You must never rule out ducks

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

Some childhood memories stay with us forever.

As a preschooler, I remember that Mom was my constant interpreter. I had such a bad speech impediment that very few people could understand a word I said.

However, Mom understood everything.

I know, lots of youngsters have speech impediments and are hard to understand. One of the most common speech problems for preschool aged children is the inability to pronounce R’s and L’s. That is fairly typical.

What is unusual is for a child with the name of Randy Riley to have that specific impediment.

I clearly recall our mailman. His name was Cy Albert. Cy was a very nice man. One of his sons was a good friend of mine.

Every day, as Cy made his rounds and walked past our house, he would say, “Hello young fellow. What’s your name?” I would say, “Wandy Wiwey,” and Cy would laugh and continue on his way.

I remember thinking he was such a nice, cheerful man. It was years later that I realized he was laughing at me. I never thought it was a big deal. I always liked Cy.

Just before I started grade school, around 1956, our family was enjoying getting ready for Christmas. Like most families we tried to keep our Christmas purchases a secret – at least that was the plan.

One day, I found myself alone with Dad. I had picked out some nice socks for him for Christmas. I was aching to tell him about it.

Lucky for me he couldn’t understand much of what I said. I was trying to tell him that I bought him socks for Christmas, but it came out, “Daddy, I bought you some ducks for Christmas.”

“Ducks?” he would ask.

“Yes, sir. Ducks,” I would tell him.

Later, I found out that Dad had asked Mom about the meaning of “ducks,” and found out that I meant “socks.” On Christmas morning, he acted shocked and surprised.

Well done, Dad.

The story of me buying Dad “ducks” for Christmas was told and retold year after year. If someone wasn’t sure what they were getting for Christmas, Dad would say, “Maybe you’re getting a nice pair of ducks.”

This year, that story was resurrected. My grandson, Clayton, has a slight case of the same speech problems that I battled 65 years ago.

My little buddy knows that I love socks. Five years ago, when I had total right knee replacement, I started wearing some wild-looking, colorful argyle socks.

Since then, I’ve transitioned to socks with wild, strange colors and that have funny, slightly ornery sayings sewn into them.

Clayton and I have also determined that we are going to be the first Pappy/Grandson team to go to Mars. Somehow, he found socks that reflect that going-to-Mars adventure. He was bursting at the seams to tell me about the socks.

That is when I heard him say that he was buying me “ducks” — I laughed as I experienced a strange and strong feeling that this had all happened before.

As it turned out, we bought each other several pairs of socks. None of them were plain, boring socks. Clayton even received a pair that look like Baby Yoda from the series “Mandalorian.” They even have little, pointy ears sewn onto them.

He bought me two pair of Mandalorian socks and a pair of “We’re going to Mars” socks.

We love them and we love each other. We also love to laugh with each other.

Mom finally got tired of being my constant interpreter. She found out that our grade school offered speech therapy at the school. By the time I entered the second grade, I was doing much better.

Mom used to say that once I learned how to speak properly, I never stopped talking. That might be true. I have never shied away from public speaking. I will gladly take a microphone and speak to any crowd.

Maybe it’s because I was laughed at so much when I was a young boy that I’m not afraid that it might happen now.

Thanks, Mom. And thanks to you, Cy.

In a strange way, your daily chuckles made me a better person.

Randy Riley is a former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

Randy Riley

Contributing columnist