Part of the intrigue of a good Jane Austen novel is their method of communication. Unless you were face to face, communication was s-l-o-w. Sending a letter by mail or courier was the only way to extend information, personal or professional. I picture two characters in separate homes on a split screen. One is wearing a lace jabot and brocade jacket; the other, a tight velvet bodice with a plunging neckline, both sitting at a desk on their respective screens. They pause to consider every word as they craft their love letter to one another, a puddle of sealing wax is burned over an envelope and stamped closed with a flourish! Love was proclaimed to the object of one’s affection with the written word.
In war times, many a military man has stayed alive because of the courage they found between the lines of a love letter. Everything but bodies connected with the words on each page.
My sister has a stack of love letters that were written between my mom and dad long ago. I have never read them, but they are crumbling at the edges, tied up with a grosgrain ribbon. My dad’s big, chunky handwriting scrawled across envelope and page, my mom’s curved lines, so tiny and difficult to read that you could practically read whatever you wanted her to say, both conveying that their longings were mutual and the distance, any distance between them was unsatisfactory. So romantic!
If my parents were still alive, they would now be considered part of the Traditionalist generation and would be part of the oldest generations on our planet today. They lived through the depression (or were raised by parents who had gone through it). They had known hard times, but through hard work, frugality and resourcefulness, became more prosperous than their parents.
Those once young lovers who wrote love letters continued to write letters throughout their lifetimes to adult siblings, friends, kids who had left the nest, and finally their grandkids. It is the way of their generation. The way to show love.
Then the taught their children. The letter-writing curriculum starts with a proper thank you note. Sent through the post office. Then it progresses to making a distant cousin or friend a pen pal till one of the two fails to reciprocate. Or may be an invitation to a birthday party or family celebration? I remember writing the family Christmas letter once! It was such an honor to be considered old enough to represent our family!
But this Traditionalist Generation is chiefly the “Guardian of the Thank You Note.”
I bet that you have heard something like this, or even said it: “You know, I sent your son a birthday gift two weeks ago and I haven’t gotten a thank you note. Do you know if he received it?”
That’s code for “I’m the last generation of the Love Letter and if your kids don’t send me a thank you note, I truly don’t know that they love and appreciate me.”
Can you imagine how they feel? This entire generation of love-letter-writers? When they give a gift of love, large or small, to an adored grandchild and they receive no note? They really are not the ‘thank you note police.’ They are just looking for love the way love is understood by their generation.
The Bible mentions the sending of a letter 73 times from Old Testament to New. Each letter carries a profound message for the recipients.
“So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.” Acts 15:30-31
Thank you notes, no matter how simple, are profound messages to the Traditionalist Generation. If Grandma is giving you the cold shoulder these days, write a note, show her love the way she understands it, and watch how your encouragement softens her attitude.
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