I give you… thank-you notes.
Yes, I know I’m a bad, bad mutha. But please tell me it’s not just me.
They’re like the black dog lurking at the birthday party, totting down an ever-growing to-do list as you watch your child open presents with gleeful abandon. It’s not that I object to the notion of saying thank you. Quite the opposite, in fact. It’s more that, as a method of conveying gratitude, surprise and affection, I’m just not sure that they’re very effective or rewarding for either party.
For a start there is the sheer joyless bulkitude of them. I get as excited as the microbe by what people buy for him and I always intend to write his surrogate thank-yous straight away, while the flush of genuine delight and gratitude is still fresh. But the reality is that I hardly ever find the time and end up carrying the list around with me for several weeks, praying all the while that I won’t get one of those “Did James like my present?” messages before I’ve had a chance to post the notes.
Eventually I end up banging them out in rapid succession during my work lunch hours or on crowded train journeys and, try as I might to convey precisely what it was that the boylet loved about each present, I can’t help but feel that the message loses some of its vibrancy in the churn.
Then there is the fact that the etiquette varies widely by person. You’re pretty much guaranteed to surprise someone, either by failing to send an expected note or by sending one that appears to set a precedent for excessive note-sending. I have always been of the mind that thank-you notes are the next-best way to express gratitude to those people who were not present to be thanked and kissed in person when their present was opened. But these days I frequently receive thank you notes from people who have already thanked me effusively in person, which compels me to reciprocate for fear of being mistaken for a dreadful ingrate. (Should I should be sending a thank-you note for their thank you note?)
As is our wont, G and I have been discussing ways in which technology might offer a better solution. Ideally I’d like something with a little more immediacy and personality that doesn’t require people to be available on the end of a phone line at the precise moment of opening.
This year we had a go at videoing the microbe opening some of his presents with the idea of sending out a little Youtube video of his delighted reactions. This was good in theory but the amount of overblown processing and error messages that my Mac threw at me, merely to import, format and share a 3-minute video from my HD camera was insane. Next time I think I may try out one of these newfangled options like Vine or Instagram on my iPhone, to see if we can send a fun little video e-card from the Microbe. Beware, family members – you may find yourselves on the receiving end of some tests!
(PS – notes are in the post!)