My son turned 10 the week after school let out. His friends were already widespread and running face first toward whichever way the sun glows. The only thing between them and the schoolyard was growing space and the rapid erasure of all things but laughter. It turns out that gathering guests just days into a freshly mowed summer is something of a challenge, but we made it happen and a good time was had by all. The fun stayed late and the morning came early. We ordered way too much pizza.
He opened his gifts around the bonfire. The only lights were strung overhead and the dance of flames between us. His friends proved clever and generous and he said his thanks with honest sincerity. And then there were games to play.
The next morning stretched with yawns and etiquette. My wife is a stickler for the niceties of childhood, and apparently thank you cards fall therein. My son grabbed an old pen and set to writing notes of gratitude for new things and the friendship that they represented. He hardly complained at all. His handwriting was perfect.
“What kind of thank you note do you want?” I had asked him. It was a few weeks before the party, and we were sitting side by side, sharing the keyboard and preparing to play a game or two—the act of which was dependent upon his picking his own stationary from the Expressionery website.
“I like mustaches,” he said with the wishful smile of a bare-lipped boy.
“They’re itchy,” I said. “And things get stuck in them.”
“That’s why I like them,” he replied.
And so we bought a pack of mustached thank you notes, and went on with our day—him into the virtual worlds that were always waiting and me to the couch for an afternoon of not shaving.
When the cards arrived he was far too excited. Apparently he really does like mustaches.
The day after the party he wrote card of thanks after card of thanks, pausing only to stretch his fingers and take tangents as far as we would let him.
“Couldn’t we just send an email?” he had asked at the keyboard. The thought had crossed my mind, too.
“No,” said my wife. “Handwritten thank you cards will not die with me.”
“Um, okay.” And he never asked again.
He wrote the cards, signed his name, and sealed them accordingly. All the envelopes needed were stamps and an address, and we didn’t have either. He stacked his careful notes in a neat pile on the messy counter, and we waited for that time to come.
It never did, and it is nearly here. We forgot to buy postage and the cards became discarded beneath the growing piles of each subsequent day, but school starts soon and with it the return of those friends whose names he wrote so sweetly. They will receive their personal notes directly from the hand that penned them, and we will pretend that was the plan from the beginning, because everybody needs a thank you card on the first day of school.
And who doesn’t love a good mustache?