When my son was born, my wife and I received a slew of baby gifts from friends and family. My wife made sure that we kept a legal pad nearby and anytime we opened one to immediately write down what it was and whom it was from so they could be properly thanked with a proper thank you card.
"I'm from the South," she would remind me, "and we are taught the importance of sending 'thank-you' notes."
I'm not sure what being from the South has to do with that. Maybe being closer to the equator makes the people there more polite? Or at least more willing to recognize generosity with a floral print 4x6 piece of heavy stock paper. It's almost as if she's saying we in the North have no manners.
"In the South we are also taught to bring a gift to one's house when we visit." She not only has boxes and cupboards at home full of various, blank thank-you notes but her dream is to one day have a room just for wrapping gifts which she will call 'The Gratitude Room.' There would be a long spool or shelf just for ribbon and wrapping paper, drawers for scotch tape, scissors and address labels and stacks of various sized boxes for wrapping or shipping. This is her fantasy. Currently she has a closet full of beautiful pre-wrapped gifts in the event that someone should visit us with a gift. God forbid she wouldn't have something to give them back. Then she would have to send a thank-you note along with a separate apology note for not having a gift for them. I suggested, "Why not just have a gift shop in our home?" Visitors can pick out what they want, have it gift-wrapped and ready to pick up when they leave.
I agree that thank you notes are a nice gesture but when is enough, enough? Just last week she was sending off a thank-you note for a thank-you gift and note she had recently received. I say once the other party has thanked you the thanking should end with a simple 'You're Welcome.' Period.
I also suggested that maybe it would be easier for her to just fire off an email of thanks but noooooo... that would be "inappropriate." I expected her to say something like, "In the South, we don't use computers," but instead she went on to explain that she feels time and consideration must be put into a thank-you note: the actual selection of the card, the personal touch of hand-writing it (calligraphy, if possible), an appropriate stamp from the post office (a 'Love' stamp, if possible), and of course, the customized cute return address stickers for the upper left hand corner.
"This way," she says, "people will know that hard work and thoughtfulness went into it."
Personally I don't see why people need to know that hard work and thoughtfulness went into it. Call me a fourteen-year-old boy, but I like to think that thank-you notes are and always have been a means to an end. It doesn't matter what form they come in, it's the thought behind them that people remember. Someone gives you something and you need to recognize it with a note, so that in the future, they will feel good about giving you something again. It's a very practical approach. It's also coincidentally how I ended up buying my current house.
Try explaining that to someone from the South. Once we thanked the wrong person for the wrong gift. We only found out because we eventually got a return note from them that read, "I'm glad you love the blanket and you consider us thoughtful, but we gave you guys the mobile." My wife was horrified. She spent the rest of the day at the stationary store looking for a "My Husband's an Idiot" card to send them. Luckily they had twelve in stock. I remind my wife that in the North, we occasionally make mistakes. After all, we are farther away from the equator.
Incidentally, if you'd like to thank me for writing this blog, please do so by contacting my website, Kevinnealon.com. Oh, and an email will suffice.