I recognize the flamboyant swirling scrawl on the front of the pale blue envelope addressed to my daughters and covered in Easter stickers, and internally groan.

Why can’t she just forget about us.

A relative I’ve chosen to cut ties with for lots of reasons I’m never going to go into here, likes to twist the knife, communicating solely with my children through holiday cards. Typically a few dollars stuck inside. I wish she’d stop because then I have to explain why we never see her anymore.

I’m sure she’s told everyone who will listen how I turned my back on her. I know because I endured her complaints about everyone else in her life for years. I was the one who gave her the benefit of the doubt. I was the one who was compassionate and kind. I was the one who stuck up for her with the rest of my family.

But, then…she went too far and took advantage of a situation in a manner so blatant and appalling it caused my jaw to drop. All for money. And that was it. I was done. Done. I don’t hate her, but I lost all respect for her.

Sometimes Lauren asks why we never see her anymore. For awhile I just brushed her off, but she’s relentless, demanding to know the real reason. I explained it as simply as I could. I sugarcoated. Why I care, I don’t know. I guess because I don’t want them to hate her. It’s not right to hate, and I don’t think she can help herself.

Folded up inside the Easter card are four dollars and an Easter card I sent her when the girls were young. A handmade card, with the girls’ fingerprints turned into chicks.

She’s been doing this for years now. Returning everything we ever gave her. She sends them a few at a time. Sometimes she sends entire albums and photo boxes full of every greeting card, every school photo, every letter, every coloring page we’ve ever given her.

I’m amazed that she’s kept every single one of these things. I can’t believe that after all she has already sent back she still some left to send. She must be holding back to draw it out. I’m sickened by her need to hurt.

Lauren is particularly upset about these returns. She has fond memories of this relative lavishing them with attention and gifts. Always gifts. But her gifts came with a lot of strings, invisible to excited toddlers, clear as cable wire to me.

There are some things in the basement that I’d love to send back to her. I never wanted them in the first place. I never wanted anything, but to make her happy. I know now what an impossible feat that is. She thrives on drama, spending much of her energy locked in (mostly imaginary) epic struggles with everyone from her neighbors to her former coworkers to her own son.

It’s quite sad, actually. I do feel sorry for her. But I can’t deal with it anymore. I tapped out.

“Mom, why does she keep sending our things back?”

“I don’t know, Lauren. I guess because we hurt her feelings and she wants us to know that.”

“It makes me feel really bad,” she says.

“I know. I think that’s what she wants,” I say sadly.

I know that she means to hurt me, not the girls. But when you go around burning bridges, you’re bound to scorch the earth around them, too.

About Just Write
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking