When did you decide to become a Vegetarian? by Beth Gager

At eight months old I threw away my bottle and refused to drink milk
I stuck to that decision throughout my childhood until I was finally convinced “Milk does a Body Good”
I always preferred an apple an orange watermelon
to any other food I was offered
I vividly remember biting into a brown leg
asking what it was and immediately deciding I would never eat rabbit EVER
I still kept a foot (and even a tail I think for “Good Luck”) until one hunting season I stood gazing down at a pile of rabbits
apologizing to limp bodies as they awaited the slice of my brother’s knife to detach them from from their fur and internal organs so they could be hung upside down from the clothesline
I can’t remember much about the ducks and geese
Only that I never wanted eat them or see them nailed to our wall
Feathers collecting dust plastic eyes haunting
I did decorate them for Christmas one year to my brother’s delight He took pictures Santa hat and streamers
I once liked ginger ale gravy for the idea
And then I learned that the roast in the oven was once a part of the gentle deer that gazed at me with elegant neck and alert eyes as he nibbled grass with his family in the field across the road
The same fellow that hung for weeks by his hind legs stripped of his insides and his dignity outside my cousin’s hunt club
Closely related to the pregnant doe that had been hit by a car late at night her belly swollen her body still warm
My father allowed me to touch her quiet face but made sure I went inside before the cutting began
He even took once to see another hit and run as she lay in the grass unable to move eyes dilated in terror
He drove me home in silence and returned to her to end her misery
And then I learned about crated calves and told anyone who would listen and many who wouldn’t about the abused children otherwise known as “Veal Parmigiana”
Next was fetal pig pink and white with little black socks
Stored inside a box under my bed until I carried him to my exam and pointed out his heart to the graduate assistant telling her, “He’s a dead baby” when it was over and she commented at my apparent discomfort with this assignment
I apologized for my cowardice as I dropped his shriveled, violated corpse into the trashcan with a thud
And swore not to eat his relatives ever again
I still harbored resentment for the rooster that attacked me from behind as a child
But even that became a weak excuse for devouring his cousins so I stopped
A soft glowing light gently inspires me to hug my brother because he knew not what he did
Lay my cheek against a tree
Marvel at the perfection of an apple
My mother tells me I wasn’t always this way
My niece talks to me about saving the rain forest
I talk to her about her hamburger to which my sister rolls her eyes and tells me I wasn’t a vegetarian when I was her age
I was.
I am.