Kevin Cooke: Thoughts after losing lawn ornaments
AMHERST — I love this town. I raised my daughter here, learned to dance at the Munson Library and absorbed the meaning of deep and abiding love here. When I moved from South Amherst to the Cushman neighborhood in North Amherst, I found a small and tight community of open and welcoming people who shared my love of the area and my sense of whimsy.
I have danced in a skirt on May Day on the Cushman Common and I have sat on the giant salamander afterward, exhausted in the sun. I am thrilled that the Cushman Store has stayed open and is thriving.
You may imagine how disappointed I was to discover on a recent morning that three of my lawn ornaments, a large plastic mother flamingo and two of her babies, had disappeared in the night. Kidnapped. Bird-napped.
I figured it was only a matter of time before they became too attractive to the students. Sort of like shiny objects to the magpie, or a small moving object to a 3-month-old baby. I hoped initially that they had found a good home, and figured that whoever had them needed them more than I did. Several of the new baby flamingos from my flock had already migrated over to the Common, and I didn’t feel too much separation anxiety.
Then I got the phone call from my sweetie, she of the dancing and deep, abiding love, on her way into town in the morning. “One of your flamingos is on the side of Pine Street between South Pleasant and the farm. Must have been kids. You should stop by and pick it up.”
I was incensed. There was the mother, sans legs, lying on her side in a neighbor’s yard. I pulled over to the side of the road, no small feat on Pine Street, and liberated her. Then a big loop and back home. On the way, what should I spy but the babies, also legless and lying on the sidewalk right down from the Common.
Now, I don’t have a whole lot of common sense, but I do know a bit about consideration. This is the thought that goes into living among others in a community. Most of us develop this life skill at the age of three or four. It comes from our parents, teachers and peers. It means “There are others amongst us, and we should respect them and their ways.”
There wasn’t a lot of consideration in evidence in the kidnapping and casual rejection of my flamingos.
Did I report this incident to the police? No, they have other, more important things to do in town, and judging from past police reports in the newspapers, nothing much would come of it anyway.
The kidnapping was just a jolt to my opinion of this town. I assume that it was University of Massachusetts students. Most of the adults in the community show consideration for the lives and possessions of their neighbors. I have learned not to assume that UMass students are adults.
You will have noticed that I have made the grand assumption that it was UMass students. I’m sure that letters from students will follow, saying “It’s just a tiny fraction of all the students. You can’t make such grand assumptions.”
Well, yes I can. I’ve lived in this town long enough to know that if there is a pool of vomit on the sidewalk on Fearing Street, it’s probably from a student. I know if I see seven people walking together with red plastic cups in their hands, yelling and swearing at 1 a.m., they are probably students.
I’ve learned that the majority of vandalism in this town comes from students. When I see student volunteers out on Pine and Meadow streets cleaning up after other students, I know they are from UMass and they know they are cleaning up after UMass students who lack consideration.
By the way, that’s a great idea. Have the considerate students pick up after the inconsiderate students. What lesson do you think that teaches? “Go ahead and throw it on the ground or in the street. Someone will come along and pick it up tomorrow.”
I love this town. It is my home. Unfortunately, it seems that many UMass students don’t consider it home. It is ZooMass, that great place to party away from the folks and the supervision that would have taught them consideration and civility. If we in this town continue to expect the behavior of children to be the norm amongst these students, then children they will remain.
Kevin Cooke lives in the Cushman section of North Amherst.