Metro-East Living

This is the proper way to get back an item you loaned a family member

Q. Our daughter was nice enough to loan one of her very nice (yes expensive) party dresses to a cousin in the family so she could wear it to a wedding early this spring. She has not returned the dress like she said she would right after the wedding. Our daughter is getting ready to go back to college and she would like to take that dress. She called her cousin in June sometime and her cousin said she would get it back to her ASAP. That hasn’t occurred. Our daughter doesn’t want to call her cousin and ask for it. My husband thinks we should just chalk it up to a lost cause. I disagree. I think it is perfectly acceptable for me at this point to call the mother of this cousin and politely ask her to either bring back the dress within a week or mail it. (They live about two hours from us). Am I looking at this the wrong way or not?

A. No, you are not “looking at this the wrong way.” Whether the dress is an expensive dress or not, it should have been returned as promised months ago. I can understand why your daughter would rather not call her cousin again. A phone call from you to the cousin would probably be to no avail either and it might cause turmoil within her family. Your thought to call the cousin’s mother is the more appropriate approach at this point. Keep the conversation light at first with all the family niceties of how is everyone, etc. Then tell her about your daughter getting ready to go back to college, and then use that as a segway to the real purpose of your call.

“Oh, that reminds me, (your daugther’s name) was looking for a certain cocktail dress to take with her and then realized it was the one she loaned to (her daughter’s name) for a wedding she went to this past spring. I think (her daughter’s name) probably got busy after the wedding and didn’t have a chance to return it. It would be great if you could just mail it back to me yet this week or next. If it needs cleaning, I’ll have it cleaned here before she leaves. I would really appreciate it so I can mark off another item on her checklist of what to load up in the car for her to take.”

Because it is a two-hour drive to your house, I would not mention anything about physically bringing back the dress. That would probably open another complete Pandora’s Box with unsuccessful results.

2020 Dianne Isbell NEW

Q. If a young couple gets married and there are two bridal showers that you are invited to and gave gifts, and then a nice gift for the actual wedding, do I have to give another gift since I am invited to a house warming in two weeks at their new house? I love them dearly and I am their aunt, but they are breaking the bank. I think enough is enough. I do intend to go to the house warming and I am very happy for them, but I’ve run out of ideas of what to give them in the first place. If I call one of their mothers, I’ll get a list of way-to-expensive items and I’ve been there, done that three times already so I’m not going to call either one. I guess I can’t go empty handed so I need your advice please.

A. Yes, you have definitely been a very loving and generous aunt. Your point is well taken regarding purchasing another expensive gift for their house warming.


A much-appreciated gift might be a basket of fresh fruit. It’s currently peach season so who doesn’t love fresh home-grown peaches! Apple season is almost here as well and a couple of those could be included. Add in a small watermelon and a cantaloupe. Hopefully, there is a local market with fresh produce near you which would have just what you need. These markets often have baskets available for purchase as well, or perhaps you have one at home which you could use. If there is no local market, most grocery stores carry locally grown in-season fruit which would be fine, too. I wouldn’t think it necessary for you to wrap the basket in cellophane; just add your card and possibly a bow on the handle of the basket or side of the basket.

Another suggestion:

Nurseries and some of the local stores who carry plants, already have their tulip and daffodil bulbs available for purchase. A basket with a variety of tulip bulbs and daffodils would be a very thoughtful gift especially for planting at a new house. As they plant them and each year they bloom, the couple would think of you and your special gift. You could also add a set of hand gardening tools and a box of tulip boost, and voila, they would have everything they needed to plant as early as September. Again, just add your card and a bow, and you’re all set.

Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Dianne Isbell at Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to