Monday, December 12, 2005

Hallmark Moments

I decided to send holiday cards this year. Although I’ve always been a fan of cards, I admit that my decision to join the Hallmark masses was largely motivated by my mother-in-law.

My mother-in-law belongs to that rare breed of socially-perfect people. She’s the type of person who never says the wrong thing, who knows the exact nicety called for by any occasion, and who is frequently described as “lovely.” Prior to meeting my husband, I had a vague idea that such people existed. I also had a vague idea that I was not one of these people.

My family is practical to the point of being abrasive. Prior to a recent vacation, my mother e-mailed me: “If anything happens, our attorney is Todd Landsley.” She thought, if she and dad were tragically wiped out, at least I should know who to call for my inheritance. As a family, we’ve generally dispensed of most sentimental trappings. For Christmas this year, Mr. J considered streamlining the process by just asking for cash. It’s only a matter of time before we start buying our own gifts.

If my mother-in-law knew about this, I have no doubt she would balk. Or, more likely, she would send me something heartfelt and handmade. My mother-in-law is the grand empress of heartfelt handmade things. One-of-a-kind jewelry made by local artisans? My birthday present. Adorable frosted cookies from the gourmet store? Every appropriate holiday, without fail. Charming newspaper clippings? In our mail, with a “thought you’d enjoy this” note. The last time my own mother sent me a newspaper clipping, the headline read “Woman killed by flesh eating bacteria.” There was no note.

Like most people, I want my mother-in-law to like me. I especially want her to like me because, well, she’s really lovely. I figure cards are the first step to achieving her genre of zen. In the past few months, I’ve sent cards for occasions I didn’t know they even made cards for. I’ve sent cards for pregnancies, engagements, jobs, moves, and sympathy. The other day, I saw a card for “loss of pet.” I almost bought it just to have one on hand.

Cards are a small thing, but I figure marriage is all about learning to adapt. Come to think of it, maybe I should send my husband a card to express this. I should ask his mom, I bet she has something perfect.

Ms. J


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