Sunday, January 04, 2009

Christmas With the In-Laws: A Synopsis

I abandoned, years ago, the hope that whomever I married would be bringing me into a family similar to my own: full of harmony, love, acceptance, goodwill, and contentment. Those dreams were laid aside, albeit sadly, when I knew that JeepMan was the man I would marry - IN SPITE OF his family.

Part of the reason I love him has to do with the fact that he has overcome such a crummy childhood and forged his own path to his destiny of choice rather than stumbling blindly down the well-trodden path that so many of his family before him have chosen. You can read more here about The Story of JeepMan. For now, I'll move past that to this very Christmas.

I am frequently reminded, not-so-nicely, about the stark differences between the family I was born into, and the family into which I married. But never so harshly as the annual debacle they call Christmas.

Invariably, it begins with the fact that no one seems to be able to remember where our little family spent the actual day of Christmas the year before (we do "every-other-year" for Christmas and Thanksgiving). This year, it was Christmas with the In Laws, even though we did Thanksgiving with them as well, since they came on vacation to Moab with us.

Did MY family complain? Did they act jealous? OF COURSE NOT. Their comment was, "Well, with Tiff's new job she doesn't get Christmas off this year anyway, so that should work out great! We'll have it next year!" God love 'em...

Christmas at the In Laws it was: and so the Rube Goldberg Machine was set in motion.

The task: get through Christmas without permanent harm, physical or emotional, being inflicted on any family member. Sounds simple, right?

Well, HA!! I say... HA!

It's NEVER simple when the InLaws are involved.

It started about a week before Christmas. A letter arrived at our house. Addressed to the children. FROM SANTA. Postmarked? you guessed it: the InLaws hometown (forehead slap). The kids didn't seem to notice, nor did they seem to notice that "Santa" writes an awful lot like Grandma. The content was fairly benign, and the kids seemed to forget about it quickly. Until MIL mentioned it out of the blue a couple days later and I was on damage-control duty once again.

I am making the most of these very few years of Santa-Faith, which are numbered, I know. Plato is 7 1/2 and has already expressed doubts. Lulu is darn sharp, and it won't be long after he abandons his belief that she will follow. So who knows? This (and every year to follow) could be IT; The Last Year. I'm determined not to make any false steps and give it all away.

MIL certainly has good intentions, but is severely lacking in the stealth department. The kids stayed with her for 3 days before Christmas as MIL had those days off and I was out of town. Rather then make the kids go to daycare we figured they'd have more fun at her house. Which they did...

When we arrived for Christmas, Lulu ran into my arms screaming, "Mama, Mama!! Santa Claus called us at Grandma's HOUSE! Plato wouldn't talk to him. He was scared. But I did! I told him I was a good girl this year and I want a horse for Christmas!!" Aside from the obvious issue with the horse, I was instantly pissed. I looked at MIL and she was grinning smugly. I raised my eyebrows, she didn't flinch. I looked at JeepMan and he was stunned as well.

But Lulu seemed happy, so I figured, whatever. Not worth ruining Christmas over something like that.

Later Lulu whispered breathily in my ear, "Mama, I don't think it was the REAL Santa who called sounded like Grandpa! I think he was just teasing us." I told her she was probably right, but not to tell Grandpa she knew.

We've told the kids that Santa only brings presents and fills stockings at our house; that at each Grandparents' house the Grandparents fill them. MIL will not go along with this. She insists that Santa fills her stockings (she also calls them "socks" which raises my hackles, but I grit my teeth and stick with "stockings"). As the kids plowed into the stocking booty this year, out tumbled unopened Happy Meal toys and multiple little gifts with Hobby Lobby price tag stickers on them. {{**sigh**}}

You know, because the elves shop at Hobby Lobby and have a contract with McDonald's for their overflow toy inventory.

Hopefully the kids are listening to ME about Santa not actually coming to Grandma's...

Gift-opening proceeded without incident; in fact, I have to give props to MIL for not going completely overboard on the gifts this year. It helps that she bought us a Wii, so there wasn't much left over to create the usual piles of useless, cheezy, lame gifts. One exception: the gymongous gaming table she bought the kids.

It has pool! Air hockey! Foosball! Backgammon...! Ugh. It's big and cheap. And we have no where to set it up in our small house with no storage! And SHE KNOWS THAT.

I don't know why, but we get one of these types of gifts every year from her. They're in a pile in the basement, or at Goodwill, or in the landfill. What a waste.

On to dinner. This is where it got interesting.

JeepMan's cousin Shawn has been in and out of the family's lives for years. He's my age; read: "old enough to know what's right and wrong." He found out a few years ago that he has a son, who is now 9 years old. The poor kid lived with his mother, who is dumb as a rock, for years. Shawn is smart, and managed to get custody of his son. Great, right?

Well, being smart does not mean you make smart choices, or live as a productive member of society. Here's the picture. Shawn has been in and out of jail in several states over the years for drug possession. Finally, he moved back to his hometown, found out he has a son, found himself a stripper girlfriend (ahem, "cocktail waitress in a strip bar," says she), and proceeded to father two more children. They've never married because the welfare (or whatever) is better if she's a single mother.

In the meantime, they've managed to purchase motorcycles for the whole family, drive a Cadillac Escalade, breed pit-bulls, and move to a 3000 sq/ft home on an acreage, brand new. All on the salary of a cocktail waitress and on-again-off-again construction worker....

Doth my nose detect a rodent?

