It’s high time I talked about the mailmen in my life. Calm down, it’s nothing lascivious or scandalous. The very first day we moved into our new home in Barrington back in ’99, the mailman came all the way down the long driveway to the door to introduce himself. Jim was his name. An older guy with white hair and a mustache, Jim would’ve been a perfect extra on the Cheers set. He proceeded to tell me how many years, months, weeks, days and hours it was until he would retire. Nothin’ like loving your job.

Over the years, Jim did as little as was required to deliver our mail. He told me he had the most enviable route because the folks where we lived on Rumstick Point were the best holiday tippers in town (hint, hint). Despite our generous holiday gift, Jim would often leave package slips instead of bringing the parcel down to the house. I looked forward to Thursdays, Jim’s day off, knowing that my Thursday mailman, Fred, would happily bring me any parcels in that day’s delivery. Eventually Fred confided that everyone at the post office hated Jim, and that Jim took pleasure in gleefully leaving package slips for people he knew were home. Apparently Jim had bragged to his postal buddies of leaving a package slip for David one day and shortly thereafter waving to David, who was driving down the road toward the house, knowing that he had the package for him and feeling lots of power driving it around town and that David couldn’t get it. What a guy.

Fast forward to last summer. We had closed on our house here in Westport, and hadn’t yet moved in but were here meeting a few contractors one day. Matthew had been bouncing a ball in the driveway and came in and told me the mailman wanted to meet me. Here we go again, I thought.

Instead, I had the honor of meeting Joe. Joe introduced himself, welcomed me to the area and then did something jawdropping. He handed me a package slip with his cell phone number written on it. And told me to call him – anytime – if there was anything he could do for us. He told me to call him if he had left a package slip, and he’d be more than happy to swing by again with it later in the day. He told me to call if I was expecting a particular piece of mail like checks or something and I wanted him to bring them by in the middle of his route rather than waiting for our scheduled delivery. Hunh? Was I hearing correctly?

But it didn’t end there. A few weeks later, after we had moved in, we were preparing to leave for three weeks for Nantucket and asked Joe which post office we needed to go to to forward the mail, as we had done in the past. “Don’t worry about a thing,” he said. “Forwarding can be a pain.” And he then offered to gather up our mail a few times a week and send it Priority Mail to us in Nantucket. Wouldn’t take a dime in advance; said we could just reimburse him when we returned. And sure enough, he packed up our mail twice a week and put in a little slip with his home and cell phone numbers in case we needed anything.

When we returned from Nantucket, we were beyond appreciative for his kindness, and left him a heartfelt note and a nice check. The day after, there was a note from him telling us it was his pleasure, and he left a tall potted basil plant by our door with a note hoping that we’d enjoy this from his garden, signed Your Italian Mailman. On the back of the note was his checklist of about 7 or 8 addresses (including ours), whom I assume were the special recipients of his bountiful generosity.

Throughout the fall, Joe continued to bring us dried herbs from his garden, and many a pot of my special secret spaghetti sauce included the lovely earthiness of his oregano. He brought by some fabulous bread from his favorite bakery in Little Italy and shared some of his wife’s marinated eggplant. He sent a beautiful holiday card, and though I didn’t get to chat with him all that often, we’d always exchange a friendly wave along his route.

One day in January, David and I returned from a meeting to find that our real estate agent was still showing our house to a potential buyer. Knowing we couldn’t yet return home, we went for a short drive around the neighborhood, and we came upon Joe delivering on Turkey Hill Circle. We pulled over to say hi and figured it was a good opportunity to pick up our mail from him. “How are you? I’m so glad to see you!” he exclaimed. “In fact I have a package for you today.” David took the package and saw it was addressed to Ben. Because Ben had requested that family and friends donate to Komen in honor of his bar mitzvah instead of sending gifts, this was the very first package he had received. David showed surprise at the box, and explained to Joe what Ben was doing. We parted ways, and went home.

That night, we got a phone call from Joe. He was so touched by what Ben was doing that he had gone home and told his wife. Both his wife and his mother insisted that they help support Ben’s effort, as they had known friends and family touched by breast cancer. He wanted to know who to make the check out to. It was simply overwhelming to us. David insisted that while it was so extraordinarily thoughtful, it was totally unnecessary. But the next day Ben received a beautiful card and a very generous check to add to his Komen donation. Talk about having kindness and character. What a special person.

My latest mailman moment came on Valentine’s Day. David had been sprawled on the couch, moaning in viral misery, completely unaware and disinterested in the fact that it was Valentine’s Day. My boys came in from the school bus that afternoon, and lo and behold, Joe had left a yellow rose and a package slip on which he had written, “For Mrs.” I smiled, as I’m sure the other handful of lucky ladies on his route did, and felt so privileged to know someone so thoughtful, caring and hardworking. The rose lasted three weeks in a sweet bud vase on my desk, an inspiring reminder of how nice it is to brighten someone’s day.

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