Our little secret : Carlisle
One of my favorite songs starts with the lyrics:
I know somewhere there is a party going down,
Interesting people, conversation to be found
I’ve lived in cities where there is no solitude
I’ve made some friends there that I hope I’ll never lose
But for now, I want to stay in this quiet town.
(Quiet Town – by Josh Rouse).
Today as I fly back to Mass from the most wonderful vacation of my life, beautiful wife seated next to me, both daughters with their heads down typing on their Macs and rocking out to some music I simply can’t understand, I find myself thinking about how great it will be to get home.
I want to let you in on a little secret. You see, I love Carlisle. There’s no doubt that there will be five feet of snow on the ground when I get there. It won’t be as sunny and warm as Islamorada was this past week. The driveway will be covered with ice, the front yard buried until Spring. It will be colder than I’d like it to be.
But, I love Carlisle.
My town has no red light. It has no high-rise buildings. It has no shopping mall. It does however have everything a person could ever dream of having. It has soul. It has a sense of itself and its history. It knows its role in the area as the little brother of the far more popular and famous Concord, home of the birth of the American Revolutionary War. We have a small rotary in the center of town. We have two churches, a school, a country store, a beautiful library, and an ATM machine (that must have been quite a public debate when that was put in!). Somehow this historic little rural farming community is at peace with our place in this busy, complicated world.
But, we love Carlisle. I have never felt more at home since actually leaving home all those years ago. I have only been there three years but it feels like I have been all my life. It feels like I finally belong somewhere.
You know by now that we have two beautiful daughters. Carlisle has given us the gift of having our daughters hang on to their youth, their precious childhood, for a year or two longer than in some other, more “progressive” and busy places. In this day and age, I count this as one of my greatest blessings.
There is a sense of innocence in Carlisle yet the people who live here are not naïve about the world around us. We’re engaged in the world, its just that we’ve chosen to live in a world that is running at a slightly slower pace than the rest.
The first time I came to Carlisle I actually drove through it without even knowing it. I was looking for a place to live, driving through the beautiful Mass countryside. My wife Allie and I were on the phone as I drove. She was giving me directions to various homes she found on line in places like Concord, Lexington, and Bedford. As I drove past the beautiful Middlesex School Allie told me I would soon be in Carlisle. Ten minutes later I was in the middle of Bedford, after having driven right through Carlisle. I remember thinking there was no way I was ever going to live in a place that I could drive through without knowing it. I was moving here from Seattle with a certain sense of entitlement and arrogance that can only be acquired from spending your life living in big cities like Atlanta and Seattle. I had certain expectations, I guess, that I would live in a typical suburb surrounded by McMansions. I had no intention of living in a small town with no red light. Well, things didn’t end up as originally planned and I consider myself to be pretty lucky that they didn’t. We found more than a house in Carlisle.
I drove over to Carlisle early one Saturday morning to meet the builder and inspect this little town a little closer. The first place I found was a small country store called Ferns. I pulled up in my car, with license plates from the state of Washington, walked in and grabbed a Diet Coke from the cooler. I looked around the place and wondered what the heck we were doing moving to this place that is seemingly in the middle of nowhere. As I approached the counter I couldn’t help but to feel that purchasing this house was likely to be the single biggest mistake of my life. The voice inside my head was casting major doubt. I wasn’t really paying attention when the man behind the counter said something to me. He said, “well, that’s an awful long way to drive for a Diet Coke (delivered in an unfamiliar Mass accent to boot!). I paid no attention to it but then realized he was talking to me. I looked at him and said, “excuse me?” – thinking that people in stores no longer speak to each other or engage in any sort of interaction beyond the typical, “that’ll be $1.79”. But this was something different. He looked me in the eye and said, “I see that you’re from Washington state. And, that’s a long way to have driven for a Diet Coke”. After a minute I realized that someone was actually talking TO me and not AT me. After gathering myself off the floor I said, “Oh yeah. I’m sorry, I wasn’t really paying attention. I am from Seattle. My family and I are moving here”. He then continued, “Well, you must be Allie’s husband. My name is Larry. Welcome to Carlisle”.
OK, so this is one of those moments in one’s life that only comes along a few times. I fear that some people never have one of these moments. A perfect moment of clarity.
This world is a busy place. We’re all in a hurry. No matter if its getting to work, rushing to a meeting, keeping up with the neighbors, or catching a flight to somewhere you don’t want to go, this world comes at us pretty fast. The old saying of taking a moment to smell the roses seems more like an abstract idea sometimes instead of something real. At least, it’s been that way for me.
So, I love Carlisle. I stood there on that early Saturday morning and suddenly everything made perfect sense. Never before in my life had everything made so much sense. I belonged here. I realized that I had found something I didn’t know I was searching for. I had longed for a place where I belonged. I found it in Carlisle.
Three years have passed. There has been more snow than I would like. There have been many summer evenings at Kimball’s Farm enjoying ice cream with my wife and daughters, saying hello to neighbors and friends. There have been walks in the woods, learning how to cross country ski, Old Home Day, school concerts, soap box derby races, Halloween school parades, bike rides through the country, walks at the cranberry bog, barn parties, new friendships, holiday parties, kayak rides on the Concord River, Christmas carols on the town green in the freezing cold, enjoying our small town newspaper the Mosquito, walks at Foss Farm, wandering through the trails of Carlisle, walking the path that the troops marched on their way to begin a war that started this country we live in, the loss of a trusted friend and dog named Piedmont, the addition of a new friend and dog named Tucker. There has been laughter and joy in the eyes of our beautiful daughters.
I do not tell you all of this to imply my little town is any better or worse than anywhere else. I simply tell you this as my hope is that all of us will someday find that place where we belong. We all need that place.
I may not live in Carlisle forever but somehow I think it will always feel like home.