Friday, November 25, 2005
Time to give thanks
Thanksgiving week is an appropriate time to take a moment to remember some of the people in town who help improve the quality of our children's lives. In particular, within town government, both the Youth Commission and the Recreation Commission work very hard to help Carlisle's young people.
The Youth Commission (YC) focuses on the middle-school population, and organizes Friday Nite Live (FNL). Started in 1984, the basic idea of FNL has remained constant for over two decades — to provide a safe place where young teens can gather and have fun. In the early years, movies and a group sport were offered. Lately, kids have enjoyed music, dancing, pick-up basketball, and board games, as well as snacks like pizza and soda. About 200 middle-school parents volunteer each year to chaperone, with an adult-to-student ratio of roughly 1:10 at each FNL event. Current members of the YC include James Harris (chair), Nicole Bloomfield, Lori Canavan, Susan Evans and Elizabeth Bourque.
The YC suggested the town create a youth center back in 1977, and the town still needs one, according to Karen Huntress, who recently finished a three-year stint on the YC. She recommended, "There's a real lack of places for middle school kids to go after school. But before anyone spends a dime, they should find out what the kids want." Middle school students are normally allowed to leave the school under their own recognizance, and some now use the Gleason Library as a defacto drop-in center.
Huntress thought the school dining room would be a good site for an afternoon drop-in program for these children. The cafeteria is large enough for adults to supervise the youth without hovering, and it is seldom used at that time of day, except during seventh-grade play rehearsals. This year, grants are funding after-school teacher-supervised "homework clubs" for younger students. The major difference between a drop-in center and a homework club, though, is that middle school kids would probably want the freedom to come and go, and this is not normal policy for activities held at the school. However, parents could be required to sign forms agreeing to accept responsibility for their youth at the drop-in center. Perhaps grant money could be found to fund the idea on a trial basis.
The Recreation Commission (RecCom) manages the town's athletic fields, and sponsors tennis and swim lessons, summer camp, and numerous recreational programs enjoyed each year by hundreds of residents of all ages. RecCom members include: Allen Deary (chair), Maureen Tarca, Norm Lind, Mark Spears, John LaLiberte and alternate member Michael Brophy. The volunteers on the RecCom supervise a paid staff of two year-round employees plus over two dozen adults and youths who work in the summer programs. For details on RecCom programs, go to www.carlisle.org and click on "recreation."
This year the RecCom is working to augment the recreational facilities on the Banta-Davis land off Bedford Road. Their long-term plan for the site includes four tennis courts, one more soccer field and two more baseball fields. Town Meeting already approved the tennis courts, but Tarca explained the contractors' bids were too high due to drainage issues. The RecCom is redoing the proposal in combination with new fields and hopes to have the project ready for Spring Town Meeting.
There are many other organizations that help the children of Carlisle — from the Carlisle School Association and Carlisle Education Foundation that raise funds to help the school, to the Scouts and the volunteer-run sports programs. They give their time and energies to help the children of Carlisle, and they all deserve our gratitude and support.
Turkeys I have known (a partial list)
Mostly, I simply eat them, brining them the night before in salt water. There is your tender turkey, with juicy white meat, crisp skin, and a thigh falling off the bone. And there is your tough turkey, whose carved deserts no ocean of gravy will ever moisten. Including leftovers, my acquaintance with each of these 50 and more turkeys has been a brief, two-week affair.
But this Thanksgiving, I prefer to remember two flocks that shared our lawn a number of years ago. One group, which numbered about a baker's dozen, arrived one fall, parading across our grass, flower beds, and stonewalls at dawn. The hens were huge, brush-colored birds, lean and compact, like the tapered hats of fashionable grandmothers from the 1920s. The toms had diminutive, compact skulls of reddish plucked skin, tinged blue about the hollows of their ear cavities. These were serious birds that kept a sharp eye out for troublemakers. They looked over hedges, walked defiantly up porch stairs, and peered into windows like eccentric aunts and uncles from the Civil War.
These wild birds can be territorial, like irate homeowners in the presence of trespassers, as recent stories in these pages have witnessed.
At dusk they would scud through the dark pines on enormous, curved, whistling wings, without touching a twig. They gathered under the crabapple trees, and, one by one, lofted into the pines with great explosive wing-claps. I still retain the image of a dark, stationary turkey 50 or 60 feet above the ground, motionless on an extended pine bough, a black silhouette against the glowing evening sky.
The other flock arrived one spring, two toms and a hen (Tom, Dick, and Henrietta), having taken up residence next door with the ducks and chickens at our neighbor's aviary. Tom and Dick were resplendent fellows, with dress jackets of multi-colored feathers and bald, blue heads. They displayed their fans on our lawn, shaking their tail feathers, gobbling furiously, and tossing their bright red snoods. The sound of a French horn or a clarinet would bring them to the porch and onto the bench, from which they too would peer in the window.
One night, our neighbors told us, a fox raided the aviary, slaying several chickens and a duck. The turkeys, roosting in nearby pines, had flown down to the yard and defended the hen house. The fox had then attacked and wounded one of the toms, who still stood his ground, bloodied but defiant, by the dawn's early light. Birds of a feather indeed!
After that our neighbors completely enclosed their aviary. The next spring a dozen fluff-grey little chicks came tumbling out of the woods, peeping and scratching in the leaves. Our neighbors held their heads in delight and dismay. Within two weeks, after the chicks grew like butter balls and threatened to do our neighbors out of feed and shelter, they were all gone to a local turkey farm. That Thanksgiving made poignant dining.
If we are what we eat, then on Thanksgiving we are a nation of turkeys. But we are more than a country of birdbrains talking gobbledygook. When we carve the turkey, we ingest the wild intelligence that Benjamin Franklin so admired. We take in ancient instincts for survival, preservation, and hardihood. And we may also acquire the virtues of altruism, perseverance, and courage. One could do worse in times of national emergency than imitate the turkey who, year after year, lays down his life that we may feast.
© 2005 The