For my non American readers, Target is a store in the US that carries a lot of stuff. Clothes, gadgets, tools, toys, housewares, cosmetics, groceries. Its not high end fancy stuff in general, but adequate in quality. It turns out there are Target stores in India and a few in Canada. There’s a store a few miles from my home and its a go-to location for many items, including the subject of this post, the thank you note.
As a child, writing a thank you note was required anytime a gift was received, the primary occasions in my life being birthdays and Christmas. In my day (I’m sounding archaic here), graduation gifts (and ceremonies) did not appear until high school. Back to the thank you note. I didn’t like writing them as a child, I just wanted to go on with my life and use the stuff I was given, or ignore it, as the case may be. However, my mom insisted that they be completed and mailed, in what may be another archaic tradition.
I actually like the practice of the thank you note. Formally acknowledging a gift is a decent discipline, and I think doing so forces one to take in receipt a bit more slowly, and create a human level exchange, not just an anonymous raking in of loot. There are challenges involved, including how to craft the note, and also what to say when one is given a gift that does not suit. The stack of unused granny style nightgowns I received from my maternal grandmother comes to mind. She and my mother loved them, I strangled in them, and I had to say thank you anyway. One year, my grandmother stayed in my room during a visit, discovered the still wrapped stack in a bottom drawer and the gift ceased. I don’t recall what, if anything, took its place.
Now, as an older person myself, I wonder about thank you notes. I still write them, and I receive them on occasion. My sister’s daughters were schooled in this tradition, and send them with some regularity. Less so for the children of my two brothers and my brothers themselves. On occasion, I’ll get one, and often I don’t. Sometimes I’ll get an electronic acknowledgement, via email or text. That’s okay, I suppose, although in particular, a text feels odd. Not long ago, I got a card from a nephew who just finished college. I was happy to get the card, and equally entertained when he signed it with his full name. He’d been doing job interviews and such, so I suppose he was in business mode.
In this season of graduations, weddings and all manner of celebrations, I’m pondering thank you notes again. I know they are not entirely archaic, as Target sells a lot of them. When to send them? Certainly the guidelines I was given as a child could still apply. It also occurs to me that if a formal invitation, with its implication of a gift, is extended, then a formal acknowledgment of said gift might also be appropriate.
Thoughts? Are thank you notes an archaic tradition? Written versus electronic? Should children be encouraged to write them? Do you write them, do you like to receive them?