It was the right house at the right time. After signing eleventy-thousand legal documents, it was ours.
And it is right around the corner from my parents.
It's a West St. Paul thing to do — there are many, many families who have been here for generations. For instance, my grandma socializes with grandmothers of my high school friends. Postwar, some members of my dad's family lived door to door to door in West St. Paul, taking up several homes on one city block. My parents grew up six blocks from each other. Then, after they married, they ended up six blocks from their parents.
Our people don't venture far when they move, either. My grandma and grandpa bought a house next door to their first home in West St. Paul. When my parents moved out of the house I grew up in, they literally backed my dad's pickup truck across the street and unloaded it in the driveway of their new house.
The upshot? I got to spend a lot of time with both sets of grandparents, and I could even do so, of my own volition, by hopping on my bike.
But I never planned to stay in West St. Paul myself. My husband and I first lived in a loft in downtown St. Paul. But then his woodworking hobby became his business. And then we started talking kids. Suddenly it was time to find a house.
We started looking in St. Paul proper, Roseville and various other first-ring suburbs, but good homes on the market were disappearing faster than we could get to see them.
Our Realtor was discussing our C-list homes one day, my heart sinking, when the home we eventually bought popped up on the MLS. Midcentury. Near a park. Nice yard. My husband immediately perked up and suggested we see it. I was hesitant, but followed his lead.
It felt right as soon as we walked in. And when I sent up a fair warning to my husband — Hey, consider that you're going to live just steps from your in-laws — his response was, "Well, I play your mom on Scrabble every day anyway."
I suppose I should've prefaced this story by sharing a simple fact, something that has been backed up by friends who call my parents for advice, and by those who've married into our tribe.
My family is awesome.
I once read a David Sedaris quote in the New Yorker and have never forgotten it. It encapsulated how I've felt without even realizing it:
"This is how I thought of it, for though I've often lost faith in myself, I've never lost it in my family. … Ours is the only club I'd ever wanted to be a member of, so I couldn't imagine quitting."
For a while I endured the "Everybody Loves Raymond" references. I indulged the jokes about our arrangement — because why shouldn't I feel ashamed of living so close to my parents?
But the truth is that it has been not only a lifesaver, but an incredible opportunity.
When I went on bed rest for 6½ weeks with the impending birth of my daughter, my mom came over every time we needed her, and then some.
She may have loudly bemoaned my choice of "hippie soap" but she did the dishes and wiped the counters with it anyway, after she finished cooking for us.
She came to our house at some truly heinous hours, at the drop of a hat, for two false labors/hospital runs. In one instance, she managed to figure out which of our fire alarms kept sounding, sending our two dogs into a total panic, while keeping a toddler asleep and worrying about me in the hospital. Just the other day I was out running errands and I drove past their house. I honked my horn when I spotted my dad in the yard, putting a plant in the ground. He looked up, smiled, waved.
When I drove home later that day, with the kids in the backseat, my 2½-year-old piped up: "Hey, there's Mimi and Papa's house! Let's stop by for just a minute, OK? Just a little bit?"
Does it get more heartwarming than that? I don't know if it can.
The truth is that I'm the encroacher. I drop by unannounced, unapologetically, frequently. I never knock. I call and ask if I can drop off the kids or if my parents can come over to watch them (they always say yes).
A few evenings ago, my mom was trying to take a nice walk after dinner with her iPod and earbuds. Upon spotting her out the window, I practically ran her down to bend her ear about my latest.
When I call and they aren't home, I get a little ruffled and call both of their cellphones to track them down.
I remember when I was choosing a college. My dad was pulling strongly for the Gophers. His reasoning was: "If you ever need a hamburger, I can bring you one."
My mom backed this up: "You can live anywhere you want as long as the ZIP code starts with '55.' "
I rolled my eyes at the time, but annoyingly, for the 8 millionth time, I now must admit they had something there. It's really nice when you need to share a hamburger with someone who understands you and your messy life, and you can walk up the street and pull up a chair. No questions asked.
Katie Dohman is a former lifestyle editor for Minnesota Monthly. These days she is a freelance writer whose writing appears in Naturally, Danny Seo magazine and Midwest Home. She lives in West St. Paul with her husband, babies and rescue mutts.
10,000 Takes features first-person essays about life in the North Star State. We publish narratives on love, family, work, community and culture in Minnesota. Have a story to tell? Send your drafts to firstname.lastname@example.org.