I’m a realist and enthusiastic proponent of adapting traditional rules of etiquette to the way we live today but there are some traditions I am loathe to give up. While I send and receive well over 100 emails a week, I still turn to my copper-engraved writing paper and fountain pen for those occasions when an email just won’t do: thank you letters, mostly, letters of condolence or congratulations, that sort of thing. So it was with mixed emotions that I received an email announcing the birth of my nephew and wife’s new child along with a beautiful photo of the happy family embedded within the message. They live thousands of miles away and I didn’t even know they were expecting. It took me aback. Was this email, already getting pushed farther and farther down in my inbox, supposed to trigger an engraved sterling baby gift? Was I expected to pen a note offering congratulations? Would a proper letter in response to their email possibly embarrass them? Should I simply send an email? Would there be an “official” announcement in due course, a beautifully engraved card with a small ribbon (from Dempsey and Carrol, America’s finest printers), a keepsake for all time. (I hope there won’t be one of those rather boring little cards listing the baby’s weight and length and including a hospital picture of a scrunched up crying baby.) A long-deceased great-aunt’s voice echoed in my head: “Is this the way things are done nowadays?”
My conversion took about five minutes. My worries about the medium were soon over-whelmed by the message, the touching photograph (all personal prejudices aside, it was stunning), the fact that they included me in the distribution, included me in their life, in their own way. I will send my heartfelt congratulations and best wishes (written with my fountain pen on my personal stationery) and I will send an engraved sterling baby gift, too. Perhaps they will think me old-fashioned. Maybe I’ll send an email, also.
Tutor, The English Manner