I don’t know what kids learn in school these days. I have a feeling they don’t learn many useful skills any more, except maybe typing and how to operate a computer. Those are certainly good things to know how to do.
But back when I was in school, they taught us some really useful things now and again. I especially remember a unit in junior high English where we learned how to write a proper “thank you” letter. I like to write thank you notes, and I still keep in mind all the necessary elements of a good letter. Just for fun, I will review these elements with you now, and will provide many helpful examples so that you also can learn to write your own thank you letters.
1. Start with a simple opening. The word “Dear” works well in any circumstance, though you may skip that and write only the reader’s name if you so desire.
Dear Mom and Dad,
2. In the first sentence of your letter you should simply thank the reader(s) for their gift or hospitality.
Thank you for taking me and my brothers on that trip to California when I was nine.
3. In the rest of the first paragraph, you can summarize the favor or gift, discussing generally how much you enjoyed it.
It was such great fun driving all the way to California from Chicago! I’m glad we got to see so many different sights over the three weeks that we were together, and it was neat for me to get to sit in the middle of the back seat with Rich and Bill in our non-air-conditioned car in August! That kind of heat sure put everyone in a great mood, yourselves included!
4. Write several subsequent paragraphs to make up the “meat” of the letter. Discuss exactly what you liked about the gift. In cases where you were a guest of someone’s hospitality, write about some of the activities in which you participated with your host, and elaborate as to why each activity was meaningful for you.
It was such a great idea to take our old Chrysler on that trip. It was so fun when it started breaking down every ten miles as we attempted to cross the desert in New Mexico. It’s exciting to think back about how we could have died out there in the heat if that nice man with the tow truck hadn’t stopped by to give us a ride!
It was really neat that we spent the entire following week driving about ten miles and then breaking down again, delaying the trip for a day or two each breakdown. I’m sure glad there was a Motel 6 in just about every little town we came across!
I also especially enjoyed how Mom screamed at Dad, in the car, at full decibel just about every day of the trip. It was great to see you work out your marriage difficulties in front of us boys, one of whom had just gotten out of the mental hospital in time to take the trip with us! I mean, why wait until we’re adults to learn how to swear and cuss at your spouse?
Thanks also, Mom, for the night you had that huge fight with Dad and then made Rich sleep in your spot after Dad had fallen asleep. It was really smart, and not at all a boundary issue as some might say, for you to get into my bed because you were too mad at Dad to sleep next to him.
Then it was really cool when Dad woke up, saw Rich in his bed and threw a huge fit, waking all of us up. The scene you two created that night is one I will never forget! I have such fond memories of running out of the room and down the Motel 6 stairs because you were scaring me. Just think what could have happened to me if Rich hadn’t caught me and kicked me really hard, full in the stomach, to stop me from running away.
I’m really glad you didn’t apologize later and admit that anything was wrong with your behavior. Kids don’t need to hear that weak-minded kind of stuff from their parents. They need strong and decisive role models!
I was really glad when we finally made it to California so that we could stay with your brother. It was really cool, Mom, how you stayed up late every night getting drunk with him out by the pool. And those funny neighbors who used to complain every night about the noise! What a bunch of goofs! Can’t they tell when someone’s just having a good time?
5. Close with one more paragraph wherein you summarize the gift or favor, reassuring the reader of your gratitude. If you so desire, you may invite the reader to enjoy some hospitality in return, though this is certainly not mandatory.
Our family trip to California produced many memories for me, very special memories that I have enjoyed discussing with three different therapists over the years. And so today, all these years later, I just wanted to send a special note of thanks to remind you of how much I appreciated that trip, and especially about how you made me feel so safe and cared for the entire time. And please, if the two of you have any time in the near future, I wanted to invite you to go fuck yourselves.