Well, the shit hit the fan a few months ago for them: Shawn was arrested for drug trafficking, the kids were taken away, his girlfriend was arrested but the charges were eventually dropped, everything they own except their home was taken away, the 2 kids of theirs were returned to the home, and his son was sent back to his mother.

"Dumb as a rock" trumps "drug-lord" any day, I guess.

So he's currently in jail for (presumably) a long time. Now if I were the girlfriend, would I show up to the Christmas festivities of my imprisoned-boyfriend's family? No way!! I'd be so freakin' embarrassed I would want to crawl in a hole and die. Not this woman. Nope! She trucked the kids right over and made herself at home. And guess who got to sit by her at dinner? Moi. I heard all about how he's innocent, how hard it is without him, how she has to get home by 4pm to catch his Christmas Day phone call, blah blah blah. Just shoot me, ok? With a tranquilizer dart would be nice.

Also gracing the Christmas table were: JeepMan's grandma, Unclue Mike, JeepMan's cousin LT, and LT's girlfriend.

JeepMan's Grandma is a bitch. I don't use that term lightly. She truly is mean-spirited, manipulative, and consummately negative. When she walks into a room, she just drains all the good energy right out of it. She never talks to anyone, just sits in a corner and glowers, occasionally rising with a dramatic showing of strain and pain, and shuffles out to the garage to smoke. What a wonderful role model for my children, huh? They can't stand her.

Unclue Mike [sic] (that's how he spells his name, really!) recently moved back to be near MIL. He's her brother and he basically exhausted the Workman's Comp system in several states before deciding to come back home and see what he could mooch off his family. He's the one that gave us the Stolen Coffee for our present. He's friendly enough, but is so full of shit his eyes must be brown. A few years ago he had hatched a plan about how he was going to come to the Midwest and find him a bunch of night-crawlers (for free) and drive them back to Colorado for a profit. He's a real thinker, that one! Also a smoker, and suspected former client of his son, Shawn, details above.

The cousin I mentioned is the one MIL decided to give a new life a couple of years ago. It was a rocky situation then, but has turned out as well as could be expected. The cousin and girlfriend are as close to "normal" as any of the family gets; mostly because of the influence of the girlfriend. She comes from a stable and caring home, from what I can gather. They're young, their relationship is volatile, and I suspect they are up to their eyebrows in credit card debt...but they can function socially for the most part. They were an hour late to dinner with no excuse, which severely irked MIL, and they later had some kind of major argument (with lots of obscenities) during which I hustled myself and the kids from the room.

After dinner, all the negative energy had me exhausted, so when Lulu went down for a nap, I fell asleep beside her. Ahhh, bliss. When I got up, half the clan was gone. We left not long after, to go see what Santa left at our house. MIL was all atwitter, telling us not to give any stuff to Goodwill (she hates that), and that she would be checking with the kids and would find out if we did...oooh, I'm a-scared.

We made it out exhausted but unscathed. The kids had a great Christmas at home, and at my folks' house. I guess if nothing else, the kids are getting to witness the dichotomy between families, and they can make their own choices with this valuable knowledge, right?

Next up: A belated crappy gift and the story of my MIL, aspiring sommelier.


KLS said...

Yikes! My Chirstmas was boring compared to all that! When I first read "Unclue" I caught it, bt thought it might be purpsoeful. Are you serious? He repeatedly misspells it? LOL!

Whirlochre said...

Yipes! I thought our anuual game of Shuffle The Cantankerous Grandmothers was a nightmare, but this scene drips with the antimatter complement of good cheer. If it were me, next year I'd shell out big dollars to Universal Studios to kit me out with a makeover, change my name to Barbera and move to Tasmania.

JaneyV said...

Poor JM. I have to say MIS you're a saint for going along with it. I'd just refuse. Kids are smart enough to make their own minds up about stuff and I'm sure you're right about this giving them valuable knowledge with which to make their own choices but MAN! it must be stressful for you guys.

From what I can see MIL is doing a whole lot of over-compensating for being a crappy mother. Thank goodness the JM had his best friend and his family to learn what's normal.

I come from a family of seven kids but my mother raised a few more. The best friends of two of my sisters literally moved in with us between the ages of 12 and 17 to get away from their family lives. She also raised the child of a woman who lived across the street from her who suffered from depression. She was 12 when he was born. It's good to know that there are angels that come into the lives of children to save them.

I'm so glad that you got to go to your family and do 'normal' - I bet it was worth the wait.

Happy New Year to you and your family. xxx

Tiff said...

Just wait until next year when I have Christmas off and you have to inform your MIL that you'll be with us that day. I foresee DRAMA!

Glad we're representing the normal side of the family. Wait, do you include Doc in that generality?

Monnik said...

Tiff got a new job? How come I didn't know that?

Yikes on the Christmas. I am so blessed to have a mostly normal, mostly loving family on both sides.

Barrie said...

Wow. That all sounds dreadful. Thank goodness Christmas is with your family next year. And if anyone questions this, you can use your blog as proof for where you were in 2008.

Dawn@Embracing the Ordinary Life said...

Wow..that's some family. My IL's suck too...not quite as much as yours...but pretty darn "wish we didn't have to go" kind of suck....

BTW, I cam via Blubher

Debbielou said...

Oh my goodness !!! Roll on Christmas 2009 ! x

writtenwyrdd said...

Wow, your extended family stories are fascinating. I don't envy you guys the MIL however. Sounds high maintenance. And Poor Loo-Loo. Ack! Nothing ticks a kid off more than their name spelled wrong.

Jess said...

Great post. I'm holding a kid and my breasts are leaking all over the keyboard, or I'd write something more intelligent. :)