birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Sister-In-Law Blues

My husband's side of the family is down to his sister and her family. I still have my four siblings and their families, my mom, an aunt, uncle, and cousins who I communicate with pretty regularly. The weight of my sister-in-law's presence weighs heavier on me than all of my family combined. And, for this, I feel conflicted and guilty.

But, she is a huge package in a little frame. She doesn't hear well and talks loud. She doesn't remember well and retells long stories. She often feels sorry for herself and deals with recurring bouts of depression. She retells us what she shares with her therapist. And the irony is, from the outset you would say she has a charmed life. She lives in a large beautiful home and is retired. She travels to Europe regularly and around the country visiting friends.

She loves her brother, my husband, and relies on him for an open ear to her problems. He does a good job of helping her resolve problems and listening to her explaining her ups and downs. Every Christmas for decades we have spent the holiday with her and her family. Not with mine. Often these days at the holiday are very strained; last year for example, she was very unhappy with her husband and didn't hesitate to tell us all the ways he makes her unhappy. Her two daughters and husband were very aware of my sister-in-laws displeasure. I kept thinking this is not how I want to spend Christmas.

As we drove away from their home, after four days of this strain, I said as much to my husband. He was silent in his response. I know that he wants to keep the holiday reserved as our time with his sister and her family. He feels that even though it is stressful, he knows that she is his only connection to an extended family. Part of me wants to respect that, but another part wants to shake things up; perhaps see my family. I confess that there are times I enjoy being with my sister-in-law. But, I know it is often a crap shoot and I don't care for the odds.

Too Close to Home

Where I Am