Where Do Those Golden Rainbows End

"The child is the father of the man."
-William Wordsworth, 1802
They say that a person's true nature does not change very much with time or age. The adults we are today are the products of the habits and manners that were instilled during childhood. Christian conversion does indeed change a person's approach to life--and eternal destiny, for sure--but basic temperament and personality remain fairly constant.
I found this old picture yesterday and it set me to thinking about the young boy I was. Without a diary to consult, I just started jotting down memories as they came to me.

Reading was a tremendous part of my life. We did not have many books in our small, duplex apartment, but my parents did sacrifice one year and purchased a set of World Book Encyclopedias. I read and re-read every volume and, if I close my eyes now, I can still remember pictures and articles that taught me and inspired my imagination. When you can read you can do anything and go anywhere, I often tell children-- and those encyclopedias were my ticket to places I never dreamed I'd be able to visit one day. When the Year Book would arrive, my brothers and I would fight over who would get to sit down with it first.

I spent a lot of time in the public library, too. My first trip there was when I was five and I accompanied my older brother and his friends. I got my own card and checked out my very first book. "Monkey Island." I went on to practically live at Morgan Memorial Library during hot summers when it was much cooler there than back in the apartment. I read the children's books--but also migrated over to the adult section. Reading James Bond novels made me more "worldly-wise" than I should have been, and made me want to be a British secret agent. My friend, John Austin, and I would pretend that we were spies and would spend hours on the phone, hatching scenarios of international intrigue and hiding cryptic messages for each other on specific pages in certain books, on designated shelves in that library.

I watched a lot of television back in those days. In black and white, of course, on three channels. I loved entertainers-- singers and comedians-- like Danny Thomas, Jack Benny, and George Burns and Gracie Allen. Gracie died when I was ten years old and I wrote George a sympathy note--my first one ever. I actually got a response in the mail. (Twenty-five years later, on a trip to California, I happened to meet the woman who was his secretary back then. I told her about my note and how amazed I was that I got a reply. Suzanne's eyes lit up as she said -- "Yes, I remember. I sent that to you!").

There were no thoughts back then of my becoming a pastor. If anyone asked, my dream was to be an architect. I wanted to design house like the ones the Cleavers lived in--or the mansion in Beverly Hills where the Clampetts resided. My evenings after homework would be spent drawing floor plans as I imagined those houses looked, beyond the exterior facades and one or two rooms shown on TV.

I was afraid of dogs when I was a young child, I was telling someone yesterday. One had bitten me as I crossed through a neighbor's yard and thereafter I would run home anytime there was a bark or a growl-- from pit bull or even poodle. Only when a stray dog showed up at our house one day and decided to stay did I get over that fear. We named him "Huskey." I cried the day, years later, when we had to take him to the Vet to have him put to sleep.

I was afraid to try to swim, too. And almost drowned when I went with a friend to his country club one Saturday. Embarrassed that Sandy would discover my secret, I followed him and jumped on in! He had to save me-- so then he knew! I decided to join the local public pool, and I went every day that summer until I had taught myself to float and then to swim.

People of a certain age like me can remember Nuclear Bomb drills in school and our fear of what the Russians might do to us (In recent years I have walked the streets of Moscow and felt perfectly safe). The assassination of President Kennedy. Water fountains and restrooms in that same library--segregated by race between white and "colored" people. Lining up for the polio vaccine. Two week Vacation Bible School where we made ash trays during craft time. Unable to sleep on Christmas Eve and getting out of bed at 5AM to see what Santa had brought.

Yes, it was mostly a very happy childhood I spent back in Suffolk, Virginia. My only regret is that I probably didn't appreciate enough what my parents did for me and tried to give me. And it did mold me in many ways into the man I am today. I am still a voracious reader. I still enjoy a comedy on television, love to swim, and think often of adopting a dog. I see every James Bond movie (with my son if it's possible) when they premiere, and I still sometimes sketch a floor plan or two of a house I'd like to build.

I've only missed one week of Vacation Bible School in sixty years!
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