Some things simply disappeared after the birth of our second child. Sleep. Showers. Sanity.
I hoped, desperately pleaded, each would make its way back into my life and reclaim its territory. My lifelong thank you note habit also vanished.
The lost art of a handwritten thank you note is one that I treasure. A ritual that was instilled in me from a young age, I reveled in shopping for stationary with my grandma. A woman of class and kindness, my grandma appreciated the meaning and significance behind a simple, thoughtful note and often gave us cards as birthday gifts. We’d visit my grandparents in their condo on the shores of Lake Michigan and our trips regularly included an outing to The Yellow Bird, a stationery and gift shop nearby.
My grandmother shopped regularly at The Yellow Bird. She’d carefully select gifts for her family, occasionally indulging in a handbag for herself or another simple luxury. I admired my grandmother’s poise and grace. A wise soul, she embodied class and memorable compassion, offering a smile and generosity to all with whom she interacted. She had a quiet intelligence that was understood, and a quick wit that was unparalleled.
After Christmas, it was my parent’s expectation that our thank you notes be completed promptly. I’d open my box of cards and write thoughtful notes of appreciation grounded in gratitude. I’d take special care to write a personalized letter to my grandma, mentioning how much fun I’d had with her over the holidays.
My thank you note habit followed me through life. I’d write timely notes after birthday gifts or generous gestures. If somebody went out of their way and spent precious time, energy and money on me, I knew it was important to acknowledge them and express my appreciation. I diligently wrote kind hearted words to all who gifted us when we got married. After our daughter was born, I pulled out my stationery, as I’d done so many times in my life, and I wrote.
I didn’t expect anything to change when our son was born. Initially, it didn’t. I got thank you notes out to all that showered us before he was born. Somewhere along the course of the year that followed, I realized I was not on top of my thank you notes. I was dreadfully behind, lost in the sleepless, baby stupor. I couldn’t remember who’d given us what or when. The stack of adorable baby thank you cards with tiny, little feet and rattles on them sat dormant, collecting dust, as I completely neglected this task in my life.
Shortly after my son turned one, I started to emerge as a human being again, showering regularly and sleeping for more than four hour intervals. My personality slowly returned and I vowed to rediscover my joy of thank you notes, striving to pass this habit on to my children. I have done better this year, but in the chaos that is our life, I’ve occasionally resorted to a thank you email and even thank you texts.
Despite recently falling off the thank you note wagon, writing thank you cards is a part of my personality. It’s who I am, who I want to be, and who I want my children to grow up to be. My parents and grandparents gave me the gift of recognizing others for their efforts and humanity. That is synonymous with impeccable manners, style, and grace – words that remind me of my grandma.
After my daughter turned five, I sat down with her at our dining room table and we wrote thank you cards for the generous birthday gifts she’d received. She colored in her signature pink and purple, decorating with sparkles.
Not surprisingly, she groaned and complained about this tedious task. When the whining got to be too much, I told her stories about my grandma. We talked about the significance of gratitude, and that expressing appreciation through thank you notes is a part of good manners.
We chatted about how Great Grandma Doris has the most amazing manners. My daughter smiled and said, “Oh yeah, that’s right, I want to be just like her.” I nodded and said, “Me too.”