I woke up this morning with a dream still fresh in my mind.
In it, our therapist was telling us that NMIL had contacted her and asked to meet with her. Our therapist obliged, without telling NMIL that she was just going to turn around and tell us how the interaction went.
When our therapist began relating the story to us, I was transported to an empty room, and I knew that I was going to get to watch the story unfold as an invisible omnipresent observer. I watched as NMIL walked into the room, and when she came in, the room was empty of people and barren of objects, except for a lone wooden table. The table reminded me of the kinds of tables I used to eat my lunch on in elementary school. It was long and had bench seating.
When NMIL came in, she made a big deal out of setting up this birthday card that she had bought for someone. It was a really big card that sort of had to be set up like a box, except it only had four sides, instead of six, so the top and bottom were open. As she stood there unfolding it, I could see that the outside was mostly purple and it had tons of generic messages on it like, "Happy Graduation!" and "Happy Birthday!" and "Congratulations!" and "Get well soon!" Every time she turned the card, there was a different message on it. The inside of the card was completely blank. She hadn't written any message of her own on it.
So, NMIL propped it in the middle of the one table, looked at it for a moment, and then left the room. When the door closed, I found myself back in the room with the therapist and I asked her why she talked to NMIL. I don't remember what her answer was, but I do remember that we discussed, at length, what NMIL had been up to and why everything she did was wrong.
The therapist told us that NMIL had been trying to stage a birthday party for DH, as a way to see him again. I was horrified that the empty room was her version of a birthday party venue. Then she told us that NMIL had lied about the time in which she wanted to meet with her, because she was hoping that we would somehow be tricked into going to the event. In dream world, it made total sense that our therapist knew this without NMIL ever having told her the truth about what she was doing.
After talking about it for some time, I was transported back into that empty room. This time, the only thing that had changed was the presence of one lone red balloon, floating in the far corner of the room. I couldn't figure out why NMIL would have put one balloon there, except that it was the best she could do to feign a party. One lonely balloon.
Like in real life, her "birthday party" didn't have any cake or presents. And there was no one there to wish DH well. The room was just empty, except for the table, the balloon, and the strange card. When NMIL walked into the room again, she looked sad but I had a lot of trouble feeling badly for her, knowing that the party was just a ruse to trick DH.
When I woke up, I was most disturbed by NMIL's version of a birthday card. On the outside, it was an eclectic "well-wishes" kind of card, that did not apply to just a birthday. It represented NMIL's superficiality and lack of understanding about her own son. She was using a card to say the one thing she could not say genuinely: I am happy for your happiness. In the dream, as I looked at that card on the table, all I could think was that it was empty inside. That it paralleled NMIL's superficial exterior, which was being used to box in the void. I think the birthday card was NMIL.