One watched me from the porch while the other watched me from the window.
I was lucky enough to have both grandmothers when I was growing up but did they have to keep such close tabs on me?
My parents bought two houses before I was born. They moved into one of them, a square three-family structure with a white picket fence on one side and a chain-link fence surrounding it on the other three sides; and they moved my paternal grandparents into a charming little cottage almost directly across the street.
Exactly one block away, my maternal grandparents lived on the first floor of my uncle’s two-family house. My maternal grandfather died when I was seven or eight. I don’t remember much about him, only the one time he yelled at me when my cousin got me in trouble for being mean to her. My maternal grandmother lived to a ripe old age. She was my favorite grandparent, but nonetheless — I didn’t like it when she watched me from her living room window and then reported her findings to my mother.
Let me explain.
When I was a child, having the entirety of my family unit within a half block in either direction was pretty cool. My mother walked me up or down the block depending upon whom we were visiting or whether and whatever we had to pick up or drop off. Visits may have been involuntary, but they were supervised and brief. It wouldn’t be more than a few long minutes before we were back home again.
As a teenager, things became a little more complicated. Although my maternal grandfather had passed away and my paternal grandfather spent most of his time in his basement workshop, both of my grandmothers were fond of looking out onto the busy city street and seeing what they could see.
If I wanted to meet up with friends or scurry to the bus stop, or heaven forbid talk to a boy, I’d have a big decision to make:
Do I walk down the street past grandmother number one perpetually sitting on her front porch winter, spring, summer, and fall? Or do I walk up the street past grandmother number two, hidden behind the lacy curtains of her Victorian-era parlor?
Grandmother number one, my father’s mother, would tell my father what she’d seen. Grandmother number two would only tell my mother. My mother is cooler than I am, always has been. So I usually went with that option, knowing she was already aware of where I’d gone and whom I’d seen anyhow.
Grandmother number one would also expect me to approach her perch on the porch and make small talk that I didn’t want to make. More often than not, she would remark kindly about how fat I’d gotten since the last time I’d crossed the street.
Grandmother number two would be invisible behind her curtains, but she would tell my mother when she caught me walking past without stopping to visit. If I did stop by, she would tell me how beautiful I was and how straight and white my teeth were. My teeth have always been crooked and not white by any stretch of the imagination, but I felt in my heart that she believed her words were true.
That made Grandmother number two the clear winner. I wasn’t thrilled when she told my mother she’d seen me sneaking into the house where my boyfriend lived on the corner, but it didn’t matter. My mother already knew.
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