MODESTO -- On this glorious Thanksgiving Day, let's revisit the concept of the handwritten thank-you note.
I think they might have some on display at the McHenry Museum or the Smithsonian.
Just kidding, of course. Well, sort of. It's just that in this era of texting and the social media, folks and the younger ones in particular rarely take the time to jot down some gratitudinal pleasantries, attach a stamp and drop a card in the mail.
When we do receive them as was the case recently after my wife and I hosted a barbecue for some longtime friends it makes me feel a bit guilty about not being better at sending them myself.
Otherwise, it's a dying practice, as evidenced by the fact that Hallmark last month announced it will close its card manufacturing plant in Topeka, Kan. E-cards, whether for holidays, birthdays or thank-yous, are making paper cards obsolete.
An animated e-sympathy card? Please
Getting back to thank-you notes, as long as you're personally thanking someone for something, does it matter whether it comes in paper or electronic form?
I decided to pose this question to the experts, beginning with Modesto's own Terri Tillman, founder of The Etiquette & Soft Skills Institute.
"I call it 'like for like,' " she said.
That means if someone invited you via e-mail or text, it's OK to thank them the same way. Conversely, if they sent you a handwritten or otherwise personalized invitation, you need to respond in kind.
"Etiquette and decorum are about the way we treat one another," she said.
I went online to find other etiquette gurus and came across nationally known expert Jacqueline Whitmore, author of "Poised for Success."
Perhaps most surprising was that Whitmore actually answered the phone herself. I wasn't sent into a 12-step voice-mail hell, at the end of which I would be told the receptionist isn't available and to leave a message.
"Thank you for taking my call," I said to Whitmore.
"No, I should be thanking you for interviewing me," she said.
We were off to a great start. Our mothers raised us right.
So, about the paper vs. electronic thank-you debate: When does it apply?
"It depends upon what you're thanking someone for," Whitmore said. "For some things, a 'thank you' verbally, by e-mail or Facebook is fine. If you pick up my newspaper and bring it to my door one time, saying 'thank you' verbally is enough. But if you pick up my newspaper every day while I'm on vacation, that deserves a handwritten 'thank you.' "
The more detailed and personal the favor, the greater need for the personalized jottings, she said.
"If I invite you over for Thanksgiving dinner and cook you a turkey, that warrants a handwritten note," Whitmore said.
(Boy, talk about throwing down the gauntlet today, folks!)
Also, you should offer to bring something besides your appetite, she said. If the host declines, good breeding suggests you bring the host or hostess a gift of some sort anyway.
Bad manners, Whitmore said, usually start at home.
"It's up to the parents how to teach children how to express thanks," she said. "Parents don't say 'thanks' anymore, and that's why their children don't."
Also online, I found a manners Q&A hosted by etiquette expert Amanita Thomas.
One questioner wondered if it would ever become acceptable to send thank-you notes electronically, claiming paper cards and stamps seem like such a waste of money.
"Thank-you notes are personalized, sincere expressions of gratitude," Thomas replied. "While thank-you notes among friends, especially friends your age, can be more casual and handled by e-mail, a handwritten note in our digital age is always welcomed."
Then, Thomas got in a subtle dig:
"The paper and stamps that you may consider a 'waste of money' represent a fraction of the gift-giver's time, effort and thought that he or she put into your gift, and it certainly warrants a personalized thank-you note."
Within that same Q&A, Thomas addressed another issue you might encounter on Thanksgiving Day. This came from a person who admitted to being one of those eat-and-run types and uses the old "I don't want to overstay my welcome" excuse.
Thomas replied that you should stay at least an hour after dinner.
"Eating a meal is not the only reason why a host invites you to the table," she wrote. "Remember that your host wants to enjoy your company."
But only to a point. An old friend once told me that whenever his guests stay too long, he simply yawns and says, "I should get to bed, so y'all can leave."
Come Friday, don't forget to send a thank-you note handwritten, of course.
It's good manners, even if it seems so socially outmoded.
Happy Thanksgiving, with an emphasis on "thanks."
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or (209) 578-2383.