In the very early planning stages for my antique shop, I always knew I wanted to have a means by which I could tell someone had entered the shop when I was in my house. Unless I was working with inventory, staging displays, or waiting on customers, I wasn’t planning on being in the shop all the time when I could be inside my house doing other equally important things. Ahh…..the joy of working out of your home and having your “office” mere steps away! So I discretely installed a camera with a sensor that would alert me in my house with the ring of a bell when someone stepped inside the shop. Initially I had to adjust that quite a bit until it worked properly because it was very sensitive & I quickly found that insects & the wind could easily set it off. Much to my repeated annoyance, when I heard the bell ring during the first week of opening my shop, I had bounded outside numerous times with much excitement & anticipation of customers only to discover an empty shop…. & eventually that Mother Nature was the culprit of this cruel trick. That was easily remedied, however, it took me much longer to figure out that the local sheriff’s vehicle radar somehow interfered with the camera sensor & could also activate it. This would happen mostly at night. The bell would start ringing out of the blue & give me a startle. I was very perplexed by this for some time until I finally realized these events coincided with a sheriff’s car whizzing past my house with lights flashing. Doubly annoying! I was able to tweak that issue as well, but not before having a little fun with it. My indoor-only cat, Ellery, also noticed these nightime bell occurences & would often awake with a jolt from a snooze with an alarmed expression on her face. I don’t think it was the bell itself that bothered her, more the combination of a siren & lights with it. Regardless, I would put on my best “uh-oh” face, look at her & exclaim, “They’re coming to get you, Ellery!” She would tear out of the room with her infamous cartoon-like running to hide under some big piece of furniture until the perceived crisis had passed. Poor Ellery!! I love her to pieces but that never got old.
Speaking of Ellery, when she wasn’t hiding in fear of said sheriff, she was actually making a few associations of her own with my newly installed camera & bell. Within a few days of opening my shop, I noticed she would follow me to the front door when she heard the bell. Moments later I would spy her from the shop entrance peering out of the back door window at me & my customers. Being my loyal sidekick, she had put two & two together & realized when the bell rang, she had the potential to see not only me outside, but also my new visitors. A feast for curious feline eyes! When I was finished in the shop & returned to the house, there she would be at the door like a dog, waiting to greet me again. Nothing got past my exceptionally astute Ellery, especially when it involved an opportunity to watch any outdoor activity from her windows on the world. So who exactly is Ellery, you ask? Why she’s my Antique Shop Charmer!
When I first brought Ellery home she only weighed 1 1/2 pounds. She was so small that even the vet called her a “bitten” instead of a kitten because she was such a tiny, bit of a thing. What she lacked in stature, however, she certainly made up for with her huge personality! Gregarious, impish, playful, very curious, often hilarious & simply precious are just a few descriptions that come to mind. Of course you never consider rational things beforehand when you fall in love with a sweet, adorable pet & instantly want to take it home with you. Having this teeny, inquisitive bundle of energy around in the middle of an old house renovation definitely never entered my mind & quickly proved to be quite challenging once I brought her home! Much to my chagrin, even the tallest of dog gates & my constant invention of new barriers could not keep her from finding unfinished work zones & managing to get into all kinds of undesirable circumstances. I’d fish Ellery out of unfinished walls & duct work, find her hiding under tarps, discover her tip toeing through wet paint or having a snack in the pantry that still had no door, catch her somersaulting into huge pieces of wood & drywall, delighting in long tape measure chases & batting around tools….aagghh! She endlessly explored every possible opening, nook & cranny of this old home & was constantly testing my daily sanity. She even taught herself how to open 100-year-old latch doors that were firmly closed. To this day when I hear the familiar “click-clack” of a latch repeatedly upstairs, I know it’s no ghost, it’s just Ellery & her incredible determination to be somewhere I don’t want her to. But….being so smart, so sweet, so loving & cute….I wouldn’t have it any other way!
