I grew up in a family where writing thank you notes was something that was expected. A verbal thank you was okay for some things, but I had the kind of grandma where thank you notes weren’t just for weddings gifts, but for birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, or just a dinner party. Of course, this was the same grandma who stabbed her son (my father) in the elbow at dinner for having his elbows on the table! Manners were important to her and she did her best to pass that on to her grandchildren. As I got older I was grateful that I knew which fork to use at a dinner party. I was never in the running to replace Emily Post, but besides the occasional slip-up I did my best. In the thank you note department however, it seemed like it was more often motivated by guilt than gratitude.
My grandmother died several years ago and without her around to pester me I rarely send a thank note anymore. I try to call people or email (or sometimes send a text – my grandmother would be appalled!) to thank them for gifts or acts of kindness. In my everlasting quest for perfection however, I recently decided maybe it was time to return to the lost art of writing thank you notes. So I ordered some cards, some return address labels and some stamps. I put them all together in a container on my desk. Now I am all prepared the next time something comes up. And it is amazing how often it does! I’ve written notes to thank people for all kinds of things.
But I wondered, how do you write a “proper” thank you note? So, I did something my grandmother could have never done: I asked Google. I found out it is not as hard as I sometimes make it out to be. You start out with a salutation (“Dear Susie”). The body of the note should include thanks for the specific gift or favor (“Thank you so much for the green cashmere sweater you got me for Christmas”), followed by a sentence about the appropriateness of the gift (“I love cashmere and the color is amazing!”). Tell the recipient how you plan to use the gift or if the gift was money how you plan to spend it (“The sweater will be perfect for all those cold mornings on the way to work.”). Adding a sentence or two about the recipient is a nice touch (“It was nice to see you at the Christmas party. You look amazing and I was excited to hear about your new job. I hope it goes well.”) Make sure to sign it (“With thanks, Carla”).
That’s not so hard, is it? Maybe this is easier than I remember. I’m grateful that my grandmother taught me the lost art of thank you notes. I have tried to pass on this tradition to my children. I just hope that I can get them to do it because of gratitude not because of guilt from a nagging mother. As for me, to get started I sent a card off to my Dad thanking him for the way he raised me. I think my grandmother would be proud.