Sadly, this story is NOT a joke.
It’s about my girlfriend’s in-laws and what they gave her husband for his 40th birthday this week. If you’ve ever whinged about yours, you’ll be grateful for what you’ve got after reading this. (I’m going to use substitute names for privacy reasons)
It all started last Christmas when Laura and Steve hosted a lunch for their friends and family. Laura wasn’t thrilled Steve’s parents were invited, as they’d never gotten along, but thought she could get through one afternoon. And it was Christmas, after all…
In the past, Steve’s mother had always rubbed Laura up the wrong way with personal criticisms and complaints about her cooking. His father was also prone to racist remarks, which riled Laura no end. Not to mention neither of them were particularly lively company, offering only stilted conversation. At first, Laura had wondered if it was because of a language issue. (Both parents came to Australia from Germany in their twenties) But their command of English was excellent. No, it was their lack of manners, decided Laura. The fact that they would constantly drop in unannounced, despite repeated requests for a warning phone call; their demanding manner and social ineptitude once they arrived, topped off by a lack of any form of thank you.
Needless to say, you can understand why Laura wasn’t keen to include them at Christmas. But they came. Empty-handed. And proceeded to guzzle all of Laura’s French champagne. Then the snide comments started about the food. And rude remarks directed at Laura’s friends – in particular, a lovely Anglo-Indian couple.
But it was after lunch, when Steve’s dad started ranting on about why the nation needed an ‘all-white Australia policy’ that Laura put her foot down. Quietly but firmly she took him by the arm, led him to the kitchen and explained why it was time for them to leave. At the end of the day, Laura and Steve agreed it was time to distance themselves from his parents for a bit – just to let tensions ease.
Around mid-year, Steve’s mum waved an olive branch. ‘We’re taking the whole family out to dinner,’ she said. ‘Please come. It’s our shout.’ So off they went to a fancy restaurant. Laura grinned and bore it but the evening was another round of excruciating conversation and bad manners. At the end of the meal, when it came time to pay the bill, Steve offered to chip in and grabbed Laura’s credit card. Laura waited for his mother to protest. After all, she’d made a huge fuss about how ‘they’ were taking everyone out to dinner. But she just sat there and smiled at her son while the waiter snatched Laura’s credit card and SHE ended up paying for the ENTIRE dinner.
But the clincher came this week. It was Steve’s 50th birthday on the weekend, so a month ago the pressure began with phone calls and hints – ‘When are we coming over to celebrate?’
Bitten-too-many-times, Laura decided to keep friends and family separate to avoid any clashes and to stop them ruining Steve’s main party. When they arrived yesterday for a small family gathering, Laura thanked all the gods in the heavens she’d made that decision. Because of their present.
They were obviously peeved they hadn’t been included in the main festivities, so his mother, who always baked a birthday cake for her son (despite his maturing years…) did NOT bring a cake. Nor did they bring him a bought-from-a-shop and beautifully gift-wrapped present.
His mother pulled out a package in a brown paper bag and proudly declared that to mark Steve’s milestone year, she was giving him, the eldest son, a family heirloom that he would treasure for the rest of his life.
His Grandfather’s war medals.
His Grandfather’s NAZI war medals… OF WHICH SHE WAS PROUD.
It was all Laura could do not to throw them in the bin on the spot. In the kitchen, she whispered to Steve that there was NO WAY she would have them in the house. Seriously bad karma, she said. Laura is not Jewish. Just pretty much a normal person who finds the whole Nazi Holocaust history a sickening abomination and finds it unbelievable that anyone living in our society could actually cherish a medal associated with glorifying such atrocities.
Steve agreed. He did not want the medals. But he could not bring himself to thrown them in the bin.
Clever Laura had a better idea. Steve’s younger brother was returning to his parents home that evening. She snuck his car keys, crept out the front door and planted the medals on the backseat of his car.
So far, they haven’t heard what the family reaction was to that. I’m guessing it won’t be good. But like Laura, I don’t really care. I don’t think she’ll be seeing much more of them in the future.
Now, aren’t your in-laws looking good???