The dream of most young married couples is someday to own a little place they can call home. That's certainly the advice given by most parents.
There's fun for young couples choosing the right place--near the good schools, playgrounds, whatever.
But then comes the cost of real estate, and hassles with money people, papers to be read and signed, payments to be kept up. Maybe they'll own it someday--usually by the time their own children have finished college, or when the firm is readying him for the gold retirement watch.
While reading the deed to my house, now finally owned, on a recent dreary afternoon, I began to wonder what we really did own.
Somewhere near the bottom in small sneaky type it was pointed out that in case of national emergency the military could expand the avenue we live on to a major thoroughfare which would run right smack up to the front door.
This reminded me of the apartment house we rented near LaGuardia Field in Queens. The small type on the lease said that in the event of a national emergency the housing would be taken over by the U.S. Army . . . .
In a whimsical mood I thought about the possibility of an attack from San Salvador and our military taking over Washington. The front lawn would be no great loss, but stepping out the front door could be dangerous.
The back yard may be yours but there is a D.C. ordinance saying you can't even bury a family pet out there, a thought that occurs to me quite often even though the cat is still alive.
Before fencing the yard in, there is a neighborhood organization that must be talked to. Appearance is important, you know.
The District owns the trees along the curbstone, but it refuses to trim shaggy overhanging branches shading whatever you plant and try to grow.
We had a lovely dogwood that eventually was destroyed by a huge branch that blocked out all sun and most rain, and eventually fell on part of the dogwood.
Still, it was told to me directly one morning by a District tree man from the cab of his pickup truck that, no, it could not be trimmed.
Still looking skyward, I wondered if I put up a super giant television antenna on the chimney, as I'd like to, might some guy come running from the FAA wearing a 50-mission crush cap and dark sunglasses to tell me I'm interfering with low-flying planes.
If, by the way, you had some extra money and decided on a wing for the house, or a deck, or even a glassed-in porch, any addition at all, you have to go down to the District Building and get permission. And if it's granted, you pay for the permit.
So what you own just about comes down to the proverbial four walls and the roof overhead. But there are constant reminders of the fragility of ownership. The stove and refrigerator still brazenly bear the names of their manufacturers. We use oil, and after a freezing night when you have run out, it is a nice sound when the huge truck rumbles up to fill the tank.
The visit is welcomed with the warmth brought by every St. Bernard dog that ever came to anyone's rescue. Yet the bill is always slipped under the door and another follows a few days later in the mail--a reminder to keep the money coming or freeze.
Same with the electricity and water. And, of course, you only rent the phone. Not so long ago when a few bills were missed even after you had been paying for maybe 20 years, they used to come and take the phone back.
Miss the taxes and you won't have the four walls and roof.
Or the car payments. In D.C., the car can be impounded for non-payment of parking tickets, an overdue inspection sticker and--certainly--the yearly registration.
So as I look from the window of this little nest we call our own I can see the new ugly, dark muddy green "super" trash can, a gift from Mayor Barry. My own two fairly new cans, actually paid for, cannot be used, for they will offend the military-camp look of the curbstone on collection day.
Are these "super" trash cans ours? No, for the little registration numbers stenciled in white on the back remind you that the District owns them.