Friday, August 30, 2013

Behind the Garage

I grew up in a middle class neighborhood of single-family homes with detached garages. It was built as a development, but it didn't feel like one. While there are many homes in that town that are similar to the one I grew up in, it's a big town, the streets are mostly laid out in a grid, and it's got a town center. And while houses may have a similar layout, there's enough variation that you don't feel like you're walking through a development.

But everybody has the detached garage, and all the garages seemed to have the same bump-out. In the 1950's when cars got bigger, people had to extend their garages. I guess at that time everyone kept the car in the garage. By the 1970's and 80's, nobody kept a car in the garage. It was the custom in my neighborhood to park one car at the curb in front of your house, and the other at the end of the driveway. We had rather long driveways, so that left plenty of room for playing ball (or whatever) at the back of the driveway, near the garage. The garage was for storage, and where you hung your basketball hoop.

Because of those bump-outs, each garage had a short, roofed section sticking out the back. At some point, Brother figured out that they were easy to climb onto, and they became our hangouts. One was a secret clubhouse for spies. Another was where we hid our imaginary diaries at pretend camp. Two houses down, we had a big hole behind the garage where our action figures had mega-battles.

Behind our garage was an extra bonus. We had a grape vine. Nobody knew where it came from--probably somebody spit some seeds back there at some point in history. But every year we had grapes. They were purple on the outside, with a thick skin that was probably full of tannens or something. I don't know because we never ate the skins. Somebody decided that the skins were probably dirty, but the grapes would be okay to eat without washing if we didn't eat the peels. So we'd squeeze the thick skins until the sweet insides squirted into our mouths, seeds and all. For a while, I was convinced that a grape vine was going to grow in my stomach.

It seems like we rediscovered that vine every year. We'd be minding our own business, playing spies or camp or fish store, and we'd have to go behind the garage, and there they'd be, forgotten from last year. I can taste them even now, and I wonder if the kids living on my street today have discovered them yet. There was nothing better on a hot day than to discover a sweet snack that didn't require going back to the Land of Grownups.

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