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...