Friday, 18 May 2007

Two Tiny Miracles

There aren't enough miracles around these days, so I thought I'd share these with you.


The note arrived three days ago in a white envelope. It was addressed to my husband and myself and in an unfamiliar hand. Nowadays, receiving anything by surface mail that isn't a bill, a political pitch, or a charity appeal is pretty amazing, and this one had me stumped. My husband opened it and began to read -- and his jaw dropped. I could barely contain my curiosity.

"What is it? Who's it from?"

"It's a thank you note," he said, a tone of hushed wonder in his voice. "From Sam."

Sam, I will have you know, is a twenty-one year old man we have both known since before he could use the toilet properly. He can now do that, plus he's graduated from high school, acne, and adolescent angst. Sam is in university and has a part-time job. He is tall and robust enough to pick up either my husband or myself. But what is more, we now know that HE CAN WRITE THANK YOU NOTES.

"Thank you for the fun present for my birthday," Sam wrote. "It was great seeing you at my party, and I hope you had as much fun as I did."

And get this:

1) The hand-writing was legible
2) There was humor in it
3) Sam's grammar and spelling were irreproachable

We're thinking of approaching the Smithsonian with Sam's note, because let's face it, this is no ordinary document. A thank-you note sent in the year 2007, by snail mail, written in pen, posted barely a month after our visit to this boy's family, the author of which has just turned twenty-one and, as I have mentioned, is a male. And I ought to point out that our gift to him while certainly 'fun,' was so cheap I blush to think of it.

With notes like that written by twenty-one year olds, there is hope for the world.


Our eldest has recently turned sixteen and is prone to all of the nonsense many teenagers succomb to: the unnecessary fiddling with near-perfect hair, acquisition of superfluous cosmetics, and a worrying clothes addiction. I am still wearing a jacket I bought for myself in Tokyo back in 1985, whereas she, whose last jacket was purchased barely a year ago, has been nagging us for a new one for the past two months.

I know that there aren't many people who can boast that they are still wearing a jacket 22 years after buying it, and I admit that I am an extreme case, but one year, in my humble opinion, is not long enough for a decent jacket to get old. So when I took the kid into town for a new birthday jacket, I felt like an idiot.

"Let's just try the charity shops first!" I wheedled.

She sulked, but finally gave in, and I laid down some basic rules. We would visit all five of my favorite charity shops and spend no longer than five minutes in each shop, adding up to a mere 25 minutes of her precious time wasted. Once I was satisfied that none of them had anything that would suit her, I was prepared to compromise and cover 50% of the cost of a new jacket, provided it was under a certain price. She didn't like this, of course, but acquiesced after realizing that it was the best deal she was going to get. I figured our chances of finding a jacket she liked at a thrift shop were about 10%; finding one such jacket that actually fit her was going to be like stepping on a snowball in hell, but I was damned if I was going to fork out good money for a jacket she didn't need without making a point.

Now comes the miracle.

We walked into the very first charity shop. The kid sniffed in disgust at the elderly clientele (she was the only one in the shop under 50) and looked about her furtively, obviously terrified that she would be spotted by someone she knew. I walked over to a rack of jackets and took one down. "How's this?"

The kid looked up reluctantly, and her jaw dropped. Suddenly a look of wonder filled her eyes. I haven't seen that look since she was about five, so I knew we were on to something. The jacket looked too small and I said as much, but she tried it on anyway. It fit perfectly.

"It fits perfectly," she said, obviously shocked to the core. "And I don't think it's ever been worn."

"Do you like it?" I asked, hoping against hope.

"I love it." Her voice sounded awed and -- I swear it! -- humbled. Now both of us were shocked to the core.

We bought the jacket for £5. Three minutes later the kid found a bag for £3; like the jacket it had never been used. Next, she saw a pair of earrings she liked for £2, and I spent £10 for the lot. Needless to say, this is a lot less than half the price of any department store jacket my kid might have deemed acceptable.

So there you have two miracles. Nothing spectacular, some might say. No waters were parted; no grape juice was turned to wine. But a 21-year-old young man who can write prompt, legible and grammatical thank-you notes and a 16-year-old who likes the first coat she finds in a charity shop will do for me any day.


Kim Ayres said...

Yup, I'm gobsmacked.

Still, you say you spent £10 - does that mean your daughter didn't pay her 50%? It's time to issue her with an invoice I think

Carole said...

Big miracles, Mary, big miracles. I am sure Moses had an easier time parting the Red Sea than a 16 year old agreeing on a jacket from a charity shop.

