Recently, I gave a thank you gift to a friend who had taken me out to lunch. Her lunch treat had been a thank you for a favor my husband and I had performed for her after she suffered an automobile accident. She was not seriously injured, but her car was totaled, and the paperwork was traumatizing.

So I help out a friend, she takes me to lunch to show appreciation, and then I give her a gift to say thank you for the thank you lunch. Where does it all end?

And let me get this out of the way right up front. It is perfectly fine to say thank you and let that be it. To smile thank you or hug thank you and let that be it. An email or a text is a perfect thank you at times. I refuse to be tyrannized by Dear Abby’s conventions of thank you noting.

But here we are at Valentine’s Day, and I still have a few thank you notes that I really want to write for Christmas gifts. Don’t laugh. I also still have Christmas decorations upstairs, lying atop the bed that is nearest to the attic door.

I have written many notes, sincere notes, but I have been stymied in completing my grateful correspondence by four things:

1. Procrastination – My procrastination is hereditary and is tied up with my laziness and my desire to read every book in the library. “Just do it!” hasn’t helped me much.

2. My status as an aspiring writer — I have sort of learned to say a simple thank you in a simple note, but I can hardly seal it. I am always afraid of being judged as a writer and tend to try to write literary odes in praise of any gift. For example I might write — on the third try — “Thank you for the fabulous soap. It smells like my grandmother’s garden after the rain and leaves my hands clean and soft. And it is the perfect color for my bathroom. Thank you! Thank you!” I am so surprised that someone likes me enough to give me a gift that I tend to gush.

3. Mrs. Jackson and Mrs. Crawley, respectively — who scarred me in third and eleventh grade. Both made me write grammatically correct, lyrical, specific, and sincere thank you notes — and graded me on them. I remain traumatized.

4. My truly inadequate prose in the face of thoughtful and creative gifting.

How do you say thank you for the world’s best pumpkin bread? The best coffee cake in the universe? Jam made from home grown, hand-picked blueberries? Pat Peek’s pecan pie? Healthy herbal creams and salves? A yearly pass to Gibbs Gardens — an extended gift of beauty and pleasure? A basket made from braided newspaper pages?

One friend went to Pawhuska, Okla., to the Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile and brought me back a set of Southern Country measuring spoons. They are labeled a drop, a smidgen, a pinch, a dash and a tad! Aunt Belle would have loved it. I have not written her a note because I am still speechless at receiving such a thoughtful, clever, meaningful gift.

Another friend gave me a jar of honey captured from bees who gathered nectar from the blossoms of my old neighborhood near Winder. Every time I eat the honey I am transported to the lost world of my childhood, not just metaphorically and emotionally, but through a real physical connection. I cry every morning, now.

I just want to take all my women friends by the hand, look them in the eye, and say, “I am honored that you get me. You are so thoughtful. And I apologize for the United States Postal Service stamps I gave you for Christmas.”

Instead of lamenting the sorry state of my gifting and correspondence, perhaps I should just go on and try to be more creative and thoughtful in my Galentine gifts. My girl friends will appreciate paper napkins in their favorite colors, a pound of butter, an ounce of herbal foot cream — anything that says, “I appreciate your friendship.”

Anything that says, “I get you. I like you.”

And I’ll be honest.

Anything that gets me out of writing more thank you notes.

Cheryl Hilderbrand is a Jackson writer and educator. Email her at

cmhild@bellsouth.net.

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