The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 19, 2010


Looking ahead to the Thanksgiving weekend

Following those extra hours spent in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day, including gathering with family and friends around the dinner table after an early afternoon walk around the Carlisle Cranberry Bog (where our cranberry relish originated), most of us would like to relax on the weekend and perhaps enjoy some of the activities taking place here in Carlisle.

By late Friday morning, I should have the china stashed away, silverware boxed and stored, and hopefully find enough leftover turkey for sandwiches at lunch time. By 1 p.m., my husband is planning to be down at the Great Brook Farm State Park parking lot to take part in the Trails Committee’s annual Day After Thanksgiving Walk. The walk this year will be going through the Stone Row area and on into Chelmsford. It will proceed at a leisurely pace, taking about two hours.

On Saturday morning we will head down to Union Hall, at the First Religious Society, for the first Winter Farmers Market of the season, running from 9 a.m. until noon. I’ll be looking for those fresh Autumn vegetables and fruits to replenish my empty refrigerator after all the holiday festivities. My husband, I know, will head straight to Sweet Visions Patisserie, while maybe I can find some hand-made items to give as Christmas gifts.

For those younger, physically fit members of Carlisle families, there is the Adult Coed Pickup Soccer game, played on Saturday afternoon on Spalding Field from 2 to 4 p.m. All skill levels (high school age and up) are encouraged to come to this annual event, which also serves as a reunion of sorts for former Carlisle soccer players.

Come Sunday afternoon, there should be some down time. I’ll take out my book “Zeitoun” by Dave Eggers, Carlisle’s Cover to Cover book for 2011, which I have only a few pages left to read. I’m looking forward to the Gleason Public Library’s group meetings in January when we will learn more about this book and discuss what went on in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina.

The turkey soup that will be simmering on the back burner of the stove for most of the Sunday afternoon should be ready in time for supper, bringing the perfect conclusion to a holiday weekend of activities with family and friends.


Every September a handful of students from Carlisle homes go off to college, leaving behind empty rooms filled with the archaeology of childhood, and ample houses childless (at least for the next four years). This fall the second of our daughters packed up and headed for her wider world. At first, I noted that the house had now grown very quiet. No more extended showers and the rush to get out the door. No more bursts of raw music from the computer space or the bedroom. No more movies in darkened rooms. No more light under doors late at night. Only Dowland, Bach and quiet jazz.

Then, it became apparent that we would be dining in most nights. No more mad dashes to recitals, games, tournaments. No more standing on sidelines or sitting in audience seats. No more returns from games in winter dark to hasty meals consumed at breakneck speed before the dash to the desk and three or four more hours of study.

Our neighbors have small children just beginning the journey. I often wave to them when the bus stops to pick up the first grader, or drop him off at day’s end. The family will soon find the oldest house in Carlisle, if the assignments at the school still include that curriculum – also Wolf Rock, Tall Pines, the Town Forest. In another few years the family will know how to get to all the obscure playing fields in Concord, Acton and Westford.

They will become well acquainted with the extended families of classmates and teammates, teachers and administrators. They will cook, serve and clean up the Spaghetti Supper (I was a sauce guy). They will build the set for the Seventh-Grade Play, supervise and provide snacks for rehearsals, make costumes, bake treats for the cast party and clean up the auditorium. They will chaperone “dances” with dreadful “music.” They will cheer the Halloween Parade on the school grounds. They will dress their children for eighth-grade graduation and mull over photographs for albums and holiday cards.

They may gather at the Unitarian Church for the march to Concord at 7 a.m. on Patriots Day, or line up decorated bikes for the 50 yards of glory before the reviewing stands on Old Home Day. They may march in the school band on Memorial Day and the other civic occasions in our town.

In Thorton Wilder’s Our Town, Emily, one of the protagonists, returns as a spirit ghost after she has died in childbirth to relive her 12th birthday, a typical day in her small town – modeled on Jaffrey, Peterborough and Dublin, New Hampshire. She watches her family go about their daily routines, oblivious of their immediate happiness and the losses to come. Finally, she bursts out, “Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it – every, every minute?” Of course we don’t. If we did, then we’d be gods, not humans. Wilder himself added this bit of advice, which seems tailor-made for residents of Carlisle: “My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your [Bates] ice cream while it is on your plate.”

Donald Hall affirms, in his negatively derisive poem amusingly titled Affirmation, that “To grow old is to lose everything.” In the end, of course, he’s right. But rarely are we left without the tatters of some comfort. In the past few weeks Atlantic storms have stripped the orange flame-leaves from the Japanese maples in our yard. Hidden all leafy summer, the dark, empty nest of a robin or cardinal now sways in the exposed, damp branches. Oak leaves strew the yard. Wood smoke from a neighbor’s chimney drifts through the pines. All this means, of course, that Thanksgiving is just days away. The ghosts of children in the bodies of young adults will drift back to their old haunts. We won’t inquire why or whither. We will only clean our plates in gratitude. ∆



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