This isn’t a tale of fiction, or about the 1944 Edward G. Robinson “film noir,” but an explanation of Elizabeth, the woman who watches.
She’s familiar to neighbors, delivery people, the mailman, many who come up our driveway and (especially) the local kids, but they mostly just call her creepy. That’s fair enough because you can usually see her in the window even from across the street. It’s what she does, but not exactly why she came to be here.
We have a two-story, two-car garage, which is our only “attic” since the house has none. Built in the early 1900’s, it once stabled a few horses but was never finished up or downstairs. When we bought our house the garage windows facing the driveway looked sad and naked, so I put up curtains, added silk flowers in vases and, voilà! It looks proper enough from outside that most people think it’s functional space or even an apartment, though I tell all who ask that it’s just storage.
And so I unknowingly set the stage for the entrance of our unplanned “tenant,” the watching woman.
Time passed. One day I wanted to put away a dress form I wasn’t using, so I took it to the attic. I decided to put an old dress on it, and then added a cape, stabilizing its wobbly light wire structure, reducing its chances of being knocked over, and making it look more respectable. I was pleased with the result, and that was that. Then, some months later, it all came to a head.
When my daughter was young a neighbor gave her a beauty school practice head. She had a lovely time with it, but as she grew older she lost interest but still wanted to keep it, so when I took it to the “attic” I affixed it to the form because it seemed the logical place, Elizabeth came into being, and I became a kind of accidental Dr. Frankenstein.
Halloween came around, and on a whim I put her in a window facing the driveway–not so close to the front that she was completely obvious, but not too far back because most people don’t look up often. The effect was pretty much what I had hoped – she startled some and alarmed others. Even when they came up close and I explained her, she was still disturbing.
Part of the effect is the dark blue eye shadow that enhances her large eyes. Light and shadows of the passing day also change how well you see her. Then we have a solar-cell spotlight inside the window that shines up at her at night (it’s the only place we could physically put it), so the shadows cast look very spooky!
(If your computer can play it, set the video’s resolution to HD 1080)
Halloween came and went, and she was left to watch people come and go. However, time and familiarity hasn’t tempered her unsettling influence. In fact, in the last two weeks four people have mentioned her to me with nervous laughs as they glance furtively at her window.
Elizabeth’s debut was gratifying, but I never intended to make our neighbors wonder about us; I just didn’t move her because I got busy. But her continued presence provided unexpected benefits we didn’t want to give up. We have a security system, but that won’t prevent kids (and some adults!) from running up our drive, cutting through our yard and hopping the fence to get to the private street that abuts our back fence. Most of the time stopping them and politely asking them not to do that kept things fairly well in check, but you can’t very well sit in the drive all day! After she took up residence (so to speak) I pointed her out to some of the local boys and how it looked like she was “watching them.” The word got around, and shortcuts dropped dramatically!
I could share amusing stories about people’s reactions, but one was particularly dramatic. One evening our daughter rode home with a friend. They pulled up the drive, she got out, and as she walked in front of the car to the door her friend looked up, noticed Elizabeth in the window behind her, and screamed! My daughter says she doesn’t remember the specifics beyond that since “a lot of people…are scared of her,” but that one was most memorable.
A neighbor suggested putting up a second sign, next to the ADT sign, saying “Watch for Elizabeth, she’s always there,” but that could be a bit heavy-handed, so our “creepy” tenant is now a part of our security system.
You know, if it weren’t for her, I would mount our bat house on the wall facing the drive. It’s not only the best side for mosquito control, but also because it gets the hot afternoon sun that brown bats like. It’s true!
But…then we might have fewer guests, and the newspaper man might refuse to deliver to our door, so for the time being she retains the exclusive status of being our most interesting, if rather unsettling, topic of conversation.
She’s really not that bad. Come visit sometime and I will introduce you.
(Am I enjoying all this just a little too much?)