I had my appendix out when I was nine years old. I missed seventeen and a half days of school, according to my report card, and I stood third, the first and only time, behind the boy and the girl who usually stood second and third behind me. I received get-well cards and presents, from my parents’ friends and my relatives and school friends and my school class: books and soap and bubble bath , etc., and a box of writing paper. I used all of it writing thank-you letters to the people who had given me gifts. I wrote their names on the envelopes but I didn’t know how to address them and mail them, so the finished letters sat in the writing box.
When I returned to school, so did another little girl who had also been away. The teacher read a letter aloud to the class, a letter from the other little girl thanking them all for their get-well present and card. I died. No letter ever came from me. My letters were still in my writing box, unsent.
That’s why I am an obsessive stickler about thank-you letters. I demand them of myself. I also demand them of other people.
These days you can get away with email thanks and some people manage to do that and in casual cases that works, but not, in my brainwashed opinion, for a real gift.
I am not alone in this.
As you probably know by now (all three of you who read me regularly) I clip and save and read and quote articles I read in newspapers and magazines. I have a whole folder of pieces about thank-you letters. Graydon Carter, the editor of Vogue magazine, writes thank-you letters. Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook millionaire, made a recent new year resolution – forget which year – to write a thank-you letter every day. The equivalents of Miss Manners all over North America, regularly urge people to write their thank-yous. Of course, there are other reasons to say thank you: for an unexpected kindness, a thoughtful deed, a generous gesture, a well-performed task, and less commonly now, thanks to email, a good dinner. I’ll allow that, sometimes.
This has been on my mind recently because I have been under house arrest with my leg injury, unable to get to a mail box or post office, so I have been leaning on email.
It’s not the same.
It’s a matter of class.