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The Mailman
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I read in the local paper that “Jack the Mailman” died. The obituary gave his last name, but I never knew it. To me, as a kid, he was just Jack the Mailman and I guess that’s who he was to a lot of other people too.

Long before the internet -- so long ago that there were morning and afternoon deliveries -- the mail was a lot more important and so was the mailman. When I sent off my cereal box tops for the Mighty Mouse 3-D comic and eyeglasses it was Jack who delivered the wonder to my door.

I could see Jack coming across the lawns several houses away. When I was expecting something I’d keep a lookout. I used to send for catalogs and order paperbacks straight from the publishers, books you didn’t see in the single store in town, which I had no way to get to on my own anyway. I can still remember the thrill of tearing open the brown paper to find a stack of fresh books, all perfectly flat, untouched, each one an unexplored world. I bought all of Steinbeck and dozens of science fiction novels. I snuck in a copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

The most exciting delivery of all came right around my birthday in January. That was when Strat-O-Matic sent out the new player cards for its baseball board game. For years I was crazed on replaying past baseball seasons. At the time baseball statistics weren’t readily available so the cards, covered with numbers detailing the performance of hundreds of players, were a revelation, made all the more fascinating by the fact that the world they described was one I would be immersing myself in endlessly practically the moment I got the rubber bands off the packs.

Day after day I’d listen for the sound of the mailbox beside the front door being opened and shut. I didn’t always hear it. I’d peer out, hoping to see the top of the box pushed open by a heavy manila envelope which wouldn’t fit inside. If the box was tightly shut I’d hold my breath and pull it up, gingerly, hoping there were no letters sitting there, that Jack might still be on his way with the magical cards.

When I grew up and moved out on my own, bills arrived in the mail. There were rejection letters from editors and tax forms.

The mail Jack delivered was all good. They don’t make mail like they used to. Not for me. I wonder if kids today await the mailman as eagerly as I did or would recognize their mailman’s name instantly forty years after the last time they saw him crossing the flagstone sidewalk and pulling a parcel out of his bag?

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