Thanks? Sure; Mailed Notes? Naah
Thank-you notes came in the mail, from some grandchildren. Those are nice gestures. The younger the child-thanker, the cuter the hand-written note, as a general rule.
I like getting thank-you notes, just as I like getting birthday cards.
But, these days, a Facebook message, a cellphone text message or an email message are just as acceptable to me, and just as polite. They take second place to an in-person “Thanks, Gramps!” or a live telephone call. But they don’t require cursive writing, notepaper, postage stamps or the time that go with sending thank-you notes through the mail.
I think that we are past the time when the “good manners” of gift recipients should be judged by the Victorian era custom of sending thank-you notes through the mail.
Benjamin Franklin created the Post Office in 1775.
Since then, we have invented telephones, cell phones and email.
But some etiquette doyens continue to insist that “Unless Johnny/Jane sends me a hand-written note through the mail, I must (sniff) assume that the parents are, well, just not interested in teaching (harrumph) their children good manners!”
To me, an in-person phone call from a faraway grandchild is more enjoyable than a painfully written thank-you note. An email message or text message, complete with LOL and TNX, also fills the bill.
I never did understand why some nose-in-air dolt (or doltess) decided that written thank-you notes were obligatory to acknowledge gifts given in person.
If we are face-to-face at a birthday party, just say “Thanks, Gramps!” I’ll answer, “You’re welcome!” and we’re done with it.
Requiring a kid to follow that exchange with a written note seems to me as silly as requiring “ladies” to wear white gloves and hats when attending today’s patio parties or pool parties. That attire made some sense when the parties were in formal dining rooms – and when coal and wood fuels left things so dirty that gloves served a protective purpose.
Today, though, that’s anachronistic, fuss-budgety and unnecessary.
Imagine this conversation at a cookout: “Pass the ketchup, Grandma, and watch out that you don’t soil your dainty gloves!”
I do remember my mother donning a hat and white gloves to attend Easter church service and then go to a dinner, whether at a grandparent’s house or another relative’s house, or sometimes out to a restaurant.
Times have changed since the 1940s.
We still “go out” for Easter dinner, but the gloves and hats have been rightfully relegated to the stage, movies or TV presentations of programs set in those long-ago days.
Thank-you notes, I think, should be relegated to the same dustbin.
Saying thanks by remote message does serve a useful purpose. It lets me know that I did not misaddress the package I intended to send to Ohio, but actually sent to Ogalalla, and that the gift did arrive at its intended destination.
But electronic/computer communications methods fulfill that purpose as well as a postal-mailed note and often a lot faster.
On this just-past Father’s Day, I heard from all six of my children. They all live at some distance.
Not one sent a card. Not one sent a gift.
Fine. Cards would have arrived either early or late, since there is no mail delivery on Sundays.
I don’t want or need gifts. In fact, at my time in life, I need to pay attention to getting rid of some of the accumulated gifts of previous years. What good is a new necktie to a retiree with 40 of them hanging in a closet? For that matter, why am I keeping 40 neckties when I no longer wear one during the workweek? A dozen, at most, will suffice for weddings, formal receptions and funerals. In fact, one necktie will suffice for funerals; the deceased won’t be in a position to chide me with “You wore that on your last visit to the funeral home.” That same tie will do nicely for my own funeral attire.
“But what if it’s wrinkled?”
Do you think that I will care?
What my now-grown children, all living at some distance from us, did do on Father’s Day was say “Happy Father’s Day!” via telephone calls, giving me the pleasure of hearing their voices and chit-chatting for a bit, and/or through Facebook, allowing back-and-forth banter. Happily, none used text messages. I see nothing wrong with them, but my fingers and thumbs work best on a full-sized computer keyboard, not on a truncated telephone version.
I enjoy the messages, however they are sent.
Why should we remain bound by a 19th-century standard of good manners?
To me, it’s the message that is important, whether the message is “Thanks, Gramps!” or “Happy Father’s Day.” The methodology ought to be convenient and easy, so that the sending of it doesn’t get in the way of the saying of it.
Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.