I got a Christmas card from my MIL last night. And I was annoyed. Big time. It seems so stupid. So insignificant. I'll bet I'm reading into the thing too much. But something about it just pissed me off.
It was a gold card. Very "old ladyish". Very religious. The kind with some artistic rendition of The Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus. I think it was one of those cards, that when purchased, some money goes to some charity.
Inside, she included two pictures. One of the family, posed for a "family reunion picture" at a family funeral. Taking the picture was a minefield of chaos. Lots of chickens with their heads cut off. MIL shouting "just take the picture! Keep snapping." No one was arranged. The lighting was horrible. Plus, it was a really difficult day. As they organized the photo, I was pounding a Chardonnay at the bar. MIL's sister, the photographer, says, "don't you want to be in the photo?". I knew there was tons of time to make it out, as the chickens hadn't run around enough yet to settle into picture mode. In most of the pictures, me and my family are squished in the back. You can hardly see us. But MIL is grinning wildly in the front. In a blazing white dress, surrounded by "her family." The second photo is a shot of her and FIL, cuddled up.
Not an unusual card. If it came from anyone else, I wouldn't think twice. But the thing is, I recieved this Christmas card as a follow up. As in, she received my card, complete with a bunch of pictures of the kids (I sent them to all the grandparents. Few of them take pictures of my kids.). So, she got my card, dug some card out and sent me a card with her pictures in it (she referenced my pictures in her card, so I know she got ours first). It just felt phony. And, hell, I don't know what the right word would be. I just felt wrong. She sent the card purely because I sent her a card. For no other reason. She added the photos because she has to mimic me. She's done this to me before. It feels so "tit for tat". OH, Jessie did this, maybe if I do it too, she'll look favorably on me. She'll have to like me! She'll think I'm nice/kind/thoughtful. It didn't feel genuine or authentic or something she wanted to do. Most years she states "Thanks for your card, Jessie! I didn't send out cards. I was busy. I just didn't have time." Which, as I write it doesn't sound bad, but is so classic her. She can't give me a compliment without somehow also negating it or justifying and excusing herself. Can't she just say "thanks for the Christmas card." and leave it at that? Why does she have to be in every conversation? (That's rhetorical, I know the answer).
It irritates me too that she can't just let anything be mine. It's almost like when she quit trying to "convert" me to her, she changed tactics and thought she'd pretend to be me. This mirroring and mimicking she does of me, drives me nuts. I can't just have anything be mine. If I send pictures, she sends pictures. If I say I don't like to bake, she suddenly remarks how she no longer bakes, sort of kind of. I get lots of praise for how pretty my Christmas packages look, so she somehow figures out how to wrap a gift so it doesn't look like a monkey did it (I know it's petty, it's not about the gifts, it's about her suddenly changing to be more like me. It's creepy to me.). She changes her hobbies, eating style, extracurricular activities to "fit in". And it annoys me that she thinks I'm so stupid that I'll think better of her because she wraps a few gifts (still not well, I might add, just to be bitchy because I'm feeling that way) or sends me a photo of her snuggled up to her husband in the picture perfect picture of "true love".
She wrote in the card how she "can't wait to see you!". A visit she finagled (she can't manage to get us gifts during the TWO other times-sometimes three-that she sees us during the holidays. She has to have a 'special time' to drop them off.) She shows up tomorrow. I'm trying to not be annoyed. I wish I could change my attitude. I wish I could be more gracious. I wish I wasn't already dreading her. But I am. Fuck.