I repeat: I am usually grateful for the thought behind any present I get. I don't want to sound like an ingrate. But. With Sly and Doris, there is present escalation - they send us something and they expect something expensive in return.
I would like us to reach detente and disarmament. No presents! None! Please don't expect us to spend $100 on each gift-giving event for you! I am fine with your not sending me a sweatshirt with flowers painted on it. Really.
That said, Doris got it right for the anniversary present she did not need to send. Well, sort of. Witness.
Primo: What's that?
Me: Your mom sent it.
Primo: What is it?
Me: A lemon tree.
Primo: Is that good?
Me: I mean, yes.
Me: I mean, if we can keep it alive over the winter. Look at the care instructions.
Primo: What do you mean?
Me: It's a tropical plant.
Primo: It's supposed to be indoors?
Me: Yes. And we really don't have anywhere in the house that will be warm enough and get enough sun.
Primo: I guess it can't stay outside.
Me: So I hope it survives winter.
Primo: But you like it enough that you'll write a thank you note?*
Me: Yes. Even if I didn't like it, I would write a note. I was raised right.
A note will not be enough to placate Doris, who responded to Primo's email yesterday suggesting dates for him to visit by noting how "bitter" she is that I continue to reject a relationship with her.
Me: What overtures does your mom say I am rejecting?
Primo: I dunno.
Me: Does she call me? No. Does she email me? No.
What she does is when my sister in law Stephanie mentions that she spoke to me is ask if Stephanie and I speak often (no - three times a year, with emails in between, plus facebook) and then tell Stephanie that she is always "reaching out" to me but I am not receptive.
Me: What would an ideal relationship with me look like to your mom?
Primo: I don't know.
Me: Is there anything I could do to make her and your dad like me?
Primo: Probably not.
Me: Did they like Bertha [Primo's first wife]?
Me: And they trash talk their other daughters in law.
Me: So I might as well please myself.
* Why is it that I am the one who is supposed to write the note even though they are his parents? Not that Primo cares, but how much do you want to bet that if he wrote the note, Doris would complain that I had not said anything?