I credit my mother with teaching me how to write. I’m not talking about the part where she taught me the alphabet and showed me how to scrawl my name in big letters on lined paper, although she did that. I’m not talking about the encouragement and praise she gave when I came home with that 3rd grade story about fairies and castles, even though she did that, too. No, she taught me so much more about writing than that. You see, she taught me how to write…thank you notes.
Thank you notes are an art form. A good thank you note has style, class, and legible handwriting. A good thank you note thanks the recipient for something specific, makes a personal remark about the gift, expresses sincere appreciation, and makes the recipient feel wonderful. Yup, well-written thank you notes are things of beauty.
As a child, writing thank you notes was not an activity I would choose over watching TV or riding my bike outside. My mother “persuaded” me that I really wanted to write thank you notes by holding on to whatever gift I had been given, and by refusing to allow me to wear/spend/play with my gift until my thank you note was written, approved, shoved into an envelope, properly addressed, and stamped. Only then was the gift truly mine.
Sometimes, I would sit and stare at that blank piece of stationary for a long while. Believe it or not, it is possible to get writer’s block even when writing something as “simple” as a thank you note. For example, what could I say when my aunt sent me a record (that’s a vinyl CD, kids) of Frank Sinatra’s Greatest Hits during my head-banging punk rock stage? “Jeez, Aunt Chris, who the heck is this old dude and do you really call that stuff music? What were you thinking?” just wouldn’t pass Mom’s eagle eye.
Of course, it wasn’t until I was older that I came to the realization that I wasn’t really thanking the recipients for something; I was thanking them for their expression of caring. I was acknowledging that the thought behind the gift was important to me. I finally “got” thank you notes.
Now some of you might believe that thank you notes stopped being delivered when the pony express went out of business. This is not true. Just yesterday, I received this thank you note from my mother:
Thank you so much for the birthday presents. I love the earrings and the movies. I can’t wait to watch Maggie Smith. I’ll pass along recipes from the magazines. I’m looking forward to receiving them every month. Thank you again. I love you, Mom.
Now that's how it's done, people. The quintessential thank you note! An hour after she opened her presents, her thank you note was delivered directly to me – as a text message on my phone! Think thank you notes are outdated and passé? Are courtesy and appreciation outdated and passé? No way! So limber up those thumbs and text those thank you notes you've put off writing. Mom approves.