I'm currently mortified because I didn't send thank you notes after my birthday this year. The flowers have long since drooped and died, but other presents -- a couple of gift cards, an adult coloring book (very Zen), a cuff bracelet -- are tangible reminders of my negligence. It's not like me and I feel guilty. It's not that I'm not grateful. I am. And I was raised better than to blow off this time-honored tradition and most basic piece of etiquette.
My mom drilled into me as soon as I could write, it seems, the importance of acknowledging a gift-giver's thoughtfulness and generosity. After every Christmas and birthday she provided me with stationery, stamps and addresses, and hounded me until I wrote my notes. The year she gave me sealing wax and a brass stamp with an "M" on it I couldn't wait to get to the task so I could light the deep red wax like a candle and watch, mesmerized, as it dripped onto the back of the envelopes. I'm grateful for the lesson. My mom taught me it's important to express gratitude and let the people I care about know I don't take them for granted.