The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 3, 2009

Opinions

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What’s the lowdown on Highland?

Should the Board of Selectmen assume responsibility for the Highland Building, built originally for classrooms but not used by the Carlisle School since 1986? Should the town begin to renovate the structure, or tear it down? Town Meeting will face these three questions and if the discussion at a recent gathering of Carlisle residents is indicative, many voters want more information before they decide.

This issue of the Mosquito includes information on the building’s condition, history and recommendations of the Highland Building Study Committee (starting on page 1). The study committee’s full report is available online at www.carlislema.gov. The committee evaluated the building and recommends renovating it. However, given the proximity to the school and the limited parking issues, it would be helpful if the Selectmen would organize a presentation before Town Meeting to clarify their views and explain how new uses might work on the site.

Renovations for public use would ultimately cost close to $2 million, compared to the $450,000 needed to ready the structure for private use. The study committee recommended the Selectmen request the smaller amount, with the understanding that if a public use is eventually chosen, then a second phase of improvements would need to follow. One problem with this strategy is that without a clear purpose for the building, it is harder to break out of the chicken-and-egg decision paralysis that has stymied Highland maintenance for years. Why not pick a useful long-term goal and try to work toward it?

For instance, the town would gain an important asset if the building could be economically renovated to provide a community center. Is $2 million a good price for a handicapped-accessible community center? If so, using Community Preservation Act funds reduces the impact on taxpayers. The Recreation Commission has expressed interest in the building. Recast as a public facility providing childrens’ after-school programming, Highland’s central location might be seen as a strength.

Public forums are commonly held on important topics before Town Meeting and sentiment for a community center or other public use of Highland might be explored at such a meeting. By providing more information before Town Meeting, the Selectmen can help Carlisle make a decision about the Highland Building that best serves the town’s needs going forward. ∆

Empty nest revisited

We thought we would never be ready, but having been full-blown empty nesters for a couple of years now, we can say that we are almost there. Or wherever the winding road away from home will take them and us.

We are now distant from their days at the school on School Street. We have moved far and away from the tree-shaded Castle, the (sometimes hard-to-plan-for) early release days, and the (always unscheduled) snow days. We no longer have to keep up with school bus routes and times.

Though many of our conversations are still about cafeteria food, transportation arrangements, homework, exams or grades, we now listen and watch from the sidelines as they multi-task, prioritize and otherwise bear responsibility for the mundane routine of their lives.

We learned to accept that phone calls or emails or SMS messages would now be our way of keeping up with their daily experiences. We got used to long calls at odd hours when they spent a semester or a summer abroad. Dialing their phone numbers and hearing their familiar voices would often blur the geographic distance. It would sound just the same, just as close. Just as if they were calling from a neighboring town, back home on school break.

With the inevitable distance comes also the realization that there is not much we can do when they call in the middle of the night to tell us that they don’t feel well. And so, since making a “sick child” appointment for them is no longer in our parental repertoire, we are limited to virtual comfort.

We are still getting used to the empty nest being visited only three or four times a year, not always at the same time. And it still feels weird to celebrate long-distance birthdays. However, we have learned to take joy in pixelated images of delivered birthday cakes or flower bouquets we sent their way, and found ourselves settling for belated, consolidated celebrations of family milestones.

So, we have been there for them for better or worse, in sickness and health. We realize once again that much like these promises in marriage, the premises of parenthood are also life-long relationships that can weather the storms and tests of time.

Following the one-day-at-a-time approach, we aren’t really ready to look beyond ordering the yearbook, or making hotel reservations for graduation ceremonies. (Although, of course, those FAFSA loans will linger with us for a while. As they say, education pays.) But I can already find myself recalling Erma Bombeck’s wry comment about us, parents – “Graduation day is tough for adults. They go to the ceremony as parents. They come home as contemporaries. After 22 years of child-raising, they are unemployed.”

 

 

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