Dear City Commissioners,
By some oversight the new Walmart is even now being constructed IN MY FRONT YARD. I realize that choice piece of acreage just cried out for concrete and retail and progress. I can even appreciate the chop-licking revenue anticipated in the form of jobs, surrounding-county shoppers, and satellite development around the mother ship.
But gentlemen and gentlewomen, we have called that land “the cornfield” for 18 years, though I don’t know if corn per se ever actually grew there. It contained mimosa trees, a four-wheeler track, an abandoned home with a deep well hunkered down in a copse of pines. We think the creature that ate some of our cats had its lair there. A blackberry bramble spread thick and prickery and hard to get to. Occasionally we would find discarded clothing which conjured illicit trysts, also undoubtedly prickery, which we didn’t tell the kids about.
We did tell the kids to pedal fast when passing the cornfield at twilight when they were first old enough to ride the neighborhood as autonomous free agents. Pedal fast, I would tell them, because who knew what interstate vagrant, headed to Iowa or something, might lurk in the tall shanks of hay, waiting, waiting to pounce and steal their pocket money to buy a scrambled egg and coffee at Waffle House?? Honesty forces me to admit that my kids never had pocket money, and our vagrants are gentle and harmless. But still. The cornfield held its mystery.
Most of all the cornfield was green, green in that breathing, elemental way. It was a green wall to our north that held our homes in its limbs and muted the world and blew cool, benevolent air down our streets, streets less and less wooded, less and less deserving of the name Woodland.
A sign to the Ave Maria Grotto once hung nailed to a tall pine at the edge of the cornfield, right on the corner. In all our ramblings, day trip or longer, that sign was a welcome, you-are-almost-home, unload the babies and tuck them warm in their beds. The pine came down when the Texaco went up and we regret we didn’t get the Grotto sign as a memory. So, I guess I blame you, City Commissioners, that my children grew up. Fair enough. Unfair blame comes with public service.
Well, it’s too late now. The exposure is irreversible. The once-green benevolence is now white-glare and backhoes. I can practically wave to the operators as they crawl mechanically over the hills and ruts of cornfield dirt. I will probably, in the not-too-distant future, be able to wave to the Walmart managers as they park in the back of the new mega store to punch in for their shift. They won’t be the mimosas of the cornfield. They won’t carry memories of my children on bikes in summer, free of me, and cicada happy. But I suppose I will end up loving them just because they are there, and they are people.
Just please leave the rest of the cornfield alone. OK?