My parents had us over for dinner two weeks ago for my birthday. It was a combined celebration as both my mom and I were born less than 30 days after Christmas. By the time our day rolls around, people are done celebrating. My parents made dinner – a cholesterol fest as my dad put it – of fried chicken, black eyed peas, potatoes and corn bread. It is the kind of meal that we had often when I was a kid, but I never make it for my own family. I enjoyed the stroll down memory lane, but my kids were not as enthused. I thanked my parents for the meal at the dinner table, in the kitchen while we were cleaning up and as we were saying goodbye.

My mom and I exchanged gifts, too. I got some nice things – gift card, a purse, my favorite wine and some wine accessories. I gave my mom camera accessories to go with the camera that my dad gave her for Christmas. My grandmother was there with us too and gave me a wonderful gift (blog for another day). In addition to the nice dinner (and too much dessert) and gifts, we had a great time catching up on family gossip and talking about the good ole days.

All in all, it was a good way to spend a Sunday. We said goodbye and thanked each other for the gifts again. When I got home, I put everything away (I was sent home with leftovers, too) and made a note to write a thank you card – just like I was taught. By Tuesday, my mother’s thank you card had already arrived. Mine is still waiting to be written.

My mother is the queen of Ms. Manners. She quotes her often and is right on time with cards, flowers and gifts. When I told her of a friend’s mom passing, her first response after “I’m sorry to hear that” was “Send me her address.” I think she writes her thank you cards the same evening she gets a gift and I don’t think she understands why Hallmark made the belated birthday card section. With such an example, you might wonder why I frequent the belated birthday card section or why it takes me so long to get a simple thank you card out. Maybe it skips a generation.

It’s not that I am ungrateful. Part of it is laziness. Thank you cards only take 5 minutes to write. I can fit that in anywhere, yet somehow it always gets pushed to the bottom of the list. Part of it is not knowing what to say. My great aunt (who puts my mom to shame on the lengthy and prompt thank you cards) came to my house for Thanksgiving. She brought me a flowering cactus that was beautiful. She spent the day with us. The thank you card I wrote went something like this:

Dear Aunt Frances,
Thank you for the beautiful flowering cactus! I put it in the living room so everyone could see it. I am so glad you and Paul could spend the day with us. Enjoy the rest of the holiday season!

Lame! All I did was to state the obvious. The flower was beautiful. She saw me put it in the living room. I told her at the door when she left that I was glad she could spend the day with us. Enjoy the rest of the holiday season? She and her husband would probably spend the day alone. Who would enjoy that thank you card?

I think the thank you cards for attending wakes is unnecessary. What do all the family members say to you at the wake when they see you? “Thank you for coming.” Do we really need to make the grieving family send a preprinted (and now even preaddressed) card thanking us for coming to their loved ones wake? I am sure they have plenty of other things to do.

Personally, I think the art of the thank you card is dying. Although I have taught my kids to send thank you cards, I don’t actually agree with them. If you opened a gift in front of someone and thanked them then and there, it should be done. If, when you get home, you want to gush over the gift again, give that person a call and tell them. In the case where a gift is mailed to you or if it is a large party and you open gifts afterwards alone, then yes, I think you should send a card.

And does it have to be a card? The only plus for thank you cards is that you are getting something in the mail that is not a bill. Is a thank you call or email acceptable? I think so, but it depends on the person. A thank you text is pretty bad, so I don’t recommend it. All I am saying is that if someone gives you a gift, you should thank them in whichever way you think is best. It’s the thought that counts, right?