I think I did a bad thing. But it felt good at the time...
I'm impulsive by nature. But over time I've learned to control my impulses like a Vulcan controls his emotions. Because when I don't, I do some really stupid things.
This is one of them.
The boxes of gifts arrived two weeks before Christmas. My mom called the same day.
“Did you get them?” she asked.
“Yup. Both boxes.”
“Oh good. Ok, now when you open them, you'll see a couple of baskets with Frango mint stuff. One's for O's parents and one's for J.”
I gave her back a little silence.
“So you make sure you get those to them, Ok?” she continued.
Now, you need to understand two things.
The first is that J. is my dreaded sister-in-law. She is a vituperative bitch. (See meno? I told you I was stealing that bonbon of a word). I haven't spoken to J. since last January, when she screamed my faults – both real and imagined – into the phone and then hung up. I could go into the nitty-gritty details about the ongoing fight, but it slows down the story, so, I've footnoted it.*
The other thing is that my mother is a wonderful woman, but she has NEVER had my back in a fight. My mom's life ambition is to make sure every single person on the face of the earth likes her. A Catholic thing? A Midwest thing? I don't know. Anyway, not only does she make sure she's gotten a gift for J., but she wants me to deliver it.
Now, that's fine. I can set it on the old family caravan; pass it on to O, who can pass it on to his mom who can pass it on to J. Worked just fine last year. But what started to eat at me were the daily calls:
Hey mom, how's it going?
Fine. Have you gotten those Frangos to them yet?
Well, you'd better do it!
Hi there. Heard you got some snow!
Two and a half feet.
Wow. Did you get those Frangos to J. yet?
Uh. Not yet. Kinda buried right now.
And so on.
Mom, you do realize she hates us, right? And that getting the Frangos to her is not my top priority?
Well! I don't want her to hate me! Tee hee!
(My was dad in the background saying, Well I hate her. Yay dad!)
And then she added:
Now, dear, if O wants to reconcile with J. You shouldn't stand in the way...
After which I told my mother the two-word expletive O uses when speaking of his sister, and that I was standing in the way of nothing. Except Frangos and their rightful owners, I guess.
I hung up, seething, so hot I could have melted the snow just by stepping outside. Which would have come in handy, and kept me out of this mess.
Because about that time, a plow actually came through our neighborhood, with the effect of throwing a three-foot wall of snow across the entrance to everyone's driveway. O had taken the shovels to work with him, so I ran across the street to B.'s house to borrow hers.
B. is the best neighbor anybody could hope to have. Widowed, about my mom's age, spunky, grew up on a farm; I adore this woman. She came to our house for Thanksgiving. 'Nuff said.
She met me at the door.
Oh! I was just coming over! I have a little something for the boys, she said, and handed me two little Christmas bags and a couple containers of cookies. And she had a shovel I could borrow, and offered to help me shovel, which I declined.
Every year for Christmas I give her a box of Colorado-made toffee. Heavenly. This year, the blizzards prevented me from getting out and purchasing boxes of said toffee on time.
I ran into the house to drop off the gifts. The boyos pounced on them immediately. B. had knitted slippers for them. Made them something. And there were a couple little toys in there too.
You know what's coming, right?
In a moment of sheer guilt for not having anything for B., in a moment of sheer anger toward my mom, in a moment of sheer wickedness, in a moment of sheer, uncontrolled impulse, I grabbed the Frangos that were destined for J., tore off the gift tag, and raced back out the door.
My heart sang all the way back across the street.
B! Merry Christmas!
It felt so good. It felt so right! A gift for a woman who deserved it, who made something for my little boyos. Who was always nice to me.
Yeah. It felt good. Until I got hit with overwhelming guilt. I went around and around, trying to justify what I did, and I kept coming back to, 'They weren't mine to give.' (Ok, but in my defense, O had also made a statement the night before to the effect of, “Fuck her. We'll eat them!” AND, my mom is coming out to watch my boyos while I'm recovering from surgery.
Guilt guilt guilt guilt. Guilt guilt guilt guilt.
So, I tried to make amends, while trying to cover my ass. Frangos are not widely available outside of Chicago. I got online and looked. There were no baskets that matched exactly, so I ordered something that probably cost twice as much, and had it shipped to the bookstore as a precaution.
In 13 years, J.'s only sent my mom one thank you, she wouldn't DARE call my mom while she was out here (ok, she MIGHT), but chances were, my mom would never be the wiser.
A Pretty Good Plan, don't you think?
Well, the universe, which I've found is NOT governed necessarily by the laws of morality – good vs bad – but by whatever event will produce the best punchline, has decided to strand the replacement basket in a town in Illinois that bears my (real) last name.
Adverse weather conditions, the tracking says. It's been sitting there for a week. It's STILL there. It aint budging.
And my mom gets here Saturday.
Now, remember that I had the foresight to send the Frangos to the bookstore? Well, knowing the universe as I do, it will arrive on Monday, when O is at the hospital with me, and his parents are watching the store.
I have the WORST postal luck. And I am soooo fucked.
Yup. The universe has a sense of humor as abstruse as the ocean. And I'm just Dory swimming through it and chanting, “Just keep laugh-ing, just keep laugh-ing...”
*Can I just say that one of my real 'faults' was not picking up the phone every time J. called me? (Mainly to avoid incriminating myself with loaded statements like, “How's it going?”)
The catalyst to the fight was a phone call several months previous to that, prefaced with a “Feel free to say no.” J. wanted me to watch her three boys twice a week for two to three hours at a time while she went to a kickboxing class. I apologized and told her I was overwhelmed with my boyos alone, and that I didn't think I'd do a good job of watching five boys under the age of seven. She told me she understood, and hung up real quick-like.
By the next day, the story she was telling people was that I hated her children. So, yeah, I started avoiding her calls after that.
Another of my sins was feeding my boyos organic food. And limiting their television. And having a clean house. And losing weight. These things threatened her self-esteem, apparently.
My imagined fault was 'never doing anything for her.' She conveniently forgot the quilt I made from scratch and by hand for her second baby during the summer and fall when I was told I couldn't have children of my own. She overlooked the hundreds of dollars we spent on gifts from Ireland. No mention of the weeks' worth of food I bought and cooked for her family – preparing all her favorite dishes – when her second-born had RSV, nor that I did it second time while she had surgery. Listened to her on the phone gripe that she was pregnant a third time, while I was still mourning a miscarriage. Forget all the little things besides these.
So. She's not exactly my favorite person these days.