The lost art of the Thank You Note

My mom was the queen of care packages, and the inspiration and guiding spirit behind Mom in the Mail.  I even wrote a letter to her the morning I opened for business, which happened to be her birthday (you can read it here) .  She would have turned 76.  

Not only was my mom was a very wise and giving woman, she was also stickler for old fashioned courtesy. My sister and I were drilled from an early age that every gift or good deed deserved a hand-written note of thanks and so we would sit, pencils scratching, pigtails hanging down, concentrating as we hunched over our stationary:  

"Dear Auntie Agnes.  Thank you for the wonderful card and the five dollars.  I will buy something extra special with it and think of you".

I tried to pass this tradition on to my own kids, and it soon became torturous for all of us.

Me:  Time to write your thank-you notes!

Them:  Why? I told them thank you at the party.

Me: Because it's polite.  They went to all the trouble of getting you this gift. The least you can do is thank them properly.

Them:  OK, I'll thank them again at school on Monday. And I'll do it super properly and everything. Now can I go play with my stuff?

To make my point another way, I would hold up envelopes received from their friends in the mail and wave them around triumphantly.

Me: Looks like you got a thank you note!

Them: Uh huh. She's got a mean mom, too. Just toss it.

Honestly.  And that was before texting was even a thing because these were conversations I had with them when they were six.  Was it just me?

Back to Mom. Towards the end of her life, she was living in a small studio apartment in a building for seniors, and had really pared down to a few essential belongings.  A set of kitchenware, cozy comfortable clothes she bought on sale and one or two nice things for special occasions, photographs of her grandchildren, my sister and me, her windowsill plants, plus the occasional little knick knack from a friend or a place or a time that meant something to her.  My sister and I were surprised, when we had to go through the place when she died, to find we could easily fit all that she'd cared about into the trunk of my car and drive away.

When I was writing that letter for her birthday, I went into the garage and opened up the plastic bin of her things I'd kept. There was a box inside stuffed full of letters and cards. As I began unfolding them, I realized what they were.

Thank you notes.  From her care packages. 

She had kept every single one.  They came with baby announcements and photos, family news and well wishes.  Many were in childish handwriting simply addressed to "Grandma Rose." 

It turns out that thank you notes mean the world to the person who gets them*.  Especially if that person is a person who sent a care package.

That's why every Mom in the Mail box comes with a pre-addressed, pre-stamped Thank You Note. The recipient may text you or call you or say thank you (properly or not), when they see you again, but maybe, just maybe, you'll hear this next time you come in the door:

"Looks like you got a thank you note!"

We've done our best to make the old fashioned method of gratitude as painless as possible.  It's hard to keep thank you Snapchats in a keepsake box.

We've done our best to make the old fashioned method of gratitude as painless as possible.  It's hard to keep thank you Snapchats in a keepsake box.

*Except if the recipient is six.  Then they will not care at all.