Confessions of a well intended, bad mannered, grateful ingrate
If I could only write out thank you cards immediately, I would open up a whole section of my brain that is currently reserved and utilized solely for self-flagellation. Did I mention my self-induced cringing when I think of my own apparent lack of gratitude every time I look at gifts from loved ones, which are evidence of my etiquetteal oversights?
I AM grateful for the thoughtful and lovely things people give to me and our daughter. Not that anyone would know it. Because I keep forgetting to send thank-you cards to the generous friends and family who bestowed these gifts upon me.
Two months ago, my neighbor Nadine gave us these adorable wooden letters that spell our M-A-G-G-I-E, and I have yet to give her a thank you card.
My friend Jen and her new husband Steve hosted a great night out last weekend, which I enjoyed immensely. I intend to send a card to thank them for their generosity. But I haven’t done it yet.
My cousins Tiffany and Shanna gave Maggie these fantastic books last year for Christmas. My cousin Andy’s wife and my cousin Amy sent these adorable overalls and a little crocheted sweater last winter. I meant to get a card out right away. But I never did.
Basically two thirds of the people who have given Maggie a birthday or Christmas present in the last 2.5 years have not received a thank-you card. I am terrible. REALLY. I am.
Yet, here I sit, cringing.
At my desk at work sits a thank you card for friends of ours for a wedding gift. They gave us a lovely set of Henkels steak knives in their very own butcher block. I wrote out the card and hung onto it because they were in the midst of a move, and I did not yet have their new address. That was three years ago September.
The card is actually written and sealed, and has been for over three years, yet there it sits. I wonder if it’s too late to send it in.
These same friends were over for dinner a while back, and as she and I worked in the kitchen together, she took notice of my knives. I totally froze, broke out into a cold sweat, and secretly wished for our really bad country-themed linoleum to swallow me up. She started asking questions. Did I put them in the dishwasher? Why did we have two kinds of knives? She was torturing me on purpose. I knew it. I called her bluff and casually reminded her that they had given us the fabulous knives, and that we used them all the time. “Huh” she sniffed. Did I detect an eensy weensy bit of hostility? Part of me feared a sharp knife to my socket. But I deserved to sweat a little. I mean, three years? Come on.
The truth is, I think of my cousins Tiffany and Shanna every time we read Maggie’s favorite books, all of which came from them, and for which I have yet to send thank you cards. They gave them to us last Christmas. I marvel at how they managed to know exactly what Maggie would love (an enormous encyclopedia of animals complete with hundreds of illustrations, most of which Maggie can now identify, a huge book of fairy tales full of dragons, and a book called “Maggie and the Monster” which she can recite the first 5 pages of from memory at barely 2 years old.
Then I wince at my own personal scourge of bad manners. I am a heel. Not only that, but my cousin Tiffany, one of the benefactors, is a master of correspondence. Not only does she always send a thank you card, or postcard when traveling around the world, but she writes all sorts of great things that show she out THOUGHT into her notes. She puts me to SHAME.
I think of our friends every time we use those steak knives.
I am grateful. Yet I am haunted by shame about my own bad manners.
Last year for Christmas, my mother-in-law gave me an enormous box of thank you cards. She is the kind of person who will make sure you get a card no more than 48 hours after having her over for dinner. I took the hint and promised myself I would try harder. I don’t think its’ going so well.
Here is the question. At what point do you look like an absolute freak for sending out a thank-you note? Is there a sane limit? Because I can remember a wedding gift I meant to send but never did that dates back to about 1995. And I KNOW they would think I was koo-koo nuts if I sent it out now (mainly because I haven’t seen them for eleven years).
In addition, is it selfish of me to send them out at this point only to clear my own tortured conscience? Isn’t that selfish in and of itself? How do I clear my mind and pay up these karmic debts?
This is the part where you add your two cents. But no flagellation, guilting or mocking. It’s already been self-induced three ways to Tuesday.