A short time later I joined the Century Publishing Company, on the advertising staff of St. Nicholas Magazine. Up to this time I had thought that someday when the right girl came along I should probably get married but the during these years I had never really fallen in love, perhaps because my standards of what an ideal wife should be were pretty high and I had not met anyone yet to seriously challenge that standard, although the young Peabody girl was frequently in my thoughts.
Then one Christmas season the church or Sunday school staged a religious play with a Nativity scene and Arla Peabody was chosen to play the part of the Virgin Mary. She wore a soft white scarf over her head and carried a doll for the infant Christ. That night as I watched her holding the child with tender contentment and a placid dreamy look in her soft brown eyes, something inside me suddenly exploded. I had read about “love at first sight”, but this wasn’t first sight. Here was a girl I had known and seen for several years, but apparently I had not seen her at all. This couldn’t be the same girl! Had I been blind? Here was the most enchanting person anywhere in the world. I didn’t know what had happened to me. I was in a daze. The room was crowded with people I knew but I didn’t see anyone else. I didn’t speak to anyone else. I didn’t dare speak to her: she was too far above me. Somehow, I found my hat and groped my way out the door and on my way home. It may have been cold outside. I didn’t know. All I could think of on my way home was how I could be worthy of even speaking to her. One moment I would be hugging myself with the thought that I knew her and perhaps she would notice me, the next moment I was in the depths of despair knowing that everyone who had ever seen her must have appreciated what I had been too blind to see and that I would stand a poor chance when such a wonderful girl had so many potential husbands to choose from. I prayed to God for help in making her love me. Never in my life, or since, have I felt so overwhelmed as I did then. I knew how St. Paul had felt on the road to Damascus when a bright light transformed him. In a word, quite suddenly, I was head over heels in love with Arla Peabody. She didn’t know it and I was afraid to tell her because she might not reciprocate and then life would just be a blank. The thing to do was to woo her with every wile I could command, fearful all the while that someone else would win her heart first. It was a far from happy time for me and I am afraid I must have seemed a bit queer to all who knew me.
I got up nerve a few weeks later to ask my mother, timidly, what she thought of her and was immensely gratified when she answered favorably. I suppose like lovers the world over, before and since, things followed a regular pattern but it was a long time before I could believe anyone since the world began could love a girl as I loved her, simply because there never had been anyone as perfect as she. I suppose she knew how I felt long before I told her. I used to make up all kinds of excuses to visit her home, using her brothers and sisters who were all likable youngsters, as reasons, on matters concerning church, choir, Sunday school, etc. The more I saw her in her home and noticed the tactful and gentle way in which she handled her little brothers and sisters, the willing help she gave her mother around the house, the dependence and trust her mother showed her, all convinced me, aside from viewing her with a lover’s eye, that she would be an ideal wife and mother, and in this, as was afterwards proven, I was right.
Some nights even when I knew her whole family would be in bed, I would walk my dog Spot the long distance over to her house just so I could look at the place where she lived. There was only one girl I would ever want as long as I lived. I was a “one girl man” and would remain so all of my days.
Tomorrow, Grandpa tells us about their wedding and honeymoon in Bermuda. On Monday, I’ll begin posting letters written in 1942. Dan and Lad have both joined the Army, Ced is still in Alaska and Dick, Dave and Grandpa are keeping the home fires burning.
Why not share this “Slice of Life” with a friend or two? I’m sure you know someone who might be interested in the ordinary family life during the early war years.