''Our stamp windows are now making house calls,'' the local paper announced, rousing memories of Coleman, who, long ago, was a stamp window making house calls, as he trudged along shady Calhoun Street delivering mail twice daily. I met him my seventh summer when I visited my aunt in Tallahassee.
While there I wrote a letter to a playmate back home whose given name was the same as mine. I needed a stamp and my aunt said: ''There comes the postman; buy a stamp from Coleman.''
Shyly, I dropped two pennies from my hot, moist hand into his large chocolate brown one. Proudly, I licked the small, red stamp and stuck it on Elizabeth Guy's letter.
''Will you please mail it?'' I asked.
''You'll get an answer about day after tomorrow,'' he assured me, sensing a tinge of homesickness behind timidity.
On the afternoon of the second day the answer came. I tore into the envelope. Inside was my letter to my friend. Magnified by tears, the words wavered: ''Dear Elizabeth, I'm having fun. . . . Wish you were here, too. . . .''
''She sent my letter back,'' I sobbed.
Coleman looked at the envelope and nodded. ''See, Little Visitor, you addressed this to yourself. You're not used to writing any name but yours. Your Papa sent it back because he didn't recognize your good writing. Just put that letter in this stamped envelope and print the right Elizabeth's name. Here, use Coleman's lead pencil.''
He had started down the walk when I called: ''Wait, I haven't paid you for the stamp.''
''It's all right,'' he said. ''Coleman took care of that. Let's just charge it to the dust and let the rain settle it, or sometime you see somebody needs a stamp, you buy him one.''
At age twelve I came to live with my aunt. For the next few years Coleman shared my happiness and heartaches. He knew as much about the happenings in my life as anyone, mostly by observing my mail.
''Here's the bill from Wilson's for your new, brown, high-topped, laced shoes ,'' he said, one October afternoon. ''And you can't pay it because you didn't get your allowance today. Old Seaboard train's late; bad washout on the line near River Junction. Your Papa's letter'll be here tomorrow.''
Later on, I ordered something called Missouri Mud-pack advertised in a magazine an older girl had at school. I didn't want anyone to know. The ad said: ''Packaged in plain wrapper.''
Fortunately it arrived on Saturday. Coleman rang the bell. I dashed to the door where embarrassment erased my eagerness. The package was pale pink. Stamped in bright purple print was the repeated message: WILL POSITIVELY PREVENT PIMPLES AND PINK PATCHES.
Shaking his finger, Coleman chided me: ''You're going to ruin your pretty face forever, Little Visitor, if you use that stuff. Throw it in the trash.''
My cousin and I gave ourselves the mud-pack treatment that afternoon. For the sixty minutes it was on my face and two days afterward I wished I had heeded Coleman.
College days arrived and our paths seldom crossed. I truly missed his counseling and concern. Several times we stopped to chat downtown. His mail route was changed, and he confided: ''I pine for my old friends on Calhoun Street.''
When I moved into my own house, sometime later, my new doorbell rang, and there stood Coleman. His lovely face was more wrinkled but the smile and twinkle in his eyes were unchanged.
''Welcome to Williams Street,'' he said. ''I thought this letter was for the Little Visitor.''
If he were still with us, Coleman would look with perplexity at some changes in the Postal Service. He would be vexed at thirteen cents for a postal card and twenty for a letter, but I know he would have smiled as I did, when the Tallahassee Democrat declared: ''Our stamp windows are now making house calls.''