Partypooper

October 7, 2011

It is no secret that I do not care for my in-laws.  I have not-so-affectionately nicknamed them the “outlaws” and I frequently wish they’d drop off the face of the earth.  She has a special talent for annoying the snot out of me with her passive-aggressive behaviour and him, well, he’s just a jerk.

And it’s also no secret that holidays are angst-filled for us.  And likely for most couples.  Where to eat the holiday meal and who to eat it with causes all sorts of anguish.  Christmas and Easter never fail to elicit huge battles that last for days.  But not Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving has never been a problem for us.  For one simple reason.

It’s our anniversary and we made it very clear to both families that we’d celebrate it how we wanted to.  Which meant, with each other and far away from both sets of parents.  My parents have been ok with this.  His parents, well, his mother at least, connives every year to get us to have Thanksgiving dinner with them.  And every year we’ve managed to avoid it.

This year is different.  We had planned to go to New York City for an extra-long weekend.  But, with me being laid off, New York being expensive and money not as free-flowing as it could be, we decided to give the Big Apple a miss.

So, we thought we’d head up to the cottage for a weekend of romantic bedroom painting.  Which is not a euphemism.  We were planning on painting two of the bedrooms up there.  But the couple who is currently renting the place, decided to stay up there instead of going home to their families.  Which means they probably don’t like their in-laws much either.

For the first time in five years we had a conundrum.  Each family celebrates on Sunday.  We knew from our first Christmas as a couple that two turkey dinners in one day was not going to happen.  Where would we eat turkey?  And who would we eat it with?

Because the Hubs had invited his parents up to the cottage last month and I had the distinct displeasure of spending three days with them in a small house (that’s a wank for another post) and I’m still harbouring violent tendencies from that time, I decided that for everyone’s safety (and my sanity), we’d each spend Thanksgiving with our own family.  I was fine with it.  The Hubs was fine with it.  My family was fine with it.  I figured his would be too.

I knew it would just be me and my mom since my sister and her family will be celebrating Thanksgiving with her on Saturday.  But the Hubs doesn’t know this.  He thinks, and I’m not dissuading him of the notion, that my entire family will be at my parents’ house on Sunday.  He does know that my dad will be at work though.  His entire family will be at his uncle’s house and while I really enjoy his aunt and uncle’s company, I’m still having some trouble suppressing the urge to kick my FIL in the head.  Which is why he’s going alone.

Or he was until yesterday.  Last night the Hubs went to his parents’ for dinner.  He mentioned the holiday plans to his parents and his mom told him that married couples should be together on the holidays so he’d have to go with me to my family’s dinner.  WHAT?!  The dinner which my mom was making special for me?  (Her breaded chicken breasts that I love more than any other food in the world.)  The dinner that was just going to be me and my mom?  The dinner where I didn’t have to cook or clean up or watch what I said?  The dinner where I was planning on gossiping and complaining about the outlaws?  The dinner where I was going to laze around afterwards and knit to my heart’s content?  Yes that very dinner.  And afterwards he wants to go to see his family for coffee so I still have to see the outlaws.  CRAP!

So now we’re in damage control mode.  We’ve concocted stories as to why my sister and her family won’t be there.  We’ve changed the menu.  We’ve basically made it no fun.  I keep telling the Hubs he’s more than welcome to go on to his family’s dinner.  That no one in my family will hold it against him for not showing up.  But he’s not listening to me.

Way to go MIL.  You’ve managed to poop a party you weren’t even invited to.  And once again you’ve guaranteed that I continue to be not thankful for having you in my life.

 

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So that was Christmas

January 6, 2011

Christmas is not my best season.  I haven’t liked it for years.  I find it stressful and disappointing and far too busy for my liking.  I wish I could go to sleep November 30th and wake up on January 1.

Christmas lost its allure for me at a young age.  I think was 7 when I realized that my mom’s handwriting looked an awful lot like Santa’s.  And his boots, which left imprints in the ash of our fireplace, were exactly the same size as mine.  And had the same sole.  Also, Santa for some strange reason, liked to leave his presents for us in the linen cupboard…which was accessed regularly by us all and right between my room and my sister’s.  So yeah, Christmas lost a bit of sparkle when I was young.

