I came into the concept of thank you notes late in my childhood – my family had always either thanked the giver in person (when receiving the gift in person) or called to thank the giver (when received through the mail). Until I was fourteen, I honestly thought that thank you notes were only for wedding gifts.
When I was twelve – nearly thirteen, my uncle married my aunt-in-law, and they soon after traveled overseas for work for a year. As such, I did not get to know my aunt very well before this incident took place.
I didn’t communicate with them regularly while they were overseas – I sent my uncle emails for their birthdays, wedding anniversary and Christmas, but otherwise I let my father be the one to communicate with my uncle as they were sending ‘family emails’ back to my dad. I did not receive a birthday present this year, but before he’d moved my uncle had begun joking that now I was a teenager he’d stop giving me gifts, so I assumed that he had decided to do just that. A year later, my uncle and aunt returned, but they were living several states away near my grandmother, so I was not able to see them until we traveled across country for Christmas.
When we did arrive at my grandmother’s house, my father was told that my aunt had declared I was not welcome in her house. I’d offended her by not sending her a thank you note for my birthday card and gift that last year. The same birthday card, I explained when my father confronted me, that I had never received. After several minutes of interrogation by my father, he concluded that I was being truthful, and that the birthday card had most likely been lost in the international mail. I understand it took much longer for him, with my uncle acting as a character witness, to convince my aunt of this, but the ban was rescinded and I was allowed into her house to celebrate New Year’s.
Several weeks after my family had gone back home, my father received a phone call from my uncle. I was once again banned from their home, as I had not sent a thank you note in the mail; as we’d had Christmas together, I had instead thanked them in person.
Dame Etiquette, I do not believe I was wrong for not thanking my uncle and aunt for a gift I did not receive, but being unwelcome in their house for a first offense – where I’d never been given any indication that they wanted physical notes from then on – seems extreme to me. Perhaps I’m too close to this situation to judge correctly? Was I really so rude in that I didn’t send a thank you card the second time that the ban was understandable, even when the only previous indication I had that they wanted a written thank-you was when they were out of the country (and thus too expensive for the phone call that I’d grown up with)? 0222-13
Where were your parents in this? Did your Mom and Dad write and send thank you notes for the gifts they received or is this just etiquette expected only of you? As a parent, I can tell you what my reactions would be to this….”Really, Sis? You are going to create family tension and drama during the holidays which effects everyone because you didn’t get a thank you note months earlier? You waited until now to address this offense you have?” I would have further advised my sister-in-law to not give any further gifts if the lack of a prompt receipt of a thank you note was going to ruin her gift giving joy.
And where is your grandmother? You are at your grandmother’s house and yet your aunt-in-law is making declarations that you are not welcome in her own house? There is a decidedly strong sense of arrogance and a willingness to be offended while creating drama in someone else’s home.
Regardless of your actions, your aunt-in-law is a control freak drama queen who is facilitated by your father, apparently your mother, your uncle and your grandmother, none of whom appear to have put a stop to Aunt’s antics. And no, you do not need to send a written thank you note for a gift given, opened and the giver face to face thanked by the recipient.