Building a Fort

For months, maybe even years, my husband and I have kicked around the idea of setting up a modern outbuilding in our backyard. A studio or workspace or a sauna. A big garden, a little escape.

But, as we’ve been busy having children, and I was busy for an inordinate amount of months with “morning sickness”—clearly, someone who never experienced morning sickness named that—I was either puking outright and/or completely revolted by the smell of herbs, flowers, or a simple spring breeze, which meant many of those plans fell by the wayside.

Last summer, we had pulled up a gnarled old Charlie-Brown tree that was the unfortunate centerpiece to our front yard. In the back, we broke up a weird old cement slab. My mother-in-law gave us some of her lovingly tended, Jurassic-Park-sized hostas. The foundation was there. In the fall, we planted 200-some coral-colored tulip bulbs along with about 50 multicolor hyacinth bulbs.

When the coral tulips rose out of the ground (we had a daily watch) and the hyacinth cast their hypnotic, heady smell in our front yard, we were completely inspired. (As were some of the passersby, who asked to take photos.) So William dug a new flowerbed opposite the tulips, leading to our front door. We went to town, planting and planting and planting boxwoods and shrub roses, hydrangea bushes and irises, and a beautiful magnolia tree. We transplanted other plants and pulled weeds.

And then my husband lucked across some pallet racking and some beautiful cedar, and he put his design skills to work. Two solid weekends of sweat equity formed the skeleton for a two-story fort. Yeah, you read that right. A modern fort. For the kids.

Ruby knows what it’s for, but Remy, who I think doesn’t, seems to have the same magnetic pull toward it each time we go in the backyard to play.

The beautiful thing is watching Ruby’s wonder as each step is completed, her complete enthusiasm for the process, and the clear case of twitterpation that she has come down with as she watches her dad construct it.

In the last couple of weeks, Ruby’s conversations revolve around such gems as: “Daddy is the hardest working Daddy and the cutest.” Or “Daddy is the strongest Daddy.” Yesterday, as some servicemen were here working on our air conditioner, Ruby asked me: “Can I tell them about the fort Daddy is building in the backyard?” She is also acting out elaborate pretend scenarios, cooking breakfast in the area that will become a little play kitchen and inviting Daddy to have a sleepover in her “second bedroom.”

This weekend, William let Ruby wield a drill and screw some boards together with help. Exhilarated, she said, “I want to do that again and again! And when I get more bigger, I want my own drill just like Daddy’s!”

And she doesn’t even know about the twisty slide yet.

To be honest, I’m not sure who’s more excited about it.

By Katie Dohman // Katie Dohman is a St. Paul-based freelance writer and Blooma mama of Ruby, 3, and Remy, 1. A former style editor, her work has appeared in Minnesota Monthly, the Star Tribune, Experience Life, Midwest Home, and Naturally, Danny Seo, among other publications and works. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @katiedohman