Postcards from a Secret Admirer by
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Prompted By Snail Mail

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Postcards from a Secret Admirer

I don’t remember how it started, or which one of us sent the first one,  but when we were in junior high my best friend Stephanie and I began sending each other picture postcards that we’d sign.   “Love from your Secret Admirer.”

I know it sounds like a silly adolescent game – which of course it was – but the surprising thing is we continued playing it through high school,  college and beyond!

We kept it up when we were both young marrieds  living in Manhattan directly across town from each other – Stephanie and her husband Harvey on West End Ave @  W 90 St,  and me and Danny on East End Ave @ E 90 St.

Harvey and Danny became good friends – both having grown up in Queens and both somehow Yankee fans – and as a foursome we had wonderful times day-tripping and vacationing together.

But then juggling newborns and demanding careers we saw each other less often.  And then with our growing kids in different schools,  and our differing commitments,  months might go by until one of us called,  we made plans to meet,  and it was like old times again.  And although those postcards from trips, museum exhibits,  restaurants, and tourist attractions arrived less frequently,   they continued to criss-cross the city.

I had always greatly admired Stephanie,  and was in awe of her beauty,  her intelligence,  her compassion,  her ethical stance,  and her activism.  She was soft-spoken,  yet self-possessed,  suffered fools gladly and spoke wisely,  and involved herself in the important social justice initiatives.   A compassionate social worker,  she ran the social work program at Jewish Theological Seminary,  and her work and her passions kept her very busy.   But happily in later years with our kids grown we both found more time to reconnect.

And then 11 years ago Stephanie was diagnosed with uterine cancer.  My beautiful and brilliant friend died soon after her elder daughter’s wedding.

Harvey was devastated but coped as best he could.  Then one day he asked me to help him go through Stephanie’s things.  I knew she was a saver,  and wasn’t surprised when he showed me boxes and boxes of letters and memorabilia.

And then,  in the back of Stephanie’s closet we found a shoebox filled with picture postcards,  all signed in my handwriting,  “Love from your Secret Admirer”.

So you see my wonderful Stephanie,  it was me all along.


– Dana Susan Lehrman

Profile photo of Dana Susan Lehrman Dana Susan Lehrman
This retired librarian loves big city bustle and cozy country weekends, friends and family, good books and theatre, movies and jazz, travel, tennis, Yankee baseball, and writing about life as she sees it on her blog World Thru Brown Eyes!

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Tags: Friendship, Postcards
Characterizations: moving


  1. Suzy says:

    Oh Dana, this brought tears to my eyes! So sorry for the loss of your wonderful friend. But what a fun tradition that was, and obviously she cared enough to keep all those postcards in their own box in her closet. Thanks for sharing this story with us.

    • Thanx Suzy.
      I just sent it to Stephanie’s husband Harvey and their two daughters.
      Harvey emailed back to thank me and told me that for years Stephanie wouldn’t tell him who the secret admirer was, but he finally had guessed!

      I’m not a saver, so now I can’t enjoy rereading all the postcards she sent to me in what was her very beautiful handwriting. Alas!

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    What a poignant story, Dana. I love the way you described your late friend and am so sorry for your loss. You are right about old friends, those who knew you when. I’m so glad she saved those cards. They must be precious to you now.

  3. Marian says:

    Oh, Dana, what a lovely tribute to your secret admirer. This brings some comfort to experiencing a life that ended too soon. It’s wonderful that you unearthed the letters and cards and have them as a memory.

  4. Betsy Pfau says:

    Dana, this tugged at my heart. What a beautiful story! I love that you sent each other postcards across the city with a certain mysterious twist to them. Stephanie sounds like an incredible person; how tragic to lose her so young. It must have been so poignant to see those old postcards again. Too bad you did not save your end of the correspondence (they might have been lost to Sandy anyway), but at least the mystery was revealed and the secret admirer brought forth, a secret no longer.

  5. Ah Dana, this brought tears to my eyes as well. Stephanie was clearly a wonderful person, and I’m so sorry for your loss. I love that you shared such a quirky secret tradition — I’m going to tell my granddaughters about it in case they have a friend they might want to do the same with. And with Valentine’s Day coming up, it’s the perfect time to start. (I might do the same!)

  6. Risa Nye says:

    Lovely! This brought back memories of the sometimes goofy correspondence I maintained for years with a couple of girls I befriended at summer camp. I lost all my saved letters in a fire years ago, but I wonder if my friends still have theirs! Thanks for this very sweet glimpse into your long relationship with your “secret admirer.”

  7. Thanx Risa,
    Sorry about your fire, we lost letters and memorabilia in a basement flood – irreplaceable!

  8. John Shutkin says:

    What a beautiful, poignant story, Dana. The “secret admirer” facade is not silly, it is charming (at any age). And so sad about Stephanie. I hope seeing your letters after all those years brought some joy to you.

    And, again, kudos to our Retro administrator for coming up with a prompt that has evoked such amazing memories and stories.

  9. Secret crosstown admirers! Loved that! This prompt and, I think, these times, have evoked poignant stories from several Retro writers. Your recollection carries a sweet sadness to it, on several levels, reminding me that I’ll never understand why the good die young. Thanks, Dana.

  10. Delighted to hear that, Dana! Whenever Nails surfaces, I hope you enjoy it.

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