McCall’s and Response

This is Tillie:


And this is Tillie’s creator, Jessica DeStefano:


When you lose your job the same week your man is moving back to the mid-west, it’s important to avoid sitting in your apartment listening to Amy Winehouse. Luckily, I have friends who are inventive in their distractions. Jeffery is one of the best. Last Friday we ordered Dominos and spent the better part of a thunderstorm on the National Sex Offenders website entering in the street addresses of all the places we’ve ever lived. Turns out I roomed two doors down from a pasty pedophile in the East Village. For an entire year. Also, a lot of rapists live on Montague Street. No one cheers me up quite like Jeffery!

Which brings me back to Tillie. After a few glasses of chardonnay and a serious discussion of Britney’s psychological state and its necessary corollary, Sean Preston’s yellow teeth, we turned to a 1986 issue of the now defunct magazine McCall’s. McCall’s was a monthly women’s journal always available in waiting rooms, and to an adolescent girl, was a watered down Glamour. I wanted to read about 10 Ways to Please Him In Bed but wound up with a Muriel Hemingway interview or an article on decorative pine cones. When McCall’s gave sex advice it was inevitably tame and geared toward married women who had to take their kids to waiting rooms.

This particular issue of McCall’s, which Jeffery found in his parents house in Virginia, featured a full page ad for Tillie the Frog, a collectible porcelain figurine with a plucky backstory:

“Tillie the frog is not only a delightful figurine, she represents the eternal optimist. Tillie lost her pond when it was plowed in to build a mall.

Now she is homeless, but she keeps her spirits up with her positive frog philosophies. Her most famous one is: “Your dream may be a hop away so never give up til you croak.”

I don’t know if it was the wine, or the My-Lover-Done-Gone-And-Took-My-Job-With-Him honky tonk tune I’d been whistling all week, but I hated this frog and I hated the woman who made her. First of all, I don’t believe in eternal optimism. Optimism is hard enough, but optimism unending? There must only be so much that Tillie can take. And it feels half-empty, losing your job and your lover. Er, I mean your pond.

It occurred to me that times have changed since 1986, that it’s only old ladies who would ever order Tillie, that frog philosophy has gone the way of Frogger. But then Jeffery and I discovered Jessica’s website (she also sculpts Karma the Kat and The Gigglin Piggies) and an array of upbeat money-making Tillies, circa 2007:




I have concerns. Why does a frog need Doc Martins? Why is she friends with a little girl? If she isn’t friends with a little girl, then where did she get a little girl’s 7th grade yearbook photo? Jeffery wrote Jessica a letter, sincere and commendatory, because we believe her art to be in earnest. I would like to learn how to be an optimist (maybe an occasional one?) and also, if she is truly able to support herself on frog and piggy sculptures alone. And I think Jessica might benefit from my art. My Tillies would be giving the webbed finger to the mall contractor, or drinking Boone’s farm from a brown bag with some underage tadpoles, or listening to Amy Winehouse while looking up sex offenders who hang out at the concrete pond.

(This is me as a 1986 McCall’s Borden cow. Photo by Jeffery.)



8 responses to “McCall’s and Response

  1. way to bounce back becca. you’re almost my hero

  2. You’re one hot little heiffer! Can one buy that frog at Hallmark stores everywhere?? Also, is there a connection between useless-figurine-collecting and sex offenders?

  3. Nice photo Jeffery! Becca nice job imitating the inimitable Elsie!

    Gotta say though, Tillie creeps me right the hell out. No frog she, but rather a turtle who ditched her shell after marriage number 4 and quitting the smoking.

  4. Pingback: Till(ie) We Meet Again « TryBecca

  5. Tillie is my single, most loved, friend in my home. She is for me, all that makes me laugh, think fun thoughts, and keeps my crazy life from trying to kill me. Seeing her with “peppy” new ways, and encouraging reminders of keeping the world clean for us all, would be a delight.
    “Fulfill the Dream, Keep it Green” “Don’t be mean, Keep it Green”
    I own every Tillie ever made, and would so love to see her again.
    Yes, I am older, but not too old to enjoy Tillie in all her forms, and look forward to being the first in line when she returns.

    I also know that Jessica has all she needs, in her own head, to make her Tillies the best friends of everyone she meets.

    Tillie is a “Grace” unto herself. No words, no slogans, just that outstanding face, manner, and all that Jessica gives her, makes her perfect in every way.

  6. Wow I am glad that you made contact with Jessica… she is one of the most amazing artists that I have ever crossed paths with. Interestingly, I remember her doing a workshop at a college and Maya Angelou was the guest speaker that day. Jessica went through a phase of doing “portraits” of people in their environments. They were the most realistic little sculptures capturing the spirit of the people who sat for her. Amazingly she only charged $200 and people could own these incredible original portraits. Jessica is a one-of-a kind just like her art.
    I’d love to see the follow-up from the collaboration; maybe I didn’t get far enough on your site to see where it went.
    One thing about Jessica is she volunteered with the homeless and she is one of those people who doesn’t pass judgment on others. She is also one of the most generous people about showing others how to create. I regret that we didn’t get to know each other before she graced some other community with her presence.

  7. will miss tilly ever be available again. i sure would like to add to my daughters collection virginia

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