WHITNEY CAIN, PHD

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seasonal visitors

My mother-in-law and our Elf-on-the-Shelf have much in common.  Both visit seasonally.   Both hyphenate their roles.  Both vacillate from mildly to exceedingly irritating.  Both wear lots of red.

Early in marriage I willingly travelled to or hosted my mother-in-law’s requisite birthday and holiday visits.   When she visited, her Buick arrived packed with cool whip containers holding Bar-B-Q and the like; a Dorothy-and-Toto style basket bearing canned pineapple, instant coffee, a night light, and any number of outdated prescriptions; three tins of sugar cookies; and two gallons of sweet tea.   Somewhere among the loot would be a small Samsonite and hanging church dress – just in case.

Like many besotted new brides, I found my mother-in-law’s quirks endearing.  Plus, her desire for our company seemed sweet and so different than my own family model which advocates loving from a distance.  Soon enough, though, these views were replaced with a stingy acknowledgement that I was stuck with her.

And here we return to my mother-in-law’s similarities with our Elf-on-the-Shelf, Juan Pablo.  Like my mother-in-law, I found Juan Pablo endearing in our earliest years together.   I laughed when he toilet papered the bathroom.  I sympathized when he was hung over in the pantry from too much vanilla extract.   But eventually his visits became tedious.  I wearied of crack of dawn awakenings to make sure he was in place before my children’s just after crack of dawn awakenings.

I’m not pleased with my miserly views of these two.  Although my mother-in-law and Elf can stay too long, their lengthy visits aren’t often.  Goodness, Juan Pablo only comes in December. (Except for one June when my youngest found him in a drawer.)

And, even though my mother-in-law seems bionic with her replaced parts and immortal atop her riding mower, she probably won’t be around forever.  I’ll likely miss the good intentions packed in those cool whip containers.  Likewise, Juan Pablo will no doubt run his course and I’ll long for the days my children howled at his messes.

“Accessorize more” is my usual New Year’s Resolution, but this year it might be to more generously welcome my seasonal visitors.  In the big scheme, their inflicted irritations are mild.  Plus, they both really do look super in red.

 

 

Whitney Cain