It became further tarnished when it became obvious I never got what I wanted.  One year, I think I might have been 15, I fell in love with a floor-length black velvet skirt.  Emminently practical for a 15 year old right?  Not so much.  I pined for that skirt.  Never a day went by when I didn’t mention how I would die if I didn’t have that skirt.  I pictured myself floating down the 6 steps separating the bedrooms from the main floor and into the dining room in my fancy new skirt on Christmas Day.  Didn’t matter I didn’t have a top to wear with it.  Didn’t matter that we never dressed for dinner in my house.  And it totally didn’t matter that within seconds of sitting down half my dinner would be in my lap.  No, I wanted, nay I NEEDED that skirt.  Instead I got a gold necklace.  And likely that’s why I don’t wear yellow gold to this day.

I still don’t get great gifts for Christmas.  Mostly this is my fault as I don’t ask for much.  Out of consideration for other people’s finances, I try to keep my present requests under $50.  Which you would think would be plenty of money to buy a nice gift.  Sure, if you like getting towels and sheets every year like the MIL buys me.  This year I requested steak knives.  And lo and behold….eight steak knives.  The Hubs’ family is literal and unimaginative.  If you tell them you want something one year, you’re likely to get it for the next three or so.  I can’t imagine what I’ll do with 24 more steak knives.  Perhaps join a travelling circus or carnival as their new knife thrower?

The SIL enjoys buying us things she picks up on her travels.  I shouldn’t complain as I got a Gucci scarf one year…that’s white and beige.  I’m blonde and fair.  It makes me look dead whatever colour side I choose to wear.  Plus it’s scratchy.  I probably should sell it on eBay so that someone can get some enjoyment out of it.

This year was extra special though.  She brought us all back marble eggs from her trip to Morrocco.  Marble eggs.  I’ll let that one sink in for a bit.  Marble eggs.  I put it next to the sand rose she got us last year.  Sure it’s an interesting conversation piece, but it leaks sand all over my display case and I suspect one day it will just fall apart and I’ll have big mess to clean up. 

Other family members have bought me hideous serving dishes and knicknacks (glass purse anyone?), ugly picture frames and appallingly awful kitchen linens over the years.  Goodwill gets a lot of business from me in early January as you can no doubt imagine.

What kills me is that the Hub’s family knows what I enjoy doing….reading, cooking, knitting, sewing, gardening…yet they refuse to buy things that I will like or use.  I suspect like many people, they buy me gifts they’d like to get or they just buy stuff and don’t care one way or another if I like what I get, my name is checked off a list and they feel good about getting their Christmas shopping done early. 

And the Hubs is no better.  For our first Christmas together he bought me a space heater.  I think I’ve complained about mentioned this before.  He later told me he thought I’d like it because I’m always cold.  I can’t fault him for having a good heart but I can fault him for having poor judgement.  Like this year.  I told him for months I wanted something sparkly.  I even pointed out sparkly things I liked when I saw them. 

Granted I don’t wear a lot of jewelry but I do like it.  And he has ready access to my jewelry box so he can see what I do like and see what ring size I wear.  And, best of all, he knows I could care less if the sparkly stuff is fake.  In fact, I’d prefer fake so that when I lose it, it’s only $29 down the shower drain instead of $329.  Not that I speak from experience or anything.

So even though he was armed with some pretty explicit instructions for what I wanted, I unwrapped a 19 piece set of Pyrex this Christmas.  Under a certain light, yes it does sparkle, but it’s frigging hard to wear around my neck, in my ears or on my wrist.  Thank you my darling husband for giving me more casserole dishes, which I needed, but also thanks for an epic-ly disappointing Christmas gift.

For 2011 I’m taking charge though.  I’ve had it with craptastic gifts.  I’ve started my list early and I’m putting on it all manner of things I want and damn the price.  And unlike previous years, I’m not buying things off this list when I see them so that all I can offer as a gift suggestion is a set of steak knives.  No siree.  I want board games and Ravesburger puzzles and books and yarn (if someone else buys it it doesn’t affect my going cold sheep this year) and pretty, sparkly things that are not cookware.  Of course, I can’t make people buy what I want but a list should help minimize the chance of getting crap.

Same goes with the handmade presents.  This year I killed myself.  I made one pair of felted clogs, three pairs of socks, one shawl, seven Saroyans and two shrugs.  I was knitting since May 2010 for his family.  Not this year though.  Nope.  I will likely still make them something but it’s going to be sewn.  Probably placemats.  Maybe market bags.  Socks for the men, but out of worsted weight yarn so they go fast.  In fact I may dedicate February to making gifts for his family and then I’ll have the rest of the year to knit for me and my family and anyone else I care to make things for. 

And as for being too busy, especially visiting his family.  That will also end.  This past Christmas we started holiday visiting on Dec 21 and it didn’t end until New Year’s.  To be honest, the Hubs will still visit family well into February but I won’t be accompanying him to see those family members.  Don’t like them enough to give up my weekends sitting in their houses listening to them moan about how tough their lives are. 

There is a plan afoot in my family to move our celebration from Dec 24 to Dec 25.  Which will conflict with the Hubs’ family but I don’t care.  This Christmas was the first time in my ENTIRE life I did not see my parents and that really bothered (and still bothers) me.  It’s a new year, a new decade and new traditions are going to start.  Hubs and his family can suck it if they don’t like it. 

Also afoot is a plan for us all (on his side) to stop buying gifts for each other and instead take that money and have an “experience” like meeting up in Vegas in the fall.  This has many benefits.  Yes we’re still spending money but at least we’ll spend it on something we like….travel.  I will not have to feign delight over weird things my SIL brings back from her trips.  I will not have to find places to show off (but not really) said weird things.  We get to hang out together, for a few days, enjoy each other’s company and we’ll always have those memories to fall back on over the years.  Everyone seems to like the idea but now someone (that’d be me) has to organize it.  Sure it’s a lot of work but I’d rather spend my time organizing something fun than knitting the same damn scarf seven times.  Ahem.

Anyway, we’ll see what happens.  I’m hoping to have a more relaxed and restful Christmas season in 2011.  And if it doesn’t work out that way, well my mom always includes a bottle or two of wine in my “stocking” so I can at least self-medicate and blot out the parts of the season that didn’t live up to my expectations.


Loosening ties

October 25, 2010

So this past weekend there was some family drama.  And for once it was my family who was acting up.  Shocking I know.  We’re the normal ones.

The story is long and complex and boring to anyone who is not a member of my family.  In a nutshell, we were planning a celebration that has been going on for about 10 years and this year half the family can’t make it for various reasons that are beyond everyone’s control.  Normally this would not be a big deal, but my grandmother, who is pretty much the reason we have this celebration, is 98.  No one knows if she’ll make it to the next celebration.  So it’s kind of important for us all to meet up. 

This year there are some pretty big obstacles in the way.  A major move is happening with two family members and the day that has been chosen conflicts with a pretty important event in another family member’s life.  There are no other suitable weekends either and no one is really happy about postponing this until January, when the weather is not great.  And really, once you postpone a big celebration it’s kind of a death knell for that celebration as getting consensus on a date that works for 13 people is like herding cats.  Pretty much impossible.

It’s not that we don’t want to meet up but rather that life has gotten in the way.  Which sucks.  A lot.  I don’t see my family very much.  Geographically, we’re spread out from each other.  Roughly a three hour car ride separates each branch and that’s if traffic and weather co-operate.  This celebration was the one time of year we could all count on being in the same place at the same time and it’s always fun.  Stressful to prepare for (cooking, cleaning, baking, shopping, making, wrapping) but fun.  And good to see each other.  Some of us see each other regularly, but some of us only see each other this one day of the year.  Which is why it makes me sad that this year, it likely won’t happen.

I often complain about (and mock) my husband’s family for their “closeness”.  I kid (sort of, but mostly I’m serious) that his family is made up of the ties that bind.  His family often gets together (much more often than I’d voluntarily meet up) and many of them make a point of keeping in close contact with each other.  Many of them visit back and forth and honestly, if we wanted to (I generally don’t) we could be doing things with some member of his family every weekend of every month.  That’s a little (ok a lot) too much family for me.

But, on the other hand, it beats seeing relatives (who I do like) once, maybe twice a year.  It’d be nice to have some sort of happy medium.  I wish my family was a little more interested in visiting each other.  Of course I wish the Hubs’ family would be a little LESS interested in visiting each other and while I’m at it, I also wish we’d win the Big One so I could retire and be a lady who lunches (and knits).  But a leopard can’t change its spots.

We’re trying to figure out a solution but I think this year’s celebration just won’t happen.  Maybe we’ll do it in the spring but I have a sneaking suspicion that it won’t happen at all.  Which is too bad.  Because sometimes, it’s nice to have ties that bind.  Sometimes.