One of Ellery’s favorite things to do when she was little (when she wasn’t stuck in a wall), was to run back & forth on the floor in front of the glass back doors. With the grace of a gymnast she’d spend hours zipping up & down that runway like it was a balance beam, looking out the glass, & simply having a joyous time….for reasons that still remain a mystery! She’d pause momentarily to poke her tiny paws into the crack between the door & floorboards that was waiting patiently for a threshold, perhaps in search of some unseen treasure, & then return to running her laps. When she tired of this game, she’d eventually perch by the door & stare into the big, wide world outside, taking in the picturesque landscapes & events of nature that truly reflect rural, New England living. I think this is where her love of looking out the windows first began, so over time, I encouraged it with comfortable baskets & pillow beds near all her favorite spots so not only could gazing out upon her kindgdom* be enjoyable, it could also be comfortable! Ever since she was a “bitten,” Ellery has always been watching the world from behind curtains & cozy window seats. How is it, I have often wondered, that she never grows bored of this one-sided perspective on the world? Well maybe, unbeknownst to me, it’s because others have been watching back.
Once I caught Ellery flirting with my lawn guy. Yeah, not quite the same as when you find your teenage daughter flirting with the lawn guy, but it was flirting, nonetheless! I’d only had her a month or two at that point. I had asked my lawn guy to come & see if he could remove the tree that was growing through my dilapidated back deck. We were outside together examining the tree & discussing the various options for removal when out of the corner of my eye, something moving grabbed my attention. You guessed it – Ellery! There she was in all her tiny-ness, sitting at the back door batting her little eyelashes, with one paw daintily waving in the air as if to say, “Hello there, handsome!” I couldn’t believe what I was seeing & even the lawn guy had to chuckle. “That’s quite the charmer you have there, Ma’am!” he told me. So there I stood watching as my kitten made the lawn guy swoon. Who’da thunk it? Ellery was completely in her glory having this little dalliance with someone new on the other side of the glass. It truly was charming, so I let her have her moment in the spotlight. After all, other than that one incident, most of Ellery’s window interactions had only been with me or various outdoor wildlife venturing too close to the house. Or so I thought! So over time, I simply forgot how engaging Ellery could be through a glass window….until one special day when all that changed.
Everything seemed to hum along in the days & weeks that followed my shop opening. With all the kinks worked out, my bell performed perfectly & shop business increased day by day. Ellery continued to acclimate herself to her new life & surroundings, & slowly she was growing up. She remained my loyal companion, proudly greeting “her mama” at the door after each business transaction I made in my new shop. As the summer went on, shop activity kept me happily trotting back & forth between the two buildings, & I usually found myself heading back into the house just as my customers were driving away. I’d give them a wave from the driveway & often took note that many were having a good look at my house on their way out. I enjoyed seeing them point & comment, smiling at the changes & improvements to this old place. With foolish & egotistical pride, I was certain they were appreciating the lovely landscaping I had done, or maybe the old-fashioned-style new, front door, & other wonderful fruits of my renovation labor. This went on for some time until one day late in the summer as I hurried back inside, it occurred to me that customers were always smiling & pointing in what appeared to be the same direction of the house – the dining room windows that overlooked the driveway. Then another revelation hit me – the same customers who were looking & pointing at the house were also the same ones becoming my shop regulars. How had I not noticed these things before? When I got inside, it also dawned on me that Ellery hadn’t been greeting me at the door in her customary manner for some time. Curious about all of these coincidences, I immediately called out to her & heard a small “mew” come from somewhere in the dining room. So I went in & there, right in the front window was Ellery….with her little paw waving familiarly in the air while she batted her best Betty Davis eyes at my departing customers! She was absolutely charming their socks off! All this time I had proudly & mistakenly thought it was my wonderful house renovation that had captivated the locals & kept them coming back. I had no idea it was Ellery! Who’da thunk this 1 1/2 pound bundle of fur I brought home on a whim would one day be my greatest business asset……& my very own Antique Shop Charmer! If only every girl were so lucky. Well, only every Antique Shop Girl, that is!!!!
* Many thanks to L, B & J for letting me “borrow” this great analogy!! ♥