ANDS, NONES, and THANKS

By Miko Johnston

Happy New Year everyone. The holiday season has ended, but the memory lingers for many reasons. Because of all the activity at the end of the year, I limit my writing to holiday messages and thank you notes, but as we always say – writing is writing.

Each year I buy five dozen holiday cards with messages ranging from Merry Christmas to various generic seasonal greetings. It takes a full day to pick an appropriate card and think of something to write in each one that I send to family and friends, but the annual ritual always begins with updating the mailing list before my husband prints out labels. Although I get together, or at least correspond, with many on the list, with some this is the only time of year we’re in contact. The exchange is a way to stay in touch, see how we’re doing, and send good wishes for the holiday and upcoming year.

Revising the list has become a bittersweet part of the process. In the past, most of the changes have been addresses and the occasional addition (marriage, children) or  division (divorce). However, for the past few years, most changes have been subtraction – the painful act of deleting ANDs. Don and Jean are now Don, Bert and Ruth are now Ruth. Some former ANDs become NONEs. When Don or Ruth are no longer with us, the entire entry will have to be deleted, leaving gaps in my mailing list as well as my heart.

The joy of receiving cards offsets much of that nostalgia.  I often get to see pictures of the family and hear about their adventures over the past year.  Some of the news may not be happy, but the contact always is. I set up all my cards along the living room and dining room windows, each one like a handshake, or hug, from someone dear. When I remove them in early January I take a moment to reflect on the cards that are missing, a reminder of those I’ve lost, either in body, or in mind, or who’ve just drifted away.

For me the best part of holiday gifts isn’t receiving them, but writing thank you cards. Like the holiday cards, it starts with finding the right card for the person to be thanked. I have an assortment of stationery with different designs, ranging from charming illustrations to an embossed THANK YOU. I favor classic white or cream notes with matching or coordinating envelopes. Then there’s the challenge of coming up with something fresh, sincere and meaningful to write, just the type of challenge I relish.

I always begin with pen and paper, and write out something I think may be suitable using the three-step method*. I play around with the wording until I’m happy with the results, then carefully copy it onto the note**. Unlike my holiday cards, I always hand write both the recipient’s address and my return address on the envelope. Only the stamp and the card’s design is pre-printed. To me that’s part of the thank you process.

Don’t get me started on how getting thank you notes has become rarer than a 1952 Mickey Mantle rookie card, especially from anyone under 60. However, when I do receive one I treasure it. After reading the note, I study how the sender constructed the message, admire the wording – heck, I admire the attempt! One of the best notes I’d received last year came from the grandson of a cousin, thanking my husband and me for a high school graduation gift. We winged the present based on what little we knew of his interests, but his note expressed such appreciation and gratitude, and so eloquently, that it didn’t matter that he emailed it to us. I’ll happily accept an emailed, phoned or texted note of thanks now. Frankly, some of my younger relatives can’t be bothered to even say thank you, let alone send a written note to us. Only my husband’s intervention kept me from giving them coal for Christmas. But that’s another story.

How was your holiday season? Did you receive any cards or notes that were especially meaningful? And what was your favorite part of holiday writing?

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*Thank the giver, tell them why you’re thankful, then thank them again.

**I have dysgraphia – the writing equivalent of dyslexia.

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Miko Johnston, a founding member of The Writers in Residence, is the author of the historical fiction saga A PETAL IN THE WIND, as well as a contributor to anthologies such as the newly released “Whidbey Landmarks.”

Miko lives in Washington (the big one) with her rocket scientist husband. Contact her at mikojohnstonauthor@gmail.com

18 thoughts on “ANDS, NONES, and THANKS”

  1. Hi Miko, a soul-searcher piece indeed. I too have noticed that younger people often fail to express thanks for gifts or cards, some not even sending an email or a text. Surely responding with gratitude – or at least notifying you of receipt – should not be considered a burden but a chance to reconnect and, frankly, to show polite behavior after you have spent time choosing Thank-you cards. I enjoyed seeing your photos.
    jill

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    1. I totally agree with you, Jill. My own granddaughters are guilty of no thank yous. Like you said, a brief email of receipt would be appreciated at the least.
      Good post Miko with good reminders.

