The things we grew

We planned on living in our current house forever. It’s midcentury modern, and has the elusive fourth bedroom. It’s in a great location — we can walk to a small grocery store when we’re out of coffee (a true emergency if there ever was one) — and there’s a splash pad across the street. 

Most notably, it was here that I started to invest in decor like an adult, instead of tacking up a few photos and semi-squatting as if I might pack up and leave at any time. 

I proved my fidelity with grown-up expenditures on furnaces and city assessments. 

And my husband and I started figuring it out as a pair: Less like two individual humans fighting for autonomy, we fused as a team, making decisions and sharing the load. 

We laid our beloved cockapoo to rest and adopted two more sad-sack fluffmuffins. We got better at our arguments over whether IKEA loads would fit in the car or what color gray to put on the walls (final picks: Sharkey Gray and Chelsea Gray).

When I got pregnant with Ruby, morning sickness would wake me at dawn. I’d sit in the backyard, eat dry cereal and close my eyes to ward off the nausea, the scent of lilac dancing in the air. 

I waited for three babies in this house. All told, I did about 16 weeks of bedrest, memorizing the rhythms of my neighborhood from the couch — 10 a.m. the guy with the unleashed black lab walks by; 11:30 our mailman; after dinner, the boy two houses down glides by on his scooter. My best friend beeps when she drives by; my mom and dad, who live around the corner, pop in, or we beep and wave when we drive past their house.

William and I carried three babies across this threshold, paced our wooden floors with their familiar creaky spots as these babies grew and their legs spilled out over our arms, folded like cradles. 

Now I wake at 3 a.m. to hear my middle child’s feet striding up the stairs; if we make eye contact he’ll whisper, “Mama, wuv wuv.” And I’ll lift the blanket to let him in. 

I know there are five stairs up to our second floor and 10 to the third, because that’s how Ruby learned to count. 

Each year on Mother’s Day weekend, we’ve gone all together to the nursery or farmer’s market, then come home and planted bulbs, seeds and baby plants by the wagonload. One fall, William and Ruby buried 200-some tulip bulbs and 50 hyacinth — and the next spring, they exploded into a natural Xanax bouquet after a long winter (above). 

Then came a two-story playhouse (in which a 3-year-old Ruby wielded a real drill for the first time), and a matching raised herb garden bed, whose harvests depended on whether I had morning sickness. 

The gardening bug stuck around long enough that we learned how to divide hostas. We learned peonies don’t like to be relocated, and any gains we made growing a blueberry bush were yoinked right outta our grasp by adorable, but totally guilty, bunnies.  

The community grew. We formed a friendship with the green thumb down the block, sharing gardening implements and jokes. We sat with our neighbor friends at the city parade. We borrowed from Little Free Libraries. 

Idyllic, really. And yet … a dream home called us, by sheer accident. An offer our curiosities couldn’t refuse. 

It’s a 1921 Tudor looking for someone to bring it back to life. One bedroom had “Ruby” painted on the wall. It was a sign.

We will build new things. Grow new things. Celebrate milestones we don’t even know are coming. 

A house is just a house. I know that. But this was our home. 


Katie Dohman still lives in West St. Paul (just a mile down the road from her old house) with her three kids, two dogs and one husband. She loves them a lot, which is good, because she can’t remember the last time she slept a whole night through.