What I Know, I Learned in Childhood

Published 1:55 am Sunday, January 23, 2011

In the poem, The Rainbow, William Wordsworth used the expression, “The child is father of the man” over two hundred years ago. He was saying that our positive and negative traits are established when we are young. Just watch children at play and you will be able to observe the personal traits that will remain with each child throughout life.

I recall a small book which made the New York Times best seller list and stayed there for a couple of years. The little book was named, “All I Really Know I learned in Kindergarten,” written in 1986 by Robert Fulghum; it encouraged me to go back to find out what I learned from some of my childhood events. I might even find out when I latched onto certain ideas and why they have remained with me throughout my life.

During my childhood we lived in several different towns in Oklahoma and I well remember living in one named Waurika. We were living in a modest house in an established neighborhood. Behind the house was an open alley and on the other side of the alley was a huge shade tree in the back yard of a neighbor. I noticed a fascinating swing dangling beneath it and decided to try it out.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

I had not made a dozen swings when the back door of the house popped open and a little brown eyed girl, with dark hair, came out and walked toward me.


“Hi. Is this your swing?”

“Yes. But you can use it. Go ahead and swing.”

“Why don t we take turns? I’ll push you and you can push me.”

“Alright. Can you push very high?”

“I think so.”

For the next 15 minutes we alternated in pushing and being pushed in the swing. Finally my new friend asked:

“What s your name?”

“Jack. What s yours?”


I had made a new friend.

Martha asked:

“Jack, do you have any peanuts over at your house?”

“I don’t know. I’ll go ask Mama.”

After crossing the alley and entering our new home:

“Mother, do we have any peanuts?”

“No. Why?”

Martha wants some.

“Who’s Martha?”

“She’s a girl who lives across the alley. I’ve been swinging in her swing”

“I’m sorry but we don’t have any peanuts.”

I felt somehow embarrassed and a little guilty when I had to report to Martha that we had no peanuts. She didn’t take the news too well. In fact, she sulked just a bit. She apparently forgave me, however, because she said, “Hi” to me at school next day.

From Martha, the little girl across the alley, at the age of five, I learned that women need a physical token as a sort of trophy that a relationship has been established. When she is older peanuts will no longer suffice. She will look for a loving husband, children, respect and romance and the trophies that go with them such as flowers, candy and jewelry and they’re not just peanuts.

Note to friends and neighbors:

Dear friends,

I wrote this column and shared it with my wife several days ago. A few days later Johnie was called home by the Lord. Several years ago she was diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s disease but last year, after a stroke, the doctors decided that her loss of short term memory and manual skills were due, not to Alzheimer’s disease but to a series of tiny strokes over many years.

Although her short term memory was gone Johnie never lost her ability to communicate, enjoy a good joke, even my half-dozen favorites over and over-probably because she didn’t remember that she had heard them before. I took care of her and the house for several months but, near the end, I received help from Hospice, paid assistants and relatives. My family and I deeply appreciate your many expressions of sympathy and support.

Sincerely, Stanley Jack Watson