Friday, December 15, 2006
Remembering to be grateful
Every once in a while I ask myself "how did it happen that I was born in the United States and live in the small town of Carlisle, a town with lots of open space, good schools, friendly and intelligent people, and within easy driving distance of Boston and Cambridge?" I have been asking myself this question more than once lately, after reading the morning newspapers and watching the evening news. Why am I living here instead of in Sudan, Lebanon, Iraq or New Orleans? How did it happen that I live in a town where I can go out the front door and walk safely down the road to my neighbors without the worry of being shot? We have been hearing so much bad news from all around the world in recent months that I have decided to write about some of the things that have made me grateful to be living in Carlisle.
Certainly, having lived in Carlisle for 40 years makes me grateful. Being able to go to the post office where several of the postal clerks know my name and where one of them might ask, "Where is your son now, is he still in Russia?" Recently a friend of mine who was featured in a Mosquito article found extra copies of that newspaper in her mailbox — copies to send to her daughters, a grandchild, or friends. How thoughtful of the postal worker who delivers her mail!
I am grateful for the Carlisle Farmers Market, which opened for its first full season, July through September, Saturday mornings at the Kimball Farm ice cream stand. It was a wonderful place to purchase fresh produce from local gardens, run into old friends that one hadn't seen in years, and become acquainted with some of Carlisle's best gardeners.
The opportunity to work at the polls in Carlisle is an activity that I treasure. Seeing the familiar faces of the townspeople who come to vote, taking my turn at cranking the old wooden ballot box (no need for flaky touch-screen machines in Carlisle), and counting the votes at the end of the day gives one a special feeling of being part of our country's election process.
I am grateful to all the volunteers who give so many hours to make our Town Government work. It is not easy these days to grapple with state-mandated 40B affordable housing in a town without public water, sewer, or transport.
And I will not forget to say how grateful I am to work for a non-profit weekly newspaper that goes out free to all Carlisle residents; one that is written by the people who live in the town and where we do not have to answer to a chain-newspaper corporation.
There are so many things to be grateful for living in Carlisle — Gleason Public Library, the three churches in town, Town Meeting, Old Home Day . As we head into this special holiday season, I plan to take time to appreciate all of these things and hopefully find a way to give back to those who are in need. I may not be able to give to the people struggling against violence in Sudan, Lebanon, or Iraq, but there are organizations in our community that are helping support the needy in nearby towns and even communities affected by Hurricane Katrina. See page 17 for a list of organizations and charities that need your donation.
There's an old joke that when holiday music fills the air, decorations abound, and the stores are crammed with shoppers, it's a sure sign that Thanksgiving can't be too far off. Indeed, it seems that the period between the third Thursday of November and New Year's Day has morphed in to one long, continuous holiday, with all of the attendant celebrations and obligations. If you're a kid, this is great stuff nothing beats the anticipation of a visit from Santa Claus or eight straight nights of Hanukkah gifts. If you're a grown-up, it's a different kettle of fish. Someone has to do the shopping, the cooking, and the wrapping, and then clean up the mess when the dust settles. As for me, I come down on the kiddie side. There are plenty of reasons to celebrate and it's okay to indulge a bit.
Holidays are one of the ways we have of marking time and keeping things in perspective, especially in Carlisle, which has its own special rhythm of annual community events. I've always looked forward to Memorial Day, with the band music and speeches in Corey Auditorium, then the march to Green Cemetery for the rifle volleys, followed by the roll call on the Town Green. The speeches are always different, but they're always good delivered by real people who have personally given military service to our country. They make us proud to be citizens. A few weeks later in June, it's the Strawberry Festival. By then, we can (usually!) assume that warm weather (and mosquitoes) have returned. The best thing about the Strawberry Festival is not the shortcake, but watching the kids frolic . . . they know that school is just about out for the summer and their energy is infectious.
Old Home Day is next. I'm such a fan of OHD that a few years back my kids "endowed" one of the booths in my honor (it's on a little brass plaque that no one ever reads, but I know it's there). Every year, I look forward to the parade, the art show, and the pie contest. Through some incredible stroke of luck, I was once actually asked to be a judge. OHD is topped off by the annual Fire Department chicken barbeque, to which we frequently invite out-of-town guests; it's true Americana. Then in the fall, there's the Sixth Grade Spaghetti Supper. Though our kids are long gone from middle school, we always enjoy a return visit. It's nice to see the next generation doing the things that we once did, but this time around we don't have to help with the cleanup.
Which brings us back around to the holiday season, encompassing Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year's, and anything else that needs to be celebrated, including the winter solstice. It's party season for sure, and we always enjoy filling in the calendar when the expected invitations arrive in the mail. Certain annual rituals must be obeyed. For example, there's the "Cheese Cow" that we always send to old friends who host a party to which we are always invited. We started doing this years ago as a joke when we lived for a brief time in Wisconsin and could not be there in person. By now the Cheese Cow has achieved celebrity status, to the point where the supplier in Wisconsin reserves one especially for this occasion it's become as much a guest at the party as we are.
I suspect that all of us have our "cheese cows" of some kind or another those simple, silly holiday rituals that mark the seasons like the points of a compass. What are yours?
© 2006 The