And men writing thank you notes. Are you sure, you weren't having a dream and will most likely wake up and realize you were mistaken?

Kanani said...

My son loves charity shops --although we call them thrift shops here.

Goodwill has an arrangment now where they sell all the new stuff that Target can no longer sale. The stuff that was on clearance but they couldn't sell even then.

It's amazing how much more something is appealing when it's only a fraction of its original price!

Mary Witzl said...

Kim -- Cheapskate that I am, I'm letting her off this time. I'm telling myself that it'll be an incentive to get her to check thrift shops again, the next time she feels like going into town to shop.

Carole -- If I were clever at putting photos on my blog, I'd have taken a picture of Sam's thank-you note and posted it. But I barely got the blog up and running as it was (and would not have managed this if it hadn't been for Kim's patience), so you'll just have to take my word for it. My husband will back me up on it; it's the genuine article. I think I'll hang on to it just in case it becomes valuable some day. Rarity value, you know.

Kanani -- My mother was crazy about thrift shops (I call them that too) and did all her shopping at them, much to my great embarrassment. She bought the most God-awful house dresses and when friends commented on them would proudly proclaim 'Only fifteen cents at Value Village!' Now I'm just like her, and God, do I love a bargain.

As for Goodwill and Target's merchandise, now I know where my sister buys my Christmas gifts!!

Brian said...

Not an area that I am competent to comment in
Put me in a Sackville Row tailored suit and in two minutes I look like a sack of onions tied in the middle. Nothing at all like Arnie S though , that condom full of walnuts
In fact , many of my pieces of clothing now are hand-me- downs , not from ancestors , but from larger , fitter son and sons - in - law!

Mary Witzl said...

A condom full of walnuts, Brian -- what a great image!

A lot of my clothes are hand-me-downs from my kids too, and some of those are actually recycled hand-me-downs from others. I'm at the bottom of the hand-me-down chain in this family, but I can't complain: how many people can claim to get almost all of their clothes for free?

Eryl Shields said...

A hand written thank you note, how wonderful. I actually feel slightly envious.

I love charity shops and have noticed that all the cool girls interviewed in magazines say they get lots of their clothes from them. There is even a magazine dedicated to charity shop trawling run by two of London's most stylish young women. Unfortunately because I have no memory for names I can't remember what it, or they, are called. I'll get Bob to search the internet for me and let you know though as it might be just the ticket for convincing your style conscious daughter of the charity shop's worth.

Brian said...

condoms and walnuts

Not my description , Mary , though I wish it were !

Another Oz writer/broadcaster used it first -- Clive James , I think

Mary Witzl said...

Eryl -- Yes, please, let me know where you saw that article, if you can. I am always telling the kids that it's possible to spend very little money on a great outfit, and it's a lot more satisfying. But to my kids there's all the difference in the world between what boring old Mum and stylish young Londoners say -- even if it is the exact same thing.

Brian -- Never mind if you didn't quote it first. Walnuts in a condom is still a wonderful way to describe our Governator, and I'm glad to have heard it.

LivinginOz said...

Whoo hoo! A thank you note from a son. There is hope, after all! :)

Mary Witzl said...

Hello, Livinginoz -- Yes, it really is a sign of hope, isn't it? I keep meaning to write to this boy's mother to let her know just what an amazing achievement it is to have raised a boy like hers. I don't use the word 'amazing' lightly, either.

Kanani said...

I love thank you notes, too.

My son has taken to buying "old man blazers" and putting studs and such on them.

It's very elaborate. I think he might start selling them.

Eryl Shields said...

I have tried to locate that magazine but can I do it? Bob told me that he can see where I'm going wrong, 'Where?' I asked 'You haven't got a clue what you're looking for' he said. Damn!

Mary Witzl said...

Kanani -- Your son's studded old-man blazers sound wonderful. What a great idea, and I hope it catches on.

Eryl -- Don't worry about finding that article. I can't find a damn thing in this house and live in fear of someone asking me for an article, letter, photograph, etc.

eg(scotland) said...

Sorry I've not been around - IT problems.

It's not so long ago that I put out - to a charity shop - a shirt that I bought for a friend's 21st birthday party - that friend being a year older than me. Now given that I'm 40-something you do the maths. I was reluctant to throw it out because it was still in good condition (but I hadn't had it on for at least 15 years!).

Snail mail thank you - how wonderful!


Mary Witzl said...

EG -- I have a sweater that a friend gave me in 1971. I wear it a few times every year just so that it doesn't feel ignored. I know that I ought to throw it away, but I just can't bring myself to do this.