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We returned from Thanksgiving to find a key in the mailbox and my heart sank. Our mailbox is set up in a communal area for our neighborhood, and the key is left when packages arrive that don’t fit in the normal slot. I asked my husband if he was expecting anything, but in my heart, I already knew he wasn’t.

When you’ve been dealing with people like my sick, dysfunctional, and thankfully predictable family, you come to expect things like unsolicited mail. By some bizarre twist of fate, the key left was bent and broken just enough that it wouldn’t fit in the lock. I left a note for the postal carrier, and went home with dread in my gut, knowing that I’d have to deal with it soon enough.

Sure enough, a few text messages to my brother unveiled that it was indeed from my mother. He tried to gently suggest that I consider keeping the items sent for my son, but I just couldn’t. As harmless as he might feel they were, for me, it would be like leaving nuclear waste in the house and slowly poisoning myself with her corruption. Gifts or no, the package was another way to dismiss my wishes, disrespect my boundaries and to subvert my rights as a parent to keep my son protected from these sickos.

Luckily, in the U.S., we are not obligated to accept mail. I googled to find the best way to handle this, and found a solution I could live with. I had my husband write “REFUSED – RETURN TO SENDER” on the package and I dropped it in the outgoing mail the next day. I wanted to write more than that, to dump out my rage and loathing into a letter to her, but it wouldn’t really help anything. For her, she’d consider a response, even a nasty one, a victory. She’d know that she could still get to me, and ruin my day, which she did, but I’m not about to give her the satisfaction of confirmation.