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The picture above  from the boys’ second cousin who stayed with us for a few days last month.  Leo read the card aloud and decided he needed to add on. Somehow with a mother who has never once asked him to write a thank you note Leo wanted to thank the thank you.  What if he gets a thank you for that? When will the thanking end?

I know, I JUST wrote about thank you notes. I’m not done yet. In the past two days I have gathered more ammunition in my battle against the social norms surrounding gratitude.

Saturday a hundred plus of us stood in a shallow arc looking up at the couple on the centuries old granite stairs. In this moderate sized town where most people are known to each other these two have made a larger than average mark. Their contributions include real estate developments, school board service, neighborhood committees and a restaurant which attracts enthusiastic diners way beyond the small community it was built to serve.

The beaming crowd of friends and family made up for the lack of sun as she walked up the sidewalk in her elegant white dress.  Joining him on the stairs they clasped hands through the entire ceremony. I imagined it was part nerves and part love, and more than any words their hands together made me think about the ways they were already partners and the ways they would stand together in the future.

In the crowd Steve’s hand found mine. I tried to ignore how sweaty it was.

After the vows the newlyweds stood together in a receiving line of two. Middle school math tells me that two points are in fact a line. Waiting my turn I spilled a bit of my campari and soda on my dress, which made my decision on whether or not to hug the couple of the day easier.

As I waited and dabbed at my dress I thought about what I would say to them. I have never mastered the receiving line. Perhaps some people know how to express true happiness in a way that seems personalized. I am not one of them. It turned out not to matter. As I held the bride at arms length about begin my exclamations she looked deeply into my eyes and said with great fervor.

“I owe you a thank you note.”

“What?”

“I owe you a thank you note. You sent the waffle maker and I owe you a thank you note.”

I had become the human personification of an errand.

Here on her wedding day surrounded by people who wanted to celebrate her she was keeping internal tabs on whom she still needed to thank.

This is the pinnacle of why I despise pro forma thank you notes.

If someone does something out of the ordinary and you want to offer appreciation a note can be a lovely way to do that. If society has decided that a note is necessary milestones like weddings, anniversaries, and even sympathy gifts lead directly to a whole sheaf of shoulds. And as a wedding guest I was thrust unwillingly into that role.

Gratitude should not be teased out of us by a nagging, it should come naturally. Then it still has meaning. Ideally our thanks aren’t born from a to do list, but arise unbidden as part of the threads of a relationship.

The clasped hands of the bride and groom on the evening of their wedding was more of a thank you than any note could ever be.

 

 

 

 

 

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Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble, Parent.co, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at annarosenblumpalmer.com.