Here's the scenario: you have an old friend of 15 years. You spent many happy years together and were best mates, but you both live in different cities now and you have well and truly grown apart.
Your friend has a full-time job, studies part-time, is in a long-term relationship, no kids, and has an active social life in the city where she lives. You are a part-time working mum of one child with special needs, husband who does shiftwork, a few good friends around town that you catch up with when you can.
You try and keep in touch with your friend but she never returns phonecalls, text messages, email messages or F'book messages. When asked about this, she'll say 'Yeah I know I'm slack' without apology, and will go on and on about how busy her life is. When she does visit your hometown (usually at Xmas to see her parents) she will call you and say 'I'm in town but I'm very busy so you can only see me at X time or Y time'. When you do manage to get together for a conversation, you feel like she's a judgmental know-it-all who constantly comments on other people's parenting choices, lifestyle choices, etc. You can't help feeling resentful that she ignored you all year and now is just 'fitting you in' to her very busy Xmas schedule.
However, she sends you and your DD a b'day present and Xmas present every year. For you it's always something impersonal, like a Coles Myer gift voucher or some generic ornament-type thing you would buy for someone you don't know well. The gifts for DD are sweet, but she shows no interest in your DD throughout the year. On the rare occasion you do get together, she doesn't ask about DD, doesn't try to talk to her beyond 'hello' and always has some judgemental story to tell about a kid she saw throwing a tantrum in the supermarket, or her work colleague who is always late to the office because she can't 'train' her child to go to sleep early.
a) Lower your expectations of your friend, and stop trying to contact her. She is busy and has other priorities, and the two of you have obviously grown apart in opinions, lifestyle, etc. Continue to say 'thank you' for the b'day presents that she sends, at least it's the thought that counts, right? Continue to send her a present of equal value on her b'day.
b) Stop trying to contact your friend. Be royally p.ssed off that she ignores you the whole year and thinks that by sending you a generic b'day present, she's making up for it. Stop sending her b'day presents and hope that she stops sending presents to you - it's just turning into an exchange of gift vouchers between two people who don't know each other well, which is a waste of money.
c) Keep making the occasional phonecall/txt to your friend to keep the lines of communication open. Even though you're flat out trying to keep up with the other friends you have, she's been a friend for a long time and one day she might need you.
d) Write her a letter and tell her how you feel, knowing that she's never been very sentimental and probably would have no idea how to respond to such a letter if she got one.