My Great Aunt Tillie passed away last night at the age of 100 years.
She was not the typical sweet, old little lady.
And thank the stars she wasn’t.
Quick-witted and cantankerous, she spoke and did as she pleased, without caring much for what other people thought. At my cousin Kathy’s wedding, she mortified my grandmother by dancing with a plant atop her head. She went to church and Bingo every week, sometimes driving 80mph to get there on time.
I just had to write about her. One of my novels-in-progress, tentatively titled “Rotten Tomatoes” has 13 year old Haley reluctantly moving in with her Great (not so great) Aunt Tillie:
Her garden takes up nearly a third of the backyard. Great (not so great) Aunt Tillie grows everything out here, but not everything gets to live.
She said she didn’t mean to hurt any of them. She just meant to scare them. Frighten them enough so they would stop. She never even aimed.
There were just so many of them. Running here and there, going in circles, like some crazy dance. It was all so confusing, she said.
If only the rabbits had enough sense to realize it was Great (not so great) Aunt Tillie’s garden, and not some other, normal person’s garden.
They had been sneaking into her garden and eating the “fruits” or rather “veggies” of her labor. For most people a fence would have been enough to keep the rabbits out. Great (not so great) Aunt Tillie is not most people.
One day she saw some boys in her neighborhood playing with paintball guns. And she got an idea.
She bought herself a paintball gun. The next day, she loaded it up with blue paint balls.
She claimed she never intended to hit the rabbits, just scare them. She didn’t point the gun at any one rabbit. But one particular rabbit was just not in the right place at the right time.
Aunt Tillie hit the poor rabbit with a blue paint pellet, dead on. Literally, dead on.
And what does one do with a dead, blue rabbit? Bury it? Hide it? Throw it in the neighbor’s yard?
Great (not so great) Aunt Tillie did none of these things.
Great (not so great) Aunt Tillie made blue rabbit stew.
Aunt Tillie didn’t really make rabbit stew. Actually, she was very upset about killing that poor creature. But we can’t help but laugh about it. And about the many other stories we’ll all share in the coming days.
We joke that there’s an Aunt Tillie in every generation of our family. My brother has already deemed me heir.
I hope not to disappoint.