendship I value, though I don't have space to name them all.

I also remember what I learned in Carlisle: that there are still places in this country where people believe they can make a difference, and because they believe, they do. I hope the Mosquito continues to prove that true for many years to come.


2002 The Carlisle Mosquito