I recently came across a story from the World War II era that gives some encouragement to young people looking for a spouse to concentrate on the internal beauty of the soul and spirit of any prospective mate before focusing on external looks. The story begins with a young man named John Blanchard who was home in Florida on furlough from the Army. He happened to be in the city library browsing through books when he found some notes penciled in the margin of an old textbook. The soft, elegant handwriting and the insightful notes reflected a "thoughtful soul and insightful mind." John Blanchard turned to the front of the old textbook and found the book's previous owner, Miss Holly Maynell. With some effort and assistance from the librarian, John was able to track down Holly's current address.
Holly lived far away in New York City, so John was unable to meet her before going off to war, but he did introduce himself to Holly through a letter, inviting her to correspond. During the next thirteen months, the two young people came to know each other through words. John Blanchard eventually sent a photograph of himself to Holly and requested one of her, but she refused. She wrote, "If you really care for me, it would not matter what I look like." True enough, each letter from Holly only added to John's appreciation for his girlfriend. "It really doesn't matter what she looked like," he thought. "She inspires me with her words."
A romance was blossoming. The day at long last arrived when John Blanchard was to return from the battlefields of Europe. John and Holly scheduled their first meeting for 7:00 p.m. at Central Station in New York City. "You'll recognize me," she wrote, "by the red rose I'll be wearing on my lapel." So at 7.00 p.m. John Blanchard stood on the grand concourse of Grand Central Station looking for the girl whose heart he loved, but whose face he'd never seen. John Blanchard explains in his own words what happened next:
"A young woman was coming toward me, her figure long and slim. Her blonde hair lay back in curls from her delicate ears; her eyes were blue as flowers. Her lips and chin had a gentle firmness, and in her pale green suit she was like springtime come alive. I started toward her, entirely forgetting to notice that she was not wearing a rose. As I moved, a small provocative smile curved her lips. "Going my way, sailor?" she murmured.
Almost uncontrollably, I made one step closer to her, and then I saw Holly Maynell. She was standing almost directly behind the girl. A woman well past 40, she had graying hair tucked under a worn hat. She was more than plump, her thick-ankled feet thrust into low-heeled shoes. The girl in the green suit was walking quickly away. I felt as though I was split in two, so keen was my desire to follow her, and yet so deep was my longing for the woman whose spirit had truly companioned me and upheld my own. And there she stood. Her pale, plump face was gentle and sensible, her gray eyes had a warm and kindly twinkle. I did not hesitate. My fingers gripped the small worn blue leather copy of the book that was to identify me to her.
This would not be love, but it would be something precious, something perhaps even better than love, a friendship for which I had been and must ever by grateful. I squared my shoulders and saluted and held out the book to the woman, even though while I spoke I felt choked by the bitterness of my disappointment. "I'm Lieutenant John Blanchard, and you must be Miss Maynell. I am so glad you could meet me; may I take you to dinner?" The woman's face broadened into a tolerant smile. "I don't know what this is about, son," she answered, "but the young lady in the green suit who just went by, she begged me to wear this rose on my coat. And she said if you were to ask me out to dinner, I should tell you that she is waiting for you in the big restaurant across the street. She said it was some kind of test!"