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Annotated street map, Hyde Square, Jamaica Plain (Boston, Mass.)
Photo by author.

I started this blog post last week and somehow it failed to save automatically, erasing several full paragraphs of text. Damn you Google, the way you lull us into complacency with your automatic back-ups! Still, I’ve continued to think about the themes of this post in the intervening week and will write a different post now than I would have last Sunday. And I think I’m mostly okay with that.

Ownership, and choice.

Last weekend, Hanna and I had a conversation about buying furniture. Our household is currently composed of some odds and ends, a few really awesome, we’ve picked up through the street-side equivalent of dumpster diving and IKEA purchases, again some quite excellent. Hanna moved here following an escape from an abusive relationship and a string of insecure housing situations, neither of which lent themselves to long-lasting furniture investment; I moved here from the Midwest with everything I needed for grad school packed into the back of an “economy” car rented from Enterprise. We’ve been constructing our household from the ground up.

The discussion we had was about buying some non-IKEA furniture, specifically a coffee table and a couple of bedside tables (perhaps matching!) for lamps and the inevitable stack of books-to-be-read we both accumulate. It would be nice, we feel, to have bedside tables with little drawers so Teazle won’t spend the hour between 2-3am every night trying to wake us up by swiping our spectacles onto the floor.

We’ve been thinking about L.L. Bean this time around, specifically their “Mission” or “Rustic” lines, which for us means maybe a piece or two per year depending on the size of the vet bills and how much we care about traveling to England in the next decade.

Then last weekend I got thinking, if we’re going to spend $500 on a coffee table or $250/piece on a pair of end tables, maybe we could do better than give that money to Bean’s. They’ve a good reputation as an employer, and are regional, sure. Their pieces are made here in the U.S. But what if we went a step further down this path and actually hired a local woodcrafter to do the job?

“I dunno, I guess I’m just not used to having the money to make that kind of choice,” Hanna observed. “It makes me anxious. I mean, it’s always the way I wanted to spend money, but Evil Ex always fought me on it. And then when I moved down to Boston I was worried about feeding myself and paying rent.”

See, despite the fact that we’re still renting (and yes, as we prepared to move everyone kept asking us if we were buying; there’s a whole separate post in me about the unexpected pressure I feel as a married person in my thirties to buy into the real estate market — it’s seriously more pressure than we’re feeling about the babies thing, maybe because we’ve made that decision in the negative already) this feels like our first home as a married couple. Our first purpose-“bought” space. We made our grad student digs work for eight years — eight years? the management company rep kept repeating when I handed him the keys, eight years? whoa. that’s gotta be a record. — and while we made the move because we needed a bigger space, it was also a move that consolidated our commitment to Boston. Despite the fact we’re tenants, not owners, of this lovely new home, we already have a sense of ownership.

Because we’ve chosen to live here — this city, this neighborhood, this building, this space. So even though we’re still writing that check every month to the landlord, not the bank, we’re putting down roots. Hanna bought a sage plant. We’ve introduced ourselves to our next-door neighbors. We do our part wheeling the trash to the curb on Monday mornings.

We talk about hiring a local artisan to build our furniture, even if it means we’ll have to wait for a year to get those matching end tables with the drawers where we can keep our eyeglasses safe from questing paws.

Jamaica Pond, May 2014
Photo by author.

Because we can afford to wait a year. We’re thinking in those terms, now, more than we used to.

And it’s definitely a good place to be.