The Rose And The Sailor

The Rose and The Sailor

by Noah benShea

What we’re looking forward to is not always what we get to see. Sometimes things don’t work out the way we expect. Sometimes what we think is perfect gets broken and as a result gets better. Though disappointment is often the reward for anticipation, sadness can be a smile that just hasn’t turned the next corner.

I was reminded of all this when I heard this story, made it more my own, and am now going to pass along . I call it: THE ROSE AND THE SAILOR. Enjoy. I’ll see you on the other side. You’ll recognize me. I’ll be the guy wearing a smile.

John Blanchard stood up from the bench, straightened his Army uniform, and studied the crowd of people making their way through Grand Central Station. He looked for the girl whose heart he knew, but whose face he didn’t, the girl with the rose. His interest in her had begun thirteen months before in the Santa Barbara public library. Taking a book off the shelf he found himself intrigued, not with the words of the book, but with the notes penciled in the margin. The soft handwriting reflected a thoughtful soul and insightful mind.

In the front of the book, he discovered the previous owner’s name, Miss Hollis Maynell. With time and effort he located her address. She now lived in New York City. He wrote her a letter introducing himself and inviting her to correspond. The next day he was shipped overseas for service in World War II.

During the next year and one month the two grew to know each other through the mail. Each letter was a seed falling on a fertile heart. A romance was budding. Blanchard requested a photograph, but she refused. She felt that if he really cared, it wouldn’t matter what she looked like.

When the day finally came for him to return from Europe, they scheduled their first meeting – 7:00 PM at Grand Central Station in New York. “You’ll recognize me,” she wrote, “by the red rose I’ll be wearing on my lapel.” So at 7:00 he was in the station looking for a girl whose heart he loved, but whose face he’d never seen. I’ll let Mr. Blanchard tell you what happened:

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 Hollis 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 be 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!”

Life is a test. And it is not a test. But it is always an education. Nevertheless, as most of us pay for our experiences with our feelings, the emotional tuition in life’s learning lab can be pretty stiff. In the long run, hope is the best way to buy peace from disillusionment.

More of us grow older than grow up. Most of us, according to F. Scott Fitzgerald, discover that it is easier to skip growing up and simply move from one childhood to another. A lot of us grow up thinking life is going to be like the movies. But even the movies aren’t like the movies.

Few of us are in the movie business, but we all like to think we’re casting our own life’s movie. Certainly we get upset when casting runs awry, when Mr. Right is played by Mr. Wrong, when Miss Wonderful is played by Miss Can’t Wait To Be Missing You. “You go to a movie,” say the clever Jerry Seinfeld, “and you’re there for two hours. You’re in a movie and you’re there for two years.” Or ten. If movies are make believe, we are all producers trying to believe that the life movie we have in mind will be made according to our mind.

Ray Bolger, who was the Scarecrow in THE WIZARD OF OZ, said that he thought everyone loved this movie because everyone has a heart, and some courage, and believes they can still go home. When I heard this, it suddenly dawned on me that he was right. Who among us would want to think otherwise? Big or small we all have hopes. Hopes of heart, and home and the courage to head that way. No matter where any of us are heading, hope is the best way to make headway. Sometimes we can’t share our hopes with others. Sometimes not even with our selves.

It’s not that hope doesn’t meet obstacles but that hope is the best way to meet obstacles. Any of us with plans soon meet stumbling blocks. We can plan on it. Whether we’re planning to or not. Which reminds me of another story that I found on my path. Or perhaps it found me. In any regard, I have by now made this found story mine. “In life,” said the surrealist Salvador Dali, “everything but tradition is plagiarism.”

Once upon a time, a king had a boulder placed in the middle of a road and pouch of gold placed under the rock. Then the king hid and watched to see what would happen.

The first to come down the road was a wealthy merchant who went around the rock and cursed the king for not keeping the road clear.

The second traveler to come down the road was in a great hurry, and, all the while muttering about his plans and complaining about this nuisance, climbed up one side of the bolder and down the other and continued on his way.

Next down the path came a tired peasant pulling a vegetable cart. Approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and putting his shoulder to the task moved the stone to the side of the road. As the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he suddenly noticed the pouch lying in the road where the boulder had been. Inside the pouch was a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the obstacle from the roadway.”

We all have our own obstacles, and sometimes we shape our own stumbling blocks. Still, when we put our shoulder to what is in our way we often clear the path for others. Finding our way is often dependent on finding a way to help others.

Obstacles are opportunities. Broken plans don’t have to break our spirit. Life doesn’t always work out the way we want. Sometimes life wants us to have more than we dare to ask for. Smile and say thanks. Misfortune can still be worth a fortune.


Noah 2009