My backyard has been a work in progress for a number of years, dating back to my first house. It was there that, after working a small ton of overtime as a trainer for Charles Schwab, I was able to have the backyard sodded and a sprinkler system installed. And then I got divorced and, well, that was that for that yard.
My next house came with the yard already done but, for reasons I can’t quite explain, I never spent near as much time there as I ever had intended. It was a smaller yard, as many here in the Valley tend to be, but it had grass and a speaker hooked to the main sound system … and yet, I didn’t really utilize it.
That brings me to my current homestead. When we moved in there were five trees, some grass and a whole lot of clover. Over the past few years, due mostly to my own gardening ineptitude, we’re down to three trees and until a couple of months ago, quite a bit of dirt.
How long as it been since there has been grass? One of my dogs won’t walk on the grass, thinking it’s some sort of foreign substance that’s going to swallow him whole.
Maybe it’s the cooler weather, maybe it’s the fairly new winter rye lawn, maybe it’s the freshly painted Adirondack chairs my parents re-painted for us this spring with an amazing design, but I’ve been spending at least an hour a day on the back patio, reading, breathing in the fresh air and simply soaking in the wonder that is my own backyard.
It’s not where I want it … a citrus tree will come, as will a fireplace, a summer lawn and someday a spa. But right now, it’s got comfy chairs, nice fans and grass and I couldn’t be happier.
I couldn’t really imagine if it weren’t mine. And let’s set aside the argument that the bank really owns the house until the mortgage has paid off, as that’s a cynical view that ignores the fact few of us own our homes outright (and many of us don’t “own” a lot of things by that measure, including our cars and furnishings.)
Since I purchased my first house, I’ve been unable to conceptualize being a renter again. In fact, when I got divorced and spent 18 months living in an apartment, I was absolutely miserable.
I don’t want to have to ask someone’s permission to paint my walls a certain color. I don’t want to depend on someone else to plant or not plant grass. When the time comes, I’m not going to have to ask anyone whether I can install that firepit or the spa.
There’s one tree that refuses to pass on, a formerly wonderful shade tree that hasn’t done well with the heat. If I had a landlord, he likely would have removed it. Instead, I’m nursing it back from the nearly dead and am rewarded daily with new leaves sprouting from the delicately thin branches. A shade tree it will be again and sooner rather than later.
Some will tell you pride of ownership only is a bullshit marketing concept foisted onto the public by the National Association of REALTORS. Those folks, I would argue, have never sat on their porch and watched their children play or the dogs run or the wind blow through the leaves and enjoyed the security that comes from knowing it all is yours.
It’s not a perfect setup. A couple of months ago I showed a bank owned home where the prior owner had scribbled on the wall that the American Dream was stolen from them. It may not make me popular, but I firmly believe in most cases people were somewhat complicit in the creation of their problems inasmuch as there was mass denial regarding the possibility the real estate market could decline.
You just can’t tell me someone making $20,000 a year really thought a $250,000 purchase was realistic; any sort of mortgage machinations had to be at least a little suspicious to most. Or am I expecting too much when it comes to the concept of personal responsibility?
Look back in American history to see what people have done for the opportunity to own land and you’ll realize the concept of ownership has less to do with American national policy than this being a land of immigrants who left feudal systems where there were landed and unlanded classes and determined for themselves to be among those who hold land.
If it’s an old-fashioned sentiment, then call me old-fashioned. I don’t really care. I’ll be on my patio, looking over my lawn as the beagles and kids wander, knowing that at 42 years old I’ve established my roots.
My home may lack the snail shower I crave but, nevertheless, it’s mine.