She was one of the first people I met when my family moved to the house on Risley in the late summer of 1959.
Stephanie Reed lived directly across the street. I cannot recall the details of our first meeting. But we soon became good friends. She was like a younger sister who helped me work through the confusing world of dating girls.
We have remained friends ever since. When I was in the Air Force, I always appreciated her news about family and friends in the world I had briefly left behind.
Communication methods have changed since those days. What you are reading is a perfect example. In the 1970s, I could not have imagined I would one day be sitting in Mexico telling the tales of my life -- as if I were sitting around a camp fire with a coterie of friends telling sad stories of the death of kings.
Blogs. Facebook. Twitter. Email. They all have had a role in eroding one of the greatest arts of relationships -- personal correspondence.
I have a handful of friends who have not joined the computer age. If I want to keep in touch with them, I have to pull out my fountain pen and a sheet of stationery, and compose what once was the sole method of keeping in touch with people we love. There is something about that process that hones prose into poetry. And, if it does not do that, it certainly improves the quality of our writing above informal chatting.
That is why I doubly appreciate people who send me letters in the mail, even though they have the option of sending out electronic blurbs. Hand-written cards and letters are simply far more personal. Tangible evidence that the sender sacrificed time in the service of a relationship.
Last year, Stephanie mailed me a birthday card that did not show up in my postal box until well after I had slipped over the line into an older age. But, that was fine. After all, the date didn't matter as much as the card did.
This year, she got the drop on Father Time. In mid-month, her birthday card was in my box wishing me a happy birthday reminding me that God has created just the one me. (Most people would release a sigh of relief at that thought.)
When I first came south to Mexico, my postal box filled up with Christmas cards. Not this year. I have not received a single one. That is fine. I sent none.
I wrote Stephanie to thank her for the card and told her it would serve double duty -- as my sole Christmas card and as my earliest birthday card. Our mail may be slow here in Mexico, but it is a reminder that speed and quality are not twins of the same nature. Often, they are strangers to one another.
Every card and letter I receive is a reinforcement to keep up the barrage of birthday and anniversary cards I send out during the year. There may be only one Stephanie, but I have a network of friends out there who are worth sacrificing a bit of my time to let them know they still serve a special role in my life.
And, who knows, I just may write about some of the private moments we have shared. After all, Walter Kirn has put all of you on notice: "A writer turns his life into material, and if you're in his life, he uses yours, too."
You are forewarned.