Better Thank Grandma!


OK, I’ve had it! My suppressed anger is starting to boil. For many years I’ve complained to friends and anyone who would listen about the lost art of correspondence. No one sends thank-you notes. When there’s a lull in the conversation, I don’t chitchat about the weather or brag about my grandchildren. I get right to one of my pet peeves: Why don’t people respond when they receive a gift?

I know enough not to engage anyone younger than 50 in this diatribe. Snail mail has gone the way of the dinosaurs. If you are over 50, you might remember those forced letters parents made their children write. They were of the order “Thanks for the pajamouse you sent me for my birrday. It was jest what I wanted.” The misspelled words made them all the more treasured and endearing.

As an aside to gift giving, I digress to discuss children’s books. They are often the gifts selected by grandparents and elderly aunts. From experience, I’ve discovered that classic children’s literature is mostly bought by the older generation. The books gather dust in the few remaining bookstores because kids don’t read them anymore. The tomes are usually placed at eye level so elderly buyers don’t have to bend down. Grandmothers glance through the beautifully illustrated pages in reveries of nostalgia. They may see an illustration of Heidi chasing after goats with Peter, then maybe a beautiful picture of Mary, Dickon and Colin in The Secret Garden. “That’s it,” they think. “I’ll buy this for my niece. She’ll love it!”

Let me caution you. She will not love it. The curative joys of planting seeds are not relevant for today’s children, who do not set foot outside alone. If it’s not soccer or a planned play date, girls and boys are inside on electronic devices. If you are old, and I mean over 50, I caution you not to buy something you like. It will not be read. To put it bluntly, reading about poor children in the Alps or young people finding happiness in gardens is extremely boring to them. Today’s children are into dystopia and the Walking Dead. If it’s not on their laptops, Kindles or phones, it’s outdated. The book won’t be read and you will not get a thank-you note.

Just to make my crankiness clear, I am not talking about thank-you notes for gifts received in person. When I am in the midst of family and friends, a simple spoken thank-you is enough. Many friends and family members live at a distance so I am referring to presents purchased, wrapped and hauled to the post office. Very often I receive no phone call, no text and most often no written response to tell me the package has been received.

Now let’s fast forward to the 21st century because I am obviously living in the past. I think I’ve made the case that written notes are almost obsolete. I have mailed packages for weddings, showers, birthdays, graduations and occasions of all kinds. Many times, I have never received an acknowledgement, not even a phone call or email! What has happened to good manners? I could write a book about failure to respond to invitations, but I’ll wait until I’m feeling grouchier. If adults do not reply, one can hardly expect children to respond.

I have come up with a solution. I have joined the modern world and am able to text. I have been told by my grandchildren that it is very bad form not to answer a message. Next time I hit the post office to mail a gift, I will text the recipient to ask “if U received it & if U like it.” If I don’t get a response, that will be the end of any other gifts for the calendar year. Somehow I think my message will be received. I’ve decided to add a “bonus bump-up” gift if I do get a hand-written note. After all, a letter amid all the junk mail is a precious gift and deserves a reward.

Kathleen Donnelly lives in Beach Haven Terrace.


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