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      1. Sadly, failing to thank gift givers properly, or at all, is no longer a unique problem. I wonder how the girls would react if they failed to receive gifts?

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks, Jill. I wonder why expressing thanks has fallen out of favor with some people today. Perhaps a sense of entitlement, laziness, or the assumption that there’s an app for that.

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  2. I, too, get thank you notes, some in letter form, some texts, but those usually have a picture of the recipient with the gift I sent. That’s fun. As for my Christmas cards, I have yet to do a holiday letter, just a note to mainly say I’m thinking about them and hope the New Year is great, if not better, than the previous one. And I try to mail them before St. Nicholas Day on December 6th. Most of the time I manage to get it done since I start the day after Thanksgiving. And as you said, the list is getting shorter, but the memories are still there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For those of us who’ve enjoyed decades of celebrating the holidays, we understand what’s truly important, and it has little to do with gifts.

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  3. I LOVE writing holiday cards. It gives me a chance to say something personal – to have a real connection – but yes, I know what you mean about the changes – the “ands” and “nones.” I keep all my address books so each year, I thumb through the familiar names. They say that friends are for a reason, a season or for life. I have my lifetime friends – usually from school. My seasonal friends I still keep in touch with but often, the friends for a “reason” are those that sometimes, have represented a time in my life which I would rather not dwell on. It’s such a pity that letter writing/thank you’s is such a rarity these days. Happily my immediate family still write their thank you’s (from millennials no less!) with a proper card, not a text or an email. I cherish all those notes and keep them in a special drawer. Thanks for sharing this post – it’s wonderful that I am not the only one who embraces this tradition.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love friends for reasons, seasons and for life – so true. You’re a lucky lady, Hannah. I sometimes look over the wonderful hand-written notes I’ve saved over the years, many from those no longer with us. They become more precious with time, which is something that can’t be said for a text.

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  4. I appreciate and enjoyed your emotional post, Miko. Clearly cards and notes around the holiday are important to you–as they are to most of us. I wish my handwriting was good enough for me to address and write notes on my cards the way you do! And changing the list of who gets cards–and why the changes are made–is truly emotional as well. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I confess I only hand write short notes. Anything longer gets typed on the computer, but the sentiment is straight from the heart.

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  5. I’m with Mad – a very contemplative post…. Our lives seem so busy and distracted these days, so Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year are such wonderful opportunities to reach out and reconnect with friends and loved ones.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I began the holiday card tradition long ago as a single woman whose career took me to many different cities and states. Every card I send is a question – how are you? – while every card I receive, or fail to receive, is an answer.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. A nice post, Miriam, and a way that any of us (or our readers) can be writing. Even writing a note at the bottom of a Christmas or Birthday or Thank You card can be creative. Picturing the recipiant as you write can bring your emotions into it as well. And revealing a bit of yourself to them could act as “characterization.” Thanks for getting us thinking in that direction.

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    1. Excellent point, Jackie. We send not only gifts, but our good thoughts and appreciation to people we care about when we add a note at the bottom of a card.

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  7. Beautiful post, Miko. I so admire your holiday ritual.

    I send holiday cards with personal messages, mostly to people I don’t communicate with the rest of the year. I have a problem with the folks who don’t include a personal message, even a brief one. I send the lovely Jacquie Lawson e-cards to those with whom I do stay in touch throughout the year. As for thank yous, I am diligent in sending them—my mother trained me well—but they’re rarely handwritten.

    I worked with a young woman who hand wrote her thank yous and mailed them no later than Dec. 26.

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    1. Thanks, Maggie. I’m not nearly as conscientious as your former coworker but I try to get my thank you notes out within a week, and follow up with an old-fashioned phone call to distant friends and family whom I rarely get to see anymore. Hearing their voices brings another level of comfort.

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