Wisconsin State Farmer
Eight-year-old Russell Manzke working a puzzle

We had no plans for our Sunday. Of course, the Packer game would be playing some time, but I’m not glued to the tube. Often I just listen from a distance and then if something exciting happens I go and watch the replay.

Anyway, we were contacted by our son, Russell earlier in the week. He and his family would be passing by and wondered if we’d like company.

Of course, we would love company. For Bob and me, that’s so much more exciting than any football game.

Russell, Cynthia, and little Harrison would come for lunch and visit for a few hours. Perfect, I cooked a roast and made pulled pork and gravy. I was even motivated to make an apple pie, which meant this visit would be an occasion to celebrate.

Four-year-old Harrison and Russ working with Transformers.

While we were visiting on Sunday, Russ asked if we had any of his childhood toy Transformers — he knows I’m a saver. 

Yes, in fact, I had just moved a jumbled box of toys that happened to have a few Transformers in the mix — when I saw the Transformers I had made a mental note to ask Russell if he wanted them — it looks like we had connected psychically. 

Four-year-old Harrison loved looking through the box of toys and would have hauled them all home. His daddy limited him to the Transformers, tiny cars, and a few Lego pieces — and a colorful snake and a whistle which might get lost on the way home.

I really enjoyed Russell showing Harrison how to change the Transformers from robot to critter. One changed into a triceratops, another into a bat, and a third into a peacock — some were off-brand toys that were bought on a budget.

Anyone transforming the toys had to take care not to try too hard to move an arm or a leg. Since these toys hadn’t been played with for twenty-five years their joints were stiff. After these plastic creatures were manipulated, the stiffness lifted and movement went better.

I couldn’t help reminiscing about watching our son playing these favorite toys as a boy. I rarely understood how to make the transformation. To learn what I had given Russ, I had to have him demonstrate the changes. He was always ready to explain and show me how they worked. As he illustrated the movement, young Russ would tell me about the characters and how the good Transformers were going to save humanity.

From a young age, Russ loved the mechanics of his toys. As with everything he worked with growing up, Russ wanted to know how things worked. It was easy to see early on that he was like his dad. Many times, I handed him a broken gizmo and asked him if he could fix it. He took those challenges and often repaired the gadget — with those skills and questioning mind he went to college and became a mechanical engineer. Today Russ is Partner and Senior Mechanical Engineer at Edge Focus Design in Madison.

I can’t always count on Russell to fix my gadgets these days as I used to. The distance between our homes doesn’t allow easy access. Yet, while he was here he volunteered to climb a ladder to clean out our gutters.

Who knows what Harrison will grow up to be. He may take after his father and head toward engineering, or maybe give acting a try as Russell had. Of course, Mommy has good genes, too and Harrison could take after her.

Right now, Daddy, son, and Mommy, too, are busy playing with Transformers from 20-plus years ago. They are having fun together, which is the best thing a family can do.

Susan Manzke, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; sunnybook@aol.com.