The real changes began about a year ago, when I became a homeowner.
I've tried to ignore them, but it's becoming impossible. Recently I found myself looking forward to buying an extra-large trash can on sale. Something has definitely happened to me.
Once, I was normal. I was an apartment dweller. For most of my adult life, I lived in apartments. They were different sizes and in different towns. I didn't own them. It was live in 'em and leave 'em. No emotional attachment. I liked it that way. Or so I thought.
Perhaps it was aging (the departure of my 30th birthday) or perhaps it was my tax situation (my friends claim that I am very money-oriented), but suddenly I knew what I wanted in life: a house. I became obsessed with the idea.
I read the classifieds. I drove through neighborhoods. I went to open houses. (Oh, how I went to open houses!) But I was frustrated at every turn by high housing costs and even higher interest rates.
Like almost every successful homeowner, I have horror stories of the houses I tried to buy. There was the house I couldn't qualify for and there was the house that fell out of escrow (actually, the sellers yanked it out). But at last, fate and fortunes came together. After four years of saving and searching, I bought a house.
It was mine. All mine (and the savings and loan's). And that's when the changes--the subtle, insidious little mental quirks--began.
First, I conquered my fear of large numbers. I have always hated numbers. That's why I was an English major. But the cure began with the loan application. By the time escrow closed, I no longer saw big numbers dancing through my nightmares. Writing out a monthly mortgage check has completed the shock therapy. Now it's a breeze. So what if I'm learning the meaning of deficit spending?
But there are other changes. There is my preoccupation with grass and flowers. I find myself reading books like "The Impatient Gardener." I discovered, through experience, the meaning of the phrase "gone to seed." Another new homeowner and I spent an elevator ride commiserating over the high costs of watering a thirsty lawn. We then managed to disgust our fellow passengers on the way to lunch with a discussion on the relative merits of manure in the greening of America.
Also, I have become concerned about the amount of time I spend walking the aisles of hardware and housewares stores seeking screwdrivers, pliers and plants that do not die. I used to spend my free time seeking bargains in shoes and combing clearance racks for dresses. Shopping used to be my middle name. Now it's homeowner.
On my infrequent forays into Beverly Hills, I find myself staring wistfully at the well-manicured lawns trying to identify the flowers in bloom. I always wonder how the plants would look in my yard. Will they even grow in less affluent soil?
Not that I've given up shopping and buying. I now have a collection of water sprinklers and garden hoses. In my search for the perfect watering device, I've purchased sprinklers that water in a circular pattern, in a double circular pattern, in a square pattern, in an oblong pattern. There's one that goes back and forth, one that goes around and around and one that goes "fut-fut-fut" in a terrible imitation of a golf course sprinkler. Somehow, none of them conforms to the terrain of my yard. Invariably some one spot demands personal attention and hand watering.
I'm always on the lookout for bargains on all those little things houses seem to require, such as plastic garbage bags.
It's not a simple task. American consumerism demands specialization, so the variations in plastic garbage bags is mind-boggling: Which size to choose? Small? Kitchen? Thirty gallon? Thirty-three gallon? Sometimes I go all out and buy lawn and leaf bags. They seem gigantic when empty and rather inadequate when full.
So I'll probably buy these extra-large garbage cans. They have a 45-gallon capacity--and they have wheels!