Friday, July 16, 2010

Lessons from Miss Manners


Pick a card – any card!

Since she’s practically become a full-time patient, Kath’s mailbag has been filling up with all manner of concerning messages and tokens of sympathy from family and friends. She had quickly become lost in everyone’s kindness, so she enlisted me as personal card manager and reminded me to stay on her about returning the favor. She said that some of the greetings were actually from folks she wasn’t overly familiar with, such as her mom’s students and coworkers, and that she may need some help finding the right words to address them back. I wanted to be of assistance, so this afternoon I took matters into my own paws and pored over her stash to get ideas.


As I was becoming situated in the floor with my materials, who should wander by but Elinor, business secretary and close mate to my brother Rhett. She lives at Parsnip as well, but her work usually keeps her relatively tied over, sometimes to the point that we only see her for lunch. She had finished sorting through her papers ahead of time today and was running a quick errand to fetch Rhett some office supplies (something we never seem to have a shortage of in the back bedroom). When she saw me surrounded by Kath’s cards, she began to think they were mine and wondered how she wasn’t aware I was ill. I assured her that I was fine, then coaxed her out from under her proverbial rock to help me think of some thoughtful replies.


Elinor seemed a bit shocked at first that with my sensibility, I couldn’t come up with any wording on my own, but sat down momentarily and began offering advice. In between her suggestions (some of which I imagined would be a bit too pithy for Kath’s taste), I noticed that she was eyeing me somewhat bizarrely. Thinking something about my appearance might have seemed out of place, I asked her what was wrong. She replied that nothing was, but that she had been meaning to ask me a personal question and was hoping I wouldn’t mind.

I told her to go ahead and shoot, and what followed was something that’ll probably have my head spinning for days: “Miss Emmi, how would you evaluate your manners lately?” I didn’t know quite how to respond, particularly because my head was still swimming with images of Kath using Elinor’s words in her thank-you notes, but at the time I thought the question a little impersonal in itself – even for someone as proper as Elinor.


Toying with an iTunes card one of Kath’s aunts had sent, I asked her to elaborate on what she meant, and did she ever:  how I greeted people on my travels; how I greeted people (read: Rhett) at home; even things like how I positioned my feet under the table when I ate. I resolutely told her that without boasting, I considered myself friendly, courteous, and ladylike (yeah, right) most of the time, and that I felt especially so since starting my blog and leaving comments as often as I could. She sighed and shook her head a little, then motioned to the card in my lap.


She said something to the effect of, “You’re Kath’s muse; are you not? Part of the privilege of being a muse is getting to set examples. That aunt went out of her way to send that card, and if Kath hasn’t acknowledged her kindness yet, you be the one to step in and tell her to make that thank-you call.” Well, pardon me. My biped has usually been busy either tending to her medical apparatus or reading her summer books for school, and she only brought the whole card thing to my attention today anyway. And becoming a bit more assertive, I politely told her to gather the supplies Rhett needed and be on her way.


Strange, strange bird. She was a little miffed that I was so blatantly dismissing her help, but she found what she needed and was out the door within five minutes. Before she left, I had one last criterion I wanted to bring to her attention. I normally wouldn’t do anything of the sort, but this time I couldn’t resist.


“Oh, Miss Elinor, how is my curtsy this afternoon?”


She wasn’t amused, and if I wasn’t mistaken, she looked as if she had been sharpening her talons. Maybe then would have been a good time to compliment her on how sleek they looked…

Oh, and in advance, a big thank-you goes out to Aunt Deborah and family for Kath’s fifteen new tunes! She will thoroughly enjoy them, I’m sure.


  1. That's so sweet that everyone is sending cards to Kathi. And I'm sure you will manage to answer them properly without Elinor's help.

  2. I think you seem like quite the gracious young lady rabbit, Emmi. Don't let Elinor get you down. I'm sure she means well, and folks are generally at their most obnoxious when they're trying to be most helpful.

    That's great that your human has been getting so many cards, and we hope she's on the road to recovery too.

  3. Why, thank you, Sullivan! I'm laying fairly low from the computer today, so I'll see to it that I do. :)

  4. Impeccable timing, Will! Thanks for the kind words. Elinor told me she'd be really busy today, so hopefully I'll be able to finish the return greetings in solace.

    And Kath is feeling better, by the way!