Saturday, April 18, 2009

Thank You Notes Delayed equal Thank You Notes Denied

The following is a cautionary and true tale.

A few years back, we held a party. People brought presents. As we were cleaning up after a day of feasting, we began to open the gifts given to welcome and celebrate our daughter's birth and baptism. I remember saying, "We need to write this down." Paper was not readily found in the moment, so the back of a blue envelope was used.

Dimly, it registered in my brain, this was unwise.

But on I pressed, making a careful record of each gift and the giver as we went through the stack of bounty so graciously and generously given. The pen I had ran out, so I grabbed a pencil. That too eventually became a stub of wood, such that the last three presents were written in blue crayon on the front of the envelope in dull large print.

You know what happened next.

The envelope disappeared. I searched everywhere for days. I undid trash bags looking for it, but ultimately concluded it had gone out in the recycling. I mean, it was the back of an opened envelope.

I racked my brain and tried to rewrite the list from memory but knew I was failing as I tried. Unable to do anything other than sputter, I allowed myself to swallow hard and hope for finding it. It never happened.

So this past week during Spring Break, I announced to the children lounging over breakfast discussing video game strategies, "We're going to write Thank you notes."

A chorus of "For What?" and "Awwwwws." went up as I produced a stack of paper, pens, envelopes, crayons and stamps.

But I had decided. Everyone was writing someone, even the toddlers. As the addresser and stamper of the letters, I hadn't planned to be a proof reader, but after a few drafts, we held a tutorial to establish the rules of Thank You writing etiquette.

1) Editorial comments about one's sibling and how much he hogs the present given are not germane to the whole "gracious thanks" concept and should be nixed.

2) More than three misspellings and either an eraser and a dictionary or a rewrite is required.

3)Drawings are permitted but must have some tangential connection to the gift/giver/recipient. The connection is relative to the age of the creator. From a five year old, "Thomas the Tank Engine" wants to say thanks works just fine. The rest of you older ones, I expect actual prose.

4) Hints of upcoming birthdays/holidays and desired items while in the process of giving thanks are in poor taste.

5) Even if you saw them in person and said thanks, write it anyway.

6) You loved every gift. Even the ones you didn't.

7) Neither broken crayon nor torn art work nor loss of seat when you got up for a snack shall stop you from the appointed task.

8) Never mention that the gift was 1) broken or 2) a duplicate, in actual discourse or in print.

9) Mom is the final arbitrator of the thank you note.

10) Stamps are not stickers even if they do stick.

That morning resulted in six written stamped addressed letters which I promptly took out to the mail box even though it was raining. The mail had already arrived but I put the flag up and felt satisfied in a job well done.

The next day was trash pick up and recycling day and I called out for volunteers. Two children scrambled eager for the opportunity to walk in the rain intentionally, even if it was just to take out the garbage. When they returned from their task, sopping wet, my daughter handed me a stack of mail. "These were in the mail box waiting for you Mommy, I got them for you."

Six written stamped addressed envelopes sopping wet lay on the table.

"Thank you honey." I murmured as I sighed internally thinking “Every task somehow takes three attempts to get partially done!”

So if you didn’t get an acknowledgement, just give me a bit more time, I’m still searching for that blue envelope and a stubby pencil or crayon.

Then, I promise not to mail them on recycling day.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the article, which reminds me, I still have thank you notes to write-right. Texas Mom

MightyMom said... hubby says no good deed goes unpunished.......

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