Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Alley Connection

I began living on an alley as a child growing up in Chicago.  I probably walked the alley as much as I used the sidewalk outside my front door - it was a shortcut to the next block, it contained treasures you would never see out in front like soda bottles that I could  trade in for cash.  When you have an alley, the garage and driveway is usually in the back leaving the front to be total garden.

When I became an adult, I graduated to a home with a side driveway and no alley.  This was okay, I didn't miss the alley, but soon we moved into the old old house and guess what, I was back on the alley.  My young children loved the alley, it ended with my neighbor's house who didn't have a garage in the back.  So, they played out there endlessly, digging for artifacts under the 100 year old oak tree that was there before the house.  I disliked this alley a lot, not paved, could not navigate during the icy winters, good thing I had a driveway in the front.

My last house did not have a alley, but a long treacherous driveway when it snowed.  I think I would prefer the alley!  The house I am in now has an alley, finally paved and a community in itself.  We not only know the neighbors on each side of our block out in front, but we have that social connection with the neighbors on the block behind us.  We call the comings and goings up and down the alley our "alley people."  The children come to see our dog through the fence, I say hi to my older neighbor walking her dog down the alley, and I finally planted a xeric garden in the alley which this year has really popped.

This is not a city alley but a suburban alley in a very old suburb that used to be a go to destination for Chicagoans to spend their summers.  I always think of one of my favorite movies "Rear Window" when I look up and down my alley and wonder what's going on in that garden?