One of my more vivid memories of childhood is of my sister and I hunkered down at the dining room table, necks stiff, legs dangling, surrounded by tape, glue, bits of paper and lists galore. We were on thank-you note duty, as enforced by my formidable mother.
Although we had a small immediate family, my mother had a lot of friends. These friends were not only plentiful, they were generous, kind and always brought us gifts when they came to visit. They never forgot a birthday, or arrived for supper empty-handed. And even the ones who didn't celebrate Christmas still came for Christmas dinner bearing gifts for my sister and I. And one thing my mother insisted on was that we write formal thank-you notes for every gift we received.
These were not store-bought notes with swirly THANK YOUs already stamped across the top, oh noooo. These, my friend, were hand made notes, little paper cards meticulously folded and decorated with collages of cut and paste pictures scrounged from the piles of dead greeting cards my mother hoarded for this exclusive purpose. I'm sure they were perfectly hideous, and perfectly entertaining for the folks who received them.
I think I must have written hundreds of little notes over the years. When Christmas or birthday months rolled around, I would look at my delightful pile of presents and gloat over them - then groan inwardly, thinking of the cramped hands and stiff back I'd have to endure in a few weeks. Initially, writing thank-you notes was kind of fun. The first five or so would be carefully folded and decorated, with much thought given to theme and colour. Then it was all downhill after that, each successive card looking sloppier and more haphazard than the last.
I still have very generous friends and family, and I still feel moved to write thank-you notes. It's a testament to my mother's lessons about gratitude and politeness, but I also feel it's kind of a lost art. I wrote over one hundred fifty notes after D and I got married (his job was to address and stamp them); I wrote around fifty after each baby was born. It humbled me to see how generous and kind people were to us after these events; I figured the least I could do was write them a wee note to say thanks and endure a few hours of stiff neck and fingers.
A few of my friends write some pretty mean thank-you notes themselves. My sister-in- law always writes beautiful, very personal notes inside her hand-made cards; my good friend creates the most elaborate works of card art to send her thanks. And one of my newer Kink friends got her two year old daughter to crayola the inside of the note they sent to say thanks for her birthday present. I thought that was pretty cool.
I'm a bit ashamed that I don't take the time to write notes for my birthday presents any more. Emails and phone calls are easier for this sleep-deprived mama right now. I do my best to send notes anytime the kids get a gift though, and I'm hoping that I can pass along this small act of gratitude to them when they're old enough. I like to think that one day I'll corral them into sitting at the dining room table (the same one I wrote mine at) and creating little cards of their own, while I (and my mother from up above) nod in approval.