Saturday, March 14, 2009

Flashback Friday: When Aunt Tilly Attacks

Last night, I was thinking of what to write about for Flashback Friday today and I ran a few ideas past Jeremy to see what he thought of them. One of the ideas went something like this:

"So, when I was a teenager, there was this giant doll called Aunt Tilly, and you had to make cookies and put them in her basket and then leave her on a neighbor's doorstep, and then ring the doorbell and run away..."

It was at about that point that I realized I had completely lost him. And it wasn't until I said all of that out loud that I realized how crazy it sounds. So let me back up a little, and tell you the tale of Aunt Tilly.

First of all, you have to understand that Mormons are weird. We might prefer the world "peculiar," but we are weird. Some of our weirdness stems from doctrinal oddities, but a lot of it is just cultural stuff. As long as we're in agreement on that point, I can continue.

Someone in our local church congregation made a life-sized doll of an old lady carrying a basket, and named her Aunt Tilly (sorry, I tried phrasing it a lot of different ways but there's just no way around how weird this sounds). The idea was that you would bake some kind of homemade goodies, put it in the basket, and then deliver Aunt Tilly secretly to someone else's doorstep. There was a list attached to Aunt Tilly of all the families involved and when you delivered to someone, you crossed their name off the list.

On paper, maybe it sounded like a good idea. In reality, what you ended up with was having your doorbell rung late at night, opening the door, and coming face to face with this:


I would make a joke about someone getting a heart attack just from the shock of such a discovery, but that's what almost happened to my grandma back in November of 1997.

My older brother Blair was finishing up his two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Austria. My parents decided to go to Austria to meet him and bring him back home. Since they would be leaving behind the rest of us kids at home, my grandma came up from California to Oregon to stay with us. Right as my parents were getting ready for their big trip, someone left Aunt Tilly on our doorstep. My mom didn't really have time to deal with her that day, so she put her in the front hall and forgot all about it.

My parents left, and my grandma was in charge. That night, in the middle of the night, my grandma got out of bed to get a drink and saw a dark, scary shape of a person standing motionless in the front hall. That's when she almost had a heart attack.


My grandma, my brother, and Aunt Tilly (the sign pinned to Aunt Tilly says "I'm Grandma Walker; Welcome Home Blair." It was just a joke).

When we finally did get around to filling Aunt Tilly's basket with goodies, my mom delegated the task of delivering her to someone's doorstep to my sister Teresa and me. Under the cover of darkness, we hauled Aunt Tilly out the door, shoved her in the backseat of our car, and took off towards a friend's house whose name hadn't yet been crossed off the list. It all felt vaguely criminal.

When we got to the house, I stayed in the car and kept the engine running while Teresa lurched up to their front door with Aunt Tilly in her arms. She set her down, rang the doorbell, and sprinted back to the car as fast as she could. Then, in a perfectly timed homage to The Simpsons, she urged, "Now drive, Smithers, DRIVE!" and we sped off into the night.

Now that I think about it, that particular family had only recently arrived in America from a different country, and having a stuffed old lady deposited on their porch - baked goods notwithstanding - may have been needlessly alarming. I hope they eventually recovered.

I don't know what happened to Aunt Tilly. Someone probably realized it wasn't such a good idea after all and put a stop to her reign of terror. Or perhaps she's lurking in someone's hallway to this day, just waiting to give some unsuspecting person a heart attack...

16 comments:

Liz Johnson said...

YOUR POOR GRANDMOTHER. I would've had a heart attack too. Although of all the strange Mormon customs, delivering (and receiving) anonymous baked goods is one of my favorites.

Steven said...

I forgot how ugly Aunt Tilly was. And what's with the open sore on her cheek? A little too realistic . . .

Suzanne Bubnash said...

That was Suzanne commenting, not Steven.

Jerry said...

Thank you. This is the funniest thing I've seen in a long time. I can't stop laughing!!

Kristen said...

Ah, Aunt Tilly. I'm sure we have a good near-heart attack story in our history as well. I hated delivering it (er, her)--too stressful for me!

Her face looks more details than I remember. I thought she was made of pantyhose over stuffing and some oddly sewn lips with blush...

Laura said...

Oh the things mormons do. It is true we do some pretty odd things. Here is another one that I think you will enjoy (sorry I don't know how to link the site to a word).

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29462344/

Anonymous said...

I am fascinated by this story, and by Aunt Tilly. I feel bad for your grandmother, though, because I know I would have freaked out if I'd seen something like that unexpectedly at night...

Hannah

Fromagette said...

Huzzah for free baked goods! Though, my dad refused to give in to the whole "phantom" idea, where you left goodies with a note telling them to pass the favor along. We would leave goodies, but never the note. My dad didn't like making people feel obligated to continue the chain.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Kristin you are on the right track. There were 2 AuntTillie's. This one might have been generation #2 that someone made after #1 bit the dust. Both were creepy & grotesque.

As you say it was a stressful 'responsibility' to do something w/ Aunt Tillie. If someone had left a plate of cookies w/ a note we could have chosen to pass it on or not. But w/ Aunt Tillie's creepy presence in our hallway there was no way we would ignore the 'duty' that had been imposed on us (maybe that was the creator's idea . . .)

Alli E. said...

That is one of the funniest traditions I have evere heard!! You took doorbell ditching to a whole other level!!

The Georges said...

I forgot about Aunt Tilly. Oh, the good old days (sigh)!

sarah said...

she is creepy!

Linda said...

I just had read a little blurb about this very thing where a lady named Wanita was so horrified and traumatized, that she had to leave her home that night, go to the hospital the next day with an anxiety attack.. AND she SUED
and did get the $900 for her hospital bill. When I read it, I ASSUMED the girls who left the cookies after 10 p.m. were LDS. I have actually encouraged the YW recently not to do that to elderly and ill folks who are not active and truly could be scared sicker...
I tried to explain that actually meeting some young people and being told a kind hello is actually much more of service to some folks, and cookies would be appreciated!
Aunt Tilly is over the hill frightening though. My kids loved phantoming though, and running to the door and trying to figure out or catch the do-good-culprits. I myself did not like making someone else feel they now had to put 'making homemade goodies and delivering them secretly' on their list of things to do. ( once a jogger came to our door after SEEING someone phantoming us...he had kindly gotten their license number as he had assumed they had been up to NO GOOD and he was doing his civic duty to warn us!)

Britney said...

Oh no! Aunt Tilly! That's a face I never thought I'd see again.

Actually, I only remember what Kristen remembers and what must've been Aunt Tilly, the original, in all her stuffed pantyhose glory. This new version is somehow even more frightfully disturbing. How can that be???

What a fun and oh so bizarre walk down memory lane. :)

Mikael said...

Aunt tilly freaked me OUT! I would always open the door and SCREAM. And I remember a couple times coming home from ballet, being dropped off and looked from the street to see a scary sillouette on my doorstep. I thought it was a robber, I said my prayers and decided to face the robber and it was always aunt tilly! HAHA

Sarah and Doug said...

I had totally forgotten about the freakiness that was Aunt Tilly! I appreciate your post and the little walk down memory lane!

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails