Getting used to this homeowner stuff hasn't been too difficult, so far, although writing the big check toward the end of the month has occasionally made me break out in hives, especially since said check got even bigger this spring, the result of an upsurge in property taxes. (For tax year 2004, I didn't qualify for the state's 5-percent cap on increased assessed value, because this was the first year I was the official taxpayer, so the county was happy to take note of the fact that I paid through the nose for this place and tax me out some other orifice.) Still, while said check is half again as much as what I used to pay in rent, at least I'm getting something in return other than the promise that someone will come in and unclog the sink once in a blue moon; while I haven't had a formal appraisal done since before closing, and this year's assessed value is capped and therefore presumably below actual market value, I've piled up somewhere between $5000 and $15,000 worth of actual equity in a matter of eighteen months. Eighteen months of renting, by contrast, got me a small stack of receipts, suitable for kindling, if I had had a fireplace, which I hadn't.
What I haven't done, really, is mark my territory. No, this doesn't mean I need to walk around the periphery and take a whiz; it means that I haven't yet done anything particularly substantial to change this place in accordance with my hopes, wishes, dreams, or whatever. This is partly because, well, not a hell of a lot needed to be done. The reason I bought this house, and not one of the ten others I looked at, was simply that it came closest to what I wanted in the first place; it was about the right size (a smidgen over 1000 square feet, which is big enough for one person who is trying to overcome his acquisitive tendencies), and it struck the right balance between sensibility and silliness. (The ultramodern breakfast bar with the track lighting separates two rooms, living room and kitchen, whose furnishings are up-to-date but whose aesthetics are pure 1950. You drop someone from Architectural Digest in here and she'll wander off into the forest, suffering from severe cognitive dissonance, and never be heard from again.)
Still, nothing about this house particularly says Me, so I spent part of the weekend taking down one of the two sets of house numbers the one I could actually reach, west of the window array. I don't much like either set: the one I took down was a spindly sort of font that was hard to read at a distance, and the black-on-brown color scheme didn't help, and the one I left up, which is partially obscured by the guttering over the garage, is your basic cheap 99-cent aluminum digit array, extremely unattractive but not worth my getting out the ladder, which is darn near as old as the house and not nearly as stable. What will replace them both, eventually, is this in its larger size, to be placed just east of the garage door. It's just over two feet high, so it should be highly visible from the street. Now of course I could have just bought a fistful of oversized digits at five bucks apiece and done the job for a quarter of what I actually spent for this brass gewgaw, but somehow that didn't seem adequate. Besides, eventually there will be a second such plate, with the following inscription:
Cast to match, of course. Nineteen forty-eight is the year the house was built, not the year I took possession of it, but then it was here before I was, and it will be here after I'm gone, and I am inordinately fond of the idea of being associated with being part of something with some permanence, especially since I've never actually had any of my own. A lot to ask of a couple of brass plates, maybe, but look how much meaning we invest in a simple gold ring.
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Copyright © 2005 by Charles G. Hill