Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Real Property

Growing up could be described as the act of trading in one set of illusions for another. But that would be glib, and probably untrue.

The illusion of mine that I miss the most was what I thought it meant to own land. I spent much of the years from 1984 to 1990 daydreaming about owning property. Mostly of an unconventional kind. I blame the Swiss Family Robinson, My Side of The Mountain kinds of books, which encouraged me in the belief that you could make your home in a tree. I daydreamed about that. Also, oddly, about owning a small corner of my school, like a secret room, where I could retreat to during the day. It would just be a single room, but somehow I would have title to it and it would be mine.

I thought ownership of land was absolute, that it was something that you bought that could never be taken away from you, that you could return to no matter what happened. Even at the time, I wasn't sure how the mechanics of buying the land worked, and I had a vague inkling that it could be problematic to talk the state or the school board into selling me that mysterious secret room, not to mention that I had no money. But once I owned it, I thought, it would be mine.

Sadly, I grew up and learned that it doesn't work like that. Land can be taken away from you by eminent domain, by failure to pay property tax, whatever. Also, even if it's not taken away from you, it's not as though you can do what you like with it. There are regulations and requirements and lawsuits waiting to happen.

I'm still startled by my primitive capitalism as a kid, by my desire to carve out a chunk of the world, however small, that nobody else could touch. I'm also startled by its persistence. Sometimes I'm someplace beautiful, and my overriding thought is a desire to own it, to have it be mine. It's a funny deep down possessiveness, not really susceptible to reason; it can be covered up but not erased.

2 comments:

The Secretary said...

You're a true child of the West. I think you should brand all of your possessions.

Noko Marie said...

I never thought about land ownership but I had a weird early nesting thing which seems similar. I always wanted nice things, and I always wanted to own them. When I first went off to college I was appalled by the relative sensory deprivation. Ugly room, ugly furniture, no stuff, eat in the dining hall. What, you mean I can't go shopping for champagne glasses for another how many years?