Bread & Butter

The excitement of Christmas but the dread of the thank you letters to come. I remember the feeling so well. Snap and snap, the sound of our writing cases opening, as we squeezed back the brass catches. What? You didn’t have a smart little writing case with your initials embossed on the top left hand corner? Well neither did I. My sister did. Of course. As the eldest child she was given a brand spanking new case. It was glossy, grown up red leather. And perfect.  All I dreamt of was that writing case. But as the third child I got the hand-me-down, my grandmother’s pig skin writing case, peeling edges, slightly battered, a little scratched. Handed down first to my mother, from her mother, and then to me. Their initials clearly marked on the top left hand corner. No one ever got around to adding my initials. Now of course I delight in having that case and the stories it carries. Stuff my sister’s glossy red history-less case.  

We were made to sit side by side at the table, with the headed family writing paper starring unforgivingly in front of us, as the nursery clock tick-tocked slowly on. The letter had to be dated and correctly addressed…Dear Godfather Charles (yep, him)…..and then we had to thank for the present, say something about how much we liked the present, what we intended to do with the present,  and making sure to never over use the pronoun ‘I’ ask how their Christmas had been. And just as you thought you could finish, Nanny would remind us that any self-respecting properly brought up child would write enough to go over the page. Terrible manners not to go over the page. Appalling in fact. 

And then we would have to begin all over again working our way down the seemingly endless list of Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents and Godparents….by the end of which you were rather resenting the birth of Christ in the first place.  

I thought that once I was an adult the bread and butter letter would no longer be faced with dread. The art of gratitude would flow freely from my fingertips in a flourish of good manners. Mistake. As soon as I became an adult I gave birth, four times, and then fostered a fifth. And you know what that means, that means not having a moment to compose a letter of grace and wit yourself but standing over 5 children enforcing them to put pen to paper as they shout back “You’re just so old fashioned, no one does this stuff anymore” (except the 16 year old doesn’t use the word ‘stuff’. He uses a different ‘s’ word). 

This year, after Christmas, feeling overwhelmed by the thought of going back to work and getting the kids off to school I let them persuade me that writing a thank you note via email was fine. Everyone’s doing it Mum. In fact bread and butter texts seem even more common……’grt8 press thks’. Good God, What would Nanny think? 

And now I’ve let the standard slip. Is there any turning back? Or do I need to do, as my children suggest, and go with the flow. 

Hand drawn thankyou notes. I think nanny would approve.