Merry moments make many memorable meetings. Looking back, I’m sure none of us imagined that an ordinary evening would turn into a life-long memory of creating tangling tongue twisters and laughing the night away into the early moments of morning.

The “S” tongue twister that my Aunt and two of my siblings and I created together. It was the hardest one we made up that night, and the evening was filled with our laughter over the tying twister. Photo by Emma Tihen


Midnight rolled around and fled with all of us hardly noticing it. The daylight that had been peeping through our large, two-frame windows when my great aunt arrived had long ago dimmed and melted into the navy darkness that was now subtly-lit by the fireballs twinkling in the sky we knew were called stars.

Two of my older siblings, Anna and William, and I were being cared for by our great aunt we knew as Aunt Gerry while our parents were away on a trip, a rare occurrence in itself.

I was younger at the time – probably only about 7 or so – and my two siblings were around 10 and 13.

My Aunt Gerry was the creative type. She always loved art, art of all kinds – watercolor, oils, acrylics, drawing, music, pictures, sculptures – any kind of art you can imagine. She had an endlessly creative imagination and always encouraged us kids in our interests and abilities.

I was a painter and a writer. She encouraged me and always asked me what new art I was creating.

My oldest sister did equestrian riding. Aunt Gerry always asked her how it was going.

My oldest brother was a whiz at everything construction-related – building things from computers to creating random mechanisms – and he was incredibly talented at trap and skeet shooting. Aunt Gerry showed a keen interest in those activities.

Anna, my second oldest sister, was masterfully talented at the piano, playing everything from classical pieces by composer Franz Liszt to pieces such as “Maple Leaf Rag” by the “King of Ragtime” composer, Scott Joplin. Aunt Gerry shared a glowing interest in my sister’s piano competitions.

My other brother William was skilled in baseball. Even though it may seem the opposite of art, Aunt Gerry was still intrigued by his talent in the sport.

If it had something to do with art, talent, creativity or one of us kids, you could count on Aunt Gerry to be enthused about it.

A level-headed, spirited individual, it was very unlike Aunt Gerry to stay up so late, and that’s something I clearly remember about this time.

Being only 7, it was a special event to stay up and see the sleepy hours of the night drift by. Not only was it late but night had passed, and the small hours of the morning were waking up. But we had not yet gone to bed.

We were too busy having fun.

I don’t remember how we even started, but I remember that old sheet of lined yellow paper.

We were standing around the light teal-speckled island that stood alone in the center of our kitchen, bordered on only one side by cream-colored mosaic-seated bar stools.

We had gotten on the topic of tongue twisters … you know, those slippery phrases you’ve heard with words destined to get jumbled as they tumble out of your mouth as you undoubtedly mess them up. Rubber baby buggy bumper; toy boat; purple burglar; Shelly sells seashells by the seashore.

Now say them three times fast.

We had started at the beginning and continued going through the letters of the alphabet creating our own tongue twisters, writing them down on that ink-filled yellow paper.

Whether it was tiredness or enthusiasm, we were having a wonderful, silly time, and several of the tongue twisters pushed us to unrestrained laughter to the point where tears trickled down our cheeks which had begun to hurt from smiling so much.

The one that got us the most: Sure Shirley sipped a slurpy … and say it three times fast.

Oh, boy … all sorts of variations flew tangled from our mouths.

Sure Shirley slipped a slurpy; sure Shirley shipped a surpy; sure Shirley shipped a slurpy; sure Shirley sipped a surpy; sure Shirley slipped a surpy.

Even as we finished the rest of the alphabet with tongue twisters, we would revisit that one and laugh just as hard each time we re-read it as the first time we created it.

Still today, it’s one of the hardest tongue twisters I’ve encountered, and as much as you might think I’d be a master at conquering those tricky twisters after creating a whole list, I’ve yet to perfect them.

From that day when my siblings and I were younger, laughing the night away and welcoming the early hours of morning with our aunt, the first thing that comes to mind when I see or hear a tongue twister is that time we spent together with Aunt Gerry, a gentle soul whose love for creativity still motivates me to develop my God-given talents and use them to inspire others.

By Emma Tihen

Emma Tihen is a university ambassador for MBU and staff journalist for MBU Timeline from Washington, Missouri. Tihen is majoring in journalism and is a vocalist and bassist for Spirit Wing Red Team, an acoustic worship group at MBU. She is co-leader of the worship team for her home church. Tihen enjoys growing her relationship with God, spending time with family and friends, adventuring outdoors, disc golfing and composing worship music.