The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 27, 2009


A trying time at the Carlisle School

The third week of November was not an easy time for anyone associated with the Carlisle School – administrators, faculty, students, parents, the Carlisle School Committee, and this time the Carlisle Police.

The bad news started on Wednesday, November 18, when a threatening note was found in the boys’ bathroom, precipitating a school lock-down. The person who wrote the note was identified from his handwriting.

More unsettling news came to light later that day at the evening Carlisle School Committee meeting, when School Superintendent Marie Doyle submitted her resignation, effective June 30, 2010. Superintendent in Carlisle for the past six years, Doyle has been thoroughly involved in the planning of the new school building for classes pre-K through grade 2 (you can read her informed responses to questions in the November 20 Mosquito article “School Building Committee offers plans, takes questions.”) One wonders who from the staff will be able to see this project through, now that Doyle’s departure follows Business Manager Heidi Zimmerman’s resignation this past June. Both women have been active members of the School Building Committee.

But if the week wasn’t bad enough, on Friday the school received a significant bomb threat in a note found in another boys’ bathroom. At 1:40 p.m., as a result of this threat, the school, in consultation with the police department, executed the “Off Campus Evacuation Plan” with teachers taking their students to off-campus locations in the center of town. At the end of the school day, students returned to Spalding Field in time to catch the school buses for the trip home. That evening, students were contacted and permitted to return to school to pick up essential belongings.

Although the bomb scare was considered a hoax, the school felt it necessary to contact the police who in turn contacted NEMLEC STARS who provided a bomb-detecting dog to be used to check out the campus. The Carlisle Police are continuing to investigate the incident.

From all accounts there was praise all around for the police, the administration and the faculty who had to deal with the lockdown and the evacuation. The school had practiced this evacuation procedure regularly, which explains why things ran so smoothly. People remained calm, without any panic.

All of us living in Carlisle, even those without children attending the Carlisle School, are disturbed to hear of threats of violence. They may have been a hoax, but we have to take these threats seriously, as the school did. These students and their families need counseling and help. As one parent of a middle school student told me, it was disconcerting to his son to know, after Friday’s incident, that there could be someone at his school who would write a note like that. Should the Restorative Justice Program step in, or is this a more serious matter that should be prosecuted in court?

Preserved in memory

Orthodox church walls are covered with images – saints, martyrs and icons. In the darkness the golden haloes shine with the reflected light of candles, creating the sense of a large number of people looking down. The point of the art is, in fact, an article of faith: that the Church is the entire population of believers, living and dead, saints and sinners, joined together across the millennia in every celebration of the Eucharist. Similarly, in Mexico on the Day of the Dead, families gather in cemeteries to eat and drink together, celebrating life, lives and the continuation of the culture.

Thanksgiving, the American eucharist, has for me this same quality. Tradition and ritual carry forward through the years: starting the turkey and stuffing early in the day; cheering at high school football games in the crisp morning; cooking pies; family members arriving, some with new boyfriends or girlfriends, others with growing kids, yet others with failing hearing or eyesight; calling those who are far away; walking in the frosty or surprisingly warm woods, depending on the year; making the peas with onions, and mashed potatoes and carving the turkey; eating; napping; watching a family movie; packing leftovers for travelers, washing dishes; and always talking, connecting, celebrating this time together now, while remembering other Thanksgivings with the temporarily separated or the permanently departed.

This Thanksgiving for the first time in our house there will be no grandma to visit or call. A mere year ago my mother was walking, albeit haltingly, on the boardwalk at the Oregon coast, giving advice about how to cook the turkey and which sides to prepare. This year she went home to Montana, to rest with Dad in the shadow of the everlasting hills. Yet even now she will be with us.

Mom came of age during the Great Depression. She implicitly trusted a stocked pantry more than a mutual fund statement and found the returns from a garden and fruit trees less volatile than those from securities. She planted and harvested tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, beets and beans. She ran an informal nursery for orchards of apples, apricots (from seeds gathered from a tree in her mother-in law’s yard) and plums, giving the stock away to neighbors and acquaintances in three counties. And come August and September, in a small, hot kitchen, she canned. Cases upon cases of Mason jars filled with tomatoes, dill pickles, apricot nectar and jam, apple butter and plum preserves crowded the cool, dark “fruit room” in the basement – where my father and middle brother would occasionally linger, when sent to recover a jar, to partake of corn preserved in a certain golden, liquid form – while apple pies and apricot pies filled the freezer.

In the last summer Mom had access to her beloved fruit trees and garden, she canned more than usual and shipped it East. Years later, the remaining jars in the cool dark of a water room in a Carlisle Deck House have a specific gravity far beyond that of their commercial cousins on grocery shelves. The preserves are the tangible, intact evidence of a woman’s love of life and her family; they are the bottled sunshine of a Montana summer. On some of the jars are her words: “Italian plum – serve on ice cream or pancakes.” And so we shall. ∆



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© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito