Friday, October 7, 2005
Middlesex School: do the right thing!
As I head into the Estabrook Woods on the trail leading from Estabrook Road in Carlisle, I take note of the Estabrook Council sign on my left. It reads: "You are entering the Estabrook Woods, a collection of mostly private lands preserved for habitat protection and field research. Please treat these woods with respect and remain on established trails. If you wish to report any inappropriate activity, please call 1-978-402-1488."
Yes, I certainly would like to report inappropriate activity in the Estabrook Woods. I am referring to the Middlesex School's move into the Woods in July with bulldozers to clear-cut the forest to make way for new tennis courts and playing fields. Yes, the school owns the land they wish to develop. But unlike Harvard University, which has put its 700 acres under permanent protection, and neighboring land owners and conservation groups that have placed permanently conservation restrictions on an additional 1,050 acres, Middlesex is not committed to protecting the northern 85 acres of its 198-acre Estabrook Woods holdings. This is in spite of former Middlesex School headmaster Monk Terry's commitment in the 1960s to be a responsible steward of all the land.
Take a walk in the woods to see for yourself. It's about a 3/4-mile hike down the Estabrook Trail to the Estabrook cellar hole, where you turn right and head west up the hill. After crossing into Middlesex School land, the path swings to the right and shortly afterwards joins a wider trail where you turn right again. Going a short distance you will come to the area, part of the so-called "A land," with a section of new road across the wetland, eight tennis courts, and part of what is planned to be a much larger clearing for two soccer fields.
But beyond this fait accompli, Middlesex School owns another 40 acres further east and close to the Estabrook Trail, the "B land," with a restriction expiring in 2017. Will the trustees do the right thing and protect this forest in perpetuity, making the expensive and intrusive 300' bridge they have planned unnecessary? Hopes are not high, since these same trustees have rejected an offer of over $4 million from a concerned benefactor to endow a state-of-the-art environmental program, with Harvard University, provided Middlesex puts the B land under a permanent conservation restriction.
With the Middlesex School trustees meeting at the school this past weekend, opponents to the Estabrook Woods development, who were concerned 13 years ago, were out rallying for their cause both Friday and Saturday. Townspeople from Concord, Carlisle, Acton, and Harvard held signs in Monument Square late on Friday, signs that read "Middlesex School Trustees please don't destroy the Estabrook Woods," "Concord Cares about the Estabrook Woods," "Carlisle Cares about the Estabrook Woods." Did the trustees staying at the Colonial Inn see the protest? On Saturday, Middlesex graduates, students, and parents, led by 2000 graduate Molly Tsongas, protested on campus.
There is still time for Middlesex School trustees to limit their grand plan of development into the Estabrook Woods. Cancel the bridge, which is certainly not needed to access the new tennis courts or soccer fields, if built. And accept the environmental program, which will use the wild treasure in the school's back yard in the way it should be used, instead of destroying it. Isn't it time for the school and its trustees to show some responsibility to the communities of Concord and Carlisle? It is time to show respect for the Estabrook Woods and a true understanding of its value.
The toughest job in the world
A few weeks ago my son and daughter-in-law had an opportunity to travel to Arizona for a combined business and pleasure trip. My wife and I quickly offered to baby sit their two children for the duration of their five-day trip, despite that fact that we've never had them stay more than overnight before. Miles is five and Margot is two and they have always been very comfortable staying at our house, having done so on numerous occasions. I was a little concerned as to whether we would have the necessary stamina to keep up with them for five full days, but my wife assured me that it would be just fine.
We absolutely love having the grandchildren with us. We seem to have more patience with them than we did with our own three children at their age. Anyway, I seem to. My wife has always been a super-Mom in that regard. Miles' and Margot's parents maintain a fairly consistent schedule for them; meal, bath and bedtimes are all fairly regularly scheduled. Given that my wife and I are both retired, maintaining their schedule would be no sweat. They are really good kids and we were looking forward to having them all to ourselves for five whole days.
As you may know, two- and five-year-olds have an unlimited supply of energy, not to mention a boundless sense of curiosity. Their parents have refused to have a TV in their house, so one of the perks of staying at Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop's house was the ability to watch TV and movies, as we have no qualms about Sesame Street, Tele-Tubbies, and Clifford, the Big Red Dog, and we have begun to build a DVD collection of Disney classics. We also enjoy playing outside with them. We have a pond out back that has about a million frogs in it, and they have spent countless minutes catching and, eventually, releasing them. They also like to feed the fish. Bottom line is that we thought the five days would be a cake walk.
Well, as good as they are and as patient and persevering as we are, keeping up with two kids for five days at our age (and their ages) is no cake walk. I am reminded how kids in school treat substitute teachers. We were the substitute parents, and as good as they were, they still had to test us in many ways. What to eat and not eat at mealtime; can we see a second movie; whether a bath was really needed tonight; how about a third lullaby in addition to the fifth story book? Now all this may seem very trivial to all you parents who deal with these serious questions on a daily basis, but it had been a long time since my wife and I faced these challenges.
I have renewed respect for all parents who have the seemingly unlimited supply of energy and patience to deal with all the challenges their kids present every day. My hat's off to you. Sure, we (I) re-learned that kids will eat when they're hungry and sleep when they're tired, and will even sometimes listen to reason, but this was a very humbling experience for me. And these two kids were at arguably the most manageable ages of any. I truly admire the ability of good parents to continue to nurture and guide their kids as they reach school age and grow into young adults. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to re-learn a most important lesson; nothing is more difficult, challenging, rewarding, and important than being a good parent. Nothing.
© 2005 The