Well hello and happy Monday boys and girls. I for one am happy all the talk about turkey and giblets and blah blah blah is over, and I figure we’ve got at least another week before everyone begins with fruitcake and Santa jokes. Then again, I really love Christmas, so it’s entirely possible I’ll be writing of candy canes and eggnog by Friday.
For the youngins out there, I'm talking about the hair vacuum, not the urban dictionary definition of a flowbie.
While watching The Shining over the weekend, Jack Nicolson’s typewriter prompted a conversation about how we are probably the last generation that remembers having one in the house when we were kids. Also on our list were rotary phones and Flowbees. We may or may not have had a cocktail or two, thus impairing our ability to think up better items for the list, but whatever.
Anyway, I typically think of myself as being young. I’m health conscious, modern medicine can work wonders, and so barring any unforeseen events, like getting run over by a tractor or something, the probability that I’ll rock this world for another fifty years or more is high. By my calculations that puts me square in the young category, right? But then I read this little blurb about cursive writing. In the not too far off future, it will be a lost skill, which made me feel a little old.
Predictably, given the use of keyboards for almost everything, cursive writing has been removed from school curriculum, or made optional, by a number of states. Surprisingly California is keeping cursive as a mandatory part of third grade programs. I taught a 100-level course at a CSU for several years, and the number of incoming freshman that didn’t know the difference between there, their and they’re was astoundingly high. Hell, a sizeable portion of my class each quarter didn’t know to capitalize the personal pronoun I. But I guess the important thing is that they all know cursive.
Wait, where am I going with this? Oh, right, handwriting. So, it seems a little strange to think that babies born today will very likely not learn cursive. My first thought was, well how will they sign their names? In block letters? But they probably won’t have to sign anything, instead they’ll swipe the chip imbedded in their arm, or use retinal scanning, or something. I get that the act of writing will soon be unnecessary, and I’m not pining for it or anything. And actually, that isn’t even the point of my post (geez, are we really four paragraphs in and still not to the point?). What I’d really like to discuss is manners.
When I was a kid, my parents drilled a number of common courtesies into my head, and I was reprimanded for not following them. You always say please and thank you, elders are addressed as ma’am and sir, a request begins with ‘May I’, and so on. In other words, my folks taught me to be polite. I never had a problem with any of the above, they are just words, and it’s easy enough to use them, but the one polite convention I dreaded as a kid was writing thank you notes. My parents, however, made me do it anyway, and as an adult I send thank you’s because that is what you do. It’s common courtesy, and one that a number of people lack.
At the end of the summer we attended a wedding. Exactly one week later we received a handwritten thank you card from the bride and groom, which impressed me. Talk about being on the ball. Around that same time we attended a birthday party for someone’s kid in which no thank you was sent (and no verbal thank you at the party either). I thought it was rather rude. And there are certain people we send gifts to yearly and have not once received a thank you card or email. I fully realize a gift is given to bring joy, not to receive acknowledgement, and it would never stop me from sending a gift. But I find it curious they don’t think a thank you of some form is the proper thing to do upon receiving a present.
I’m not necessarily saying a pack of cards needs to be purchased, a letter written, addressed, stamped and mailed out. For example, we have some friends with a daughter to whom we always send a Christmas gift. While she does not mail a thank you card, we do get pictures and a short note sent to us via email on Christmas day. One year it was a photo of her opening the gift accompanied by one of her holding up a piece of paper with Thank You written on it. Another was a long series of pics with her posing in all sorts of silly ways with what we sent. In my view, it serves the same purpose as a traditional note, it’s polite acknowledgement. With long form handwriting becoming a thing of the past, it makes sense email will become the typical method for thank you’s. A little clip art and some smiley-faced emoticons work just as well. I’m totally fine with that, to me the important thing is the response, although I still mail handwritten cards and probably always will.
So, my question to you guys is this – do you still send thank you notes? And if you have kids, regardless of their ages, do you have them send some form of acknowledgement, whether it’s a note, email, video, etc? Or is it, like cursive writing, a thing of the past?