Alley Life – Business In The Front, Party In The Back

For those that know us well, you have probably heard about or experienced our “interesting” neighbours wherever we have lived. From loud dance parties, drunk people passed out, those who don’t understand cleanliness and finally, large families just being WAY TOO LOUD. Yes we have experienced quite the range.

We were starting to wonder when we would finally have neighbours who were friendly, respectful and crazy enough, people who we would consider friends.

In Halifax, we never got to know our neighbours beyond front yard pleasantries. I was not sure if it was being in the suburbs, different family backgrounds or maybe they were just afraid of us? I like to think of us as social people, but hey, maybe not.

So, when we moved back to Toronto it was refreshing when we stayed at my in-laws place for a few months, because the neighbours already knew us.

Then it came time to move out on our own again. Time to roll the dice with new neighbours. You never know what you are going to get, especially when you go into a rental unit. All we were hoping for was a few kids on the street for the boys to possibly get to know. Well, we scored.

The very first day, we learned the secret to getting to know your neighbours and tap into the community. The back alley.

The first morning we were there, we met our neighbours next door. It was the first day of school and they were taking porch photos of their kids. We made introductions and after only a few minutes, it was learned that their son and Harry would be in the same class. It was too good to be true. Then, as we went our separate ways for the day, they said, see you in the alley later.

  The alley? Yes, the laneway that went behind the houses on the street. We knew we had access to it, but never thought of it as a place to go since we would not be parking there. The alley easily became one of the top features of our new place. It became the place to meet the street and instantly fall into a small community of people charting similar courses in life. Parents and kids taking a break from the day-to-day grind of work and school. Like I said before, in the front yard it’s always the same. Talking about the weather or other quick banter points. Then in the alley, it’s much more personal. Highs and lows. Helping each other out. Just having fun and sharing a laugh. Business in the front, party in the back. Over our 16 months there, we met most of the street and really enjoyed the time we spent with the alley regulars. We will miss running out to the alley now that we have moved. I remember even the first few days where I was almost sad that we would not be there forever. Our boys mixed in right away with the other kids. Funny enough it was practically all boys under the age of 8. It was non stop bikes, water guns, running, hockey, basketball, snack breaks and bouncing from backyard to backyard.

Hoop dreams. #wethenorth #rtz #basketball A photo posted by Like A Dad (@likeadad) on

It was the place to be until the sun went down.

It was the place where we watched our two boys grow and make new friends. The alley had rules, it had a all-for-one mantra. Everyone seemed to take their turn being the parent on guard. It did not matter whose kid it was, they were looked after. We quickly learned the key rules of the alley, mostly involving what to do when cars came in. To this day, if someone yells “car”, Charlie will move off to the side and freeze.

The alley was like a babysitter for everyone. It was a safe and controlled space, and allowed parents to do other things in their yards or garages. If you ever just wanted to shoot the shit, have a drink and tire the kids out all at once, you headed out to the alley.

Over our time there we experienced:

  • backyard cocktail get togethers
  • birthday celebrations
  • various holiday celebrations
  • potlucks
  • BBQs
  • water fights
  • racoon removal (thanks George)
  • endless help and support
  • popsicle breaks
  • jumping ramps on bikes
  • insight on schools and area
  • many friendships

We love our new house. We have met a few of the neighbours and so far, so good. We even have an alley once again, but it’s not the same. It’s a single lane tucked in behind a store. It’s pretty recluse and I can’t imagine it is used for playing much. I can’t see it having the same magic that our old one did. Maybe I will be wrong.  We plan to clean it up and make it extra play space. Our street also has a lot of younger kids. So maybe it will take a few years. Harry and Charlie will have to pass on their knowledge of what the old alley was like. Pass on all the good we experienced.

Family sketch. I am the big fatty on the right apparently.

A photo posted by Like A Dad (@likeadad) on

In the few weeks we have been here, Harry has asked if there will be kids in the new alley. I hope there are one day. I hope it becomes a small community place for us. I also worry that our expectations are extremely high because of our first taste of alley life in Toronto.

You all know who you are. Thanks for making our time on Indian Trail a great one and just try to stop us from visiting every now and then.