It’s hard to believe that all those Christmas packages were being ripped open just a few short weeks ago.
Christmas morning at the Rileys involves a shower of ribbons, paper, bows and tissue paper. There’s lots of giggles and laughs as we reveal the serious and goofy gifts we give and receive — a bottle of good wine, socks that look like corn-on-the-cob, passes to Kings Island and so much more.
We didn’t count the gifts. We counted our blessings.
By now, just a few weeks after Christmas, many of the toys that our kids and grandchildren received have either been forgotten or broken.
When Josh and Danny were little, I had a knack for fixing broken toys. A little Super Glue or Elmer’s Glue and the little car or GI Joe could be as good as new.
One afternoon, Josh was upset because his favorite toy truck was broken. Danny tried to calm him down by telling him, “Don’t worry. Daddy will fix it. Daddy can fix anything.”
Whew. The pressure was on.
Josh handed me his truck and I realized it was made of a type of rubber that rejected Super Glue or Elmer’s glue. The bed of the truck was torn. The axle was broken. I didn’t say it, but it was totally beyond repair. He was heartbroken and so was I.
“Let me see what I can so.” That’s the only thing I could think of to say. Then I added, “Tomorrow, let me see what I can do.”
The very next day I went to the little store in downtown Marysville where I had purchased Josh’s toy truck. I was praying that they had one more of those little toy trucks.
They did. I bought the new truck and snuck into my workshop. I compared the new truck to the old truck that had been destroyed. Then, I started making marks, smudges and nicks in the new truck, so that it would perfectly match the old one.
That evening, I tossed Josh his new-old truck and said, “Here. This is the best I could do.” Sheer joy spread across his little face. Josh’s smile made the minor deceit worth it.
Danny elbowed his big brother and said, “See. I told you Daddy could fix anything.”
OK, it was a little white lie, but I still think it was worth it. Despite that bit of deceit, I always tried to be completely honest with the boys. I’ve always tried to protect them and defend them.
One hot summer afternoon, when we lived on Westfield Drive, the boys came into the house. They stood sad-faced in the kitchen — on the verge of tears.
They were also wet. Danny had water dripping from his hair. Josh’s shirt was more than a little damp. At first, I couldn’t tell if it was from sweat or water.
I asked what was going on and Danny, with a combination of anger and frustration in his voice, said, “It’s those big boys again. They keep hitting us with water balloons.”
I think Josh was mostly upset because the big boys had them outnumbered and out-water-ballooned.
I said, “OK, boys. Here’s the deal. You two go into the backyard. Get behind the neighbor’s house, yell at those boys and shake your butts at them. Tell them they’re not so bad. Trust me, they will chase you. Run and stop in our front yard. They will chase you, but don’t worry about it. Let ‘em chase you.”
As I hid in behind the shrubs at the front of the house, I heard the yelling. Then I heard the panicked running. Josh and Danny ran past my hiding place, followed by the big boys.
They had no way of knowing that I had the garden hose turned on, primed and ready. The big boys stopped to launch their water balloons. In that split second, I unleashed the full-blown power of the Wilmington Water Department on them. With expert control, I soaked them from head to toe.
As my boys laughed, I could tell they were proud of their old man.
Within minutes, between the water hose and water balloons, we were all soaked. Then I broke out several boxes of popsicles. Smiles were spread out on every young face.
We love our children and would do anything for them.
Whether it’s making Christmas special, repairing old toys or going into water battles with them, our job, as parents, is to be there when needed – to fix whatever seems to be broken.
Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and a resident of the city for more than 40 years.
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