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by Abigail Van Buren

Thank You Isn't Welcome to Perplexed Sender of Gift

DEAR ABBY: I recently sent a wedding gift to a relative and his new bride. I received a thank-you note that made no mention of what the gift was. Both my mother and sister received thank-you notes describing their gifts in detail. I'm wondering if what I got was the code for "we're exchanging it," or if the cards might have gotten mixed up or lost.

Abby, would it be OK to ask the relative's mother what happened? I don't want to sound as if I'm complaining about the poorly written thank-you notes. How do I ask without offending anyone? -- WONDERING IN WATERLOO

DEAR WONDERING: I doubt that the note you received was in "code." Most likely, the gift cards got mixed up or lost -- a very common occurrence. Do not ask your relative's mother. Instead, telephone the couple and say, "I was delighted to get your thank-you note, but I just had to ask: Did the towels match your decor?" That way you will clue them in about what you gave them, in case they don't know, and they will have the opportunity to be more specific in their thanks.

DEAR ABBY: When I saw the letter from "Curious," whose friend Elaine had a nephew who snooped through her things when he came to visit, I had to write because I have the same problem. But what does one do when the snoop is one's own mother?

My sister and I live in small, one-bedroom apartments. When Mom comes from out of state to visit one of us, we relinquish our bedrooms to her so she can stay in comfort; therefore, short of sending her to a motel, it's impossible to put her in a location where she won't have access to personal items.

Numerous times we have caught her snooping through our dresser drawers, cabinets or closets. Apparently, she still feels she has the right to "inspect," even though my sister and I are both adults. She has even, on occasion, brought forth an item from one of her snooping expeditions to ask, "What is this?" or, "Where did you get this?" When confronted, she giggles as if she's embarrassed -- and then she repeats the question.

Additionally, Mom has a tremendous memory for any gift or other item she may have given us, even as long as 10 or 15 years ago. If she doesn't find a particular item she's given us, she confronts us about its whereabouts. She becomes terribly offended and pouts if it had to be discarded or if we just don't remember where it is. These confrontations occur on almost every visit.

My sister and I don't want to put a stop to Mom's visits -- after all, she is our mother, and we are her only family. However, we have begun to dread her visits. Any suggestions? -- PERPLEXED IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR PERPLEXED: Unless you and your sister are prepared to form a united front and deal with your mother firmly, her behavior won't change. Granted she's your mother, but you are all adults, and such snooping is inexcusable. Tell her you consider it to be an invasion of your privacy.

When she quizzes you about an item you no longer have, tell her you gave it away because it was no longer needed. If she pouts, offer her right of first refusal, but don't allow her to make you feel guilty or uncomfortable.

As a last resort, you and your sister should consider pooling your money and putting your mother up at a nearby motel during her visits, and having her over only when you can supervise her.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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