The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 22, 2002


Countdown to Thanksgiving

The turkey has been ordered and can be picked up any time Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., but it's best to come early, says the clerk on the other end of the line. I'll try to get a head start in my preparations for the big day by shopping on the weekend. I've started my grocery list alreadytwo bags of Pepperidge Farm stuffing, a 10- ounce package of mushrooms, a large butternut squash, two bags of cranberries, Russet potatoes...I'll add more as the weekend approaches.

I've checked to make sure that the fancy tablecloth and napkins that I use for special occasions have been ironed. As for the table's centerpiece, I've got my eye on a cluster of bittersweet vines growing along the edge of Curve Street that I hope to snip and add to an arrangement of colorful gourds and a small pumpkin.

As a traditionalist, I'll be making my Aunt Velma's cranberry sherbet, my Aunt Lucine's squash with marshmallows browned on top and my Mom's apple and pumpkin pies. This may not sound like a traditional New England menu, and it's not. It's the one I enjoyed year after year growing up in Wisconsin and the one I continue to serve to family and friends here in Carlisle.

Thinking more about the meal, I have to admit that when it comes to the stuffing I've gone back to the tried-and-true Pepperidge Farm. With a few additions, it has turned out better than those fancy recipes from Gourmet and Bon Appetit magazines that I have experimented with from time to time. And the controversy over what kind of pies to serve has been settled. No more mincemeat, just plain old pumpkin and apple, says my family.

Come Wednesday, if everything works out as planned, I'll be out in the kitchen ready to tackle those things that can be done ahead of time: the squash, the cranberry relish, the sherbet and the pies. By nightfall, as often is the case, I'll be calling my husband at his office, asking him to pick up a pizza on his way home from work. I'll need a break by that time and will want to get out of the kitchen.

On Thanksgiving Day, my son and daughter-in-law will be here to help. They will get the good china down from the top shelf of the hall cabinet and take it and the silverware into the dining room to set the table. They will take charge of other responsibilities, wherever I might need them. My husband will make the punch and get it into the punch bowl ready to serve to guests when they first arrive. And the turkey? Oh yes, the turkey: it will be stuffed and set into the oven in mid-morning so it can be served sometime between 4 and 5 p.m., after we get back from our walk around the Cranberry Bog.

Of course, the tricky part of the Thanksgiving celebration is getting the meal on the table while it's still hot. No more Norman Rockwell scenes of the father carving the turkey at the table in our house. Serving the meal buffet- style seems to be a more efficient way of keeping the turkey hot.

So here are my plans for celebrating the American holiday we all love so much. How about your plans?

Carlisle at the crossroads

Though important to us who live here, to all others Carlisle is little more than a place to get through. Morning and evening, Carlisle's main roads become raceways for thousands of impatient drivers to speed away once they have cleared the bottleneck at the town center. It is not a pattern that an all-wise Providence would have designed, but, like many things we must endure, it is merely an accident of the way things developed.

Historically speaking, Carlisle is just an afterthought, created from remnants of surrounding towns that no one cared much about. The areas that now compose our town were once outlying areas of Concord, Chelmsford, and Billerica, which were settled earlier mainly because they had meadows for planting and water power for mills.* As these towns grew, settlers moved farther into the countryside, but in days when most travel was on foot, one did not have to go very far to be inconveniently distant from the town center. In 1753, inhabitants of what is now Carlisle petitioned the General Court to be set off from Concord as a separate district for reasons set forth in the charming language of the time:

"That whereas your Petitioners have for many years Past attended with our Families on ye Publick worship of God at the old Parish in said Concord with many and great inconveniences by Living (many of us) so Remote therefrom, there is a great Number of aged, and youngerly persons are very Frequently Necessarily Detained from the Public worship."

Carlisle was not actually incorporated until 1805, but by then the pattern had been set — a town created only because it was too far from other more vibrant towns. Carlisle's center is nothing more than the intersection of five roads: Lowell Street leading to Chelmsford, East Street leading to Billerica, as well as Bedford Road, Concord Street, and Westford Street leading to the towns for which they are named. It is a cross we must bear. We have few facilities and stores of our own and must rely on adjacent towns to provide these. Most of those who use our roads do not live here but are only passing through on their way to other more interesting places. They are in a hurry and create a lot of noise and no little pollution. The problems will only get worse as the towns west of us grow.

But the circumstances that created our problems also led to many of the features that make Carlisle attractive. After rush hour has died down, this is a quiet town. Having been sparsely settled, Carlisle had enough land to enable two-acre zoning. We can govern ourselves and determine our own taxes. We are free of the blight of shopping centers. All in all, not a bad bargain, but not one that was planned. It simply happened.


*For this bit of history, I am indebted to Ruth Wilkins' Carlisle: Its History and Heritages . Originally published in 1976 , the book has recently been reprinted by the Carlisle Historical Society. It is available for $35 ($30 for members) from Charlie Forsberg, president of the Society, at 1-978-369-3577.


2002 The Carlisle Mosquito