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Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire: When I Grow Up

One day when I was six, I was having a very intense conversation with my babysitter about crayons or puppies or whatever first-graders like to talk about. But all of a sudden, she sniffed the air like a dog, then sprinted out the front door of my house, leaving me alone and confused inside. Naturally, I had to go assess the situation for myself, so I followed her. As I came around the side of the house, I saw my intrepid caretaker aiming