Place Where You Live:

A Little Slice of Heaven

Downtown Montpelier, Vermont

Less than a quarter of a mile from my mother’s mint-colored, saltbox home, there is a sign surrounded by purple petunias. The sign is large and long, spanning the porch of not one but two front doors, the access point for four “condos,” but in essence the complex is just a large, sweet, yellow house, built in early 1900’s like many in our nation’s smallest capital city, Montpelier (the only capital without a McDonald’s).

The sign reads, “A Little Slice of Heaven.”

I thought that too before I heard the rumor, “Superfund, Franklin Street, Near the Middle School.”

Before we moved here in 2003, I mapped out the state by industry, agriculture, and sites of hazardous waste, hoping to identify the cleanest area in which to reside. When I searched for sites of concern, the old tannery was not mentioned, though I should have considered how man and machine follow rivers. My mother’s home is built near the North Branch of the Winooski River. The yellow house abuts it.

Unless you, like me, happened to hear rumors about 1989, about the mysterious gray ash layer, eight inches thick, six inches below the surface of a neighbor’s garden, there’s little chance you would know that butter-colored house is built on a Superfund site. It’s still waiting a national priority list decision (since 1995). Because of this, it isn’t included in scorecard’s list of hazardous waste sites, but it is one.

Situated on a lane called Franklin that feeds into Main Street. We walk it on weekends, on the way to the Farmer’s Market, past the old maples on the corner and white house with black shutters. This week it was for blueberries. I wanted to fill my basket with them, and peonies for the table.

Sometimes, at night, I hear the train whistle. Sometimes it is the ringing of church bells. We are a town of steeples, a gold dome with Ceres, a place that values equality and gay marriage, but every time I see that sign, I want to ask, “Do you know what lurks in Heaven?”