Before I was born
This acre was a pasture
Slow bovine grazing
Until our house took root.
When I was six
My grandparents took me to Dresser Hill
Dairy Farm, thick wooden fences around
Black and white mooing beasts.
Mama mooed and startled
Me, my ice cream tumbled.
I can still see her wide pink nostrils
Eye level with my little girl self
Letting out the sound that scared me half to death.
Grandpa bought me another ice cream but I never forgot
That cow in the herd that heard
A little girl cry over a chocolate cone.
When I was ten
You could still address a letter to 16 Hammond
And it would come to a mailbox here.
That is still my go-to fun fact
During icebreakers and awkward silences.
Did you know if you send a letter to Cowtown
It will come to me?
Maybe I should be embarrassed about coming from nowhere
But I’m always glad to be from somewhere
With a sense of humor.
When I was eleven
I was still proud that our town cemetery boasted
Long-dead little-known celebrity Grizzly Adams
Living a myth since 1812, pushing up daises since 1860
Sleeping quiet beneath a tombstone with a bear carving
Wild man laid to rest in a town where the wildest beast
Is a black-and-white animal often named Daisy.
When I was twelve
The church where I made my first communion met the wrecking ball
And now I pull through the drive thru and order a double cheeseburger
Remembering to pump gas before I head home.
I soon forgot that Dad used to park in the back and walk us to the pews
And we’d get pizza for lunch on Sundays from that place that closed when the church died.
Now cops sit with radar guns outside the place that used to feed families something holy.
When I was thirteen
I still loved Old Home Day at the center
Where upstanding PTO parents set up stalls
And sold soaps and Girl Scout cookies and condescension.
Mom ran the road race sometimes; Dad did too
And never got the promised T-shirt.
I walked around with them until I was too cool.
Then I chewed fried dough on bleachers with my cool friends
While our parents said, “They’re getting old fast.”
When I was sixteen
We got a CVS in town, and the kids on Bus 39 got excited
When we passed the construction workers on Route 20.
Dresser Hill Dairy Farm was a place to get a job
And my ice cream was scooped by that girl I hated in algebra.
I went on a date there once, and it always smelled
Like cows and felt like dropping my ice cream when I was six.
When I was eighteen
I made the underwhelming move to Worcester
And came back to my house in the old cow pasture on breaks
One square acre with a pool and a driveway and wildflowers,
Never to be a place for calves and milking again.
But I have never dreaded coming back to the place that taught me how
To get excited about things like CVS and cows.