The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 10, 2003



Will volunteers be CORIed away?

After reading Cynthia Sorn's article about the state CORI law requirements in last week's Mosquito (Oct. 3, 2003, page 1), I just shook my head in dismay. CORI, stands for Criminal Offender Record Information. A CORI check is a search for an individual's possible criminal record. Although the law has been around for some time, complex new amendments enacted in May 2003 require schools, camps and transportation companies, or any "organization primarily engaged in providing activities or programs to children 18 years of age or less that accepts volunteers" to obtain criminal offender record information on each employee and volunteer. It is understood that this updated law also applies to those working with elders and other vulnerable populations. Currently, it takes a month or more for CORI checks to be accomplished.

What does this mean for a town like Carlisle, where volunteering has always been an important part of the culture? Did all those parents who pitched in to make the Sixth-Grade Spaghetti Supper such a resounding success on Tuesday night have to have a CORI check? What about my husband, who has taken several Cub Scout troops on early morning spring bird walks at the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge? Will all those volunteer coaches for our sports teams be required to have CORI checks? And if the answer is "yes" to any of these questions, how many potential volunteers will decide it's just not worth the effort?

First there was the Patriot Act; now we learn about the CORI criminal check of an individual's possible criminal record. Is there no privacy left for the individual in this 2003 American society? How should this vague law be interpreted? Perhaps one of the most disquieting questions is who should be the keeper of the records? As it stands now, there is no central file for these background checks, so the possibility remains that these personal records will be in several files throughout town, transferring from home to home as committee heads change.

Certainly, those who made the law had the best of intentions, but did they really think it through and understand what impact it would have on communities such as ours in which so much good work depends on volunteers? Who will clean up this mess? Will it be our Selectmen, the police department, our state representative or state senator? Someone has to come forward to straighten out the mess before the whole procedure, with its overwhelming paperwork, smothers all those organizations in Carlisle that rely on volunteers.

Almost empty

My first contribution to this space, seven years ago, reflected on the annual tumult of back-to-school tasks, but expressed my resolve to relish the exercise because its end would signal the departure of our sons from our home.

This fall, far more abruptly than I had anticipated, that time has arrived . . . almost.

We are not quite empty nesters. But the way we have arrived on the threshold of that status, even more than the impending status itself, has me vaguely unsettled. Our older son has begun his senior year in high school, and we are accordingly gearing up for the grand journey through the college admissions sweepstakes. That is all as expected. The ordinary order of things has been inverted, however, by our younger son's matriculation at a nearby boarding school this fall. (The requirement that it be nearby was a condition of our willingness to support his desire to board.) And so, instead of shepherding our almost-gone son through his departure year with our younger son standing by, we are suddenly beginning the process of separation from our last resident child.

During the height of summer or the dead of winter, it is easy to know where you are. So, too, in the bright of midday or the dark of night. In between, in transition, there are familiar shapes, coupled with a sense of the unknown. We are in twilight, with warm colors of the yellow sun illuminating highlights not noticed before, and lengthening shadows telling us that the view will be very different, very soon. We are in autumn, with brilliantly colored leaves still on the trees but a chill wind threatening to bring them down.

Our transition is fitful in many ways. For the past ten years my father-in-law has commuted to our home to serve as our child care provider. Every morning, he is in our kitchen, having made the coffee and started breakfast, by 6 a.m. As Labor Day approached we were unsure whether he would continue to greet us in the morning. As Labor Day passed we were mildly surprised, but pleased, to learn of his election to continue. There is comfort in the continuation of familiar routines.

In one significant respect, our nest will be not quite empty even when our older son leaves for college next year. That fact is due to my failure to consult canine mortality charts when we acquiesced in our younger son's determination to adopt a pet. There is, in hindsight, a fair chance the dog would still have been with us in another five years, even if our son had remained home throughout high school. With Alex's premature emigration, we now face the very real prospect of sharing more years with Chico than Alex did. As my wife puts it, it's now "just you and me and the dog I never wanted."

There are also pleasurable aspects of the change. We enjoy more flexibility to attend events in town, or just to go out to dinner on a whim in the middle of the week. We could even (as I annually resolve) go to the theater. I am certain that as our lives progress we will grow comfortable in our new skins.

Seven years ago, I recognized that my perspective was both all-consuming and in transition. Now in a new perspective, the same is true. Maybe the only constant is the state of change.


2003 The Carlisle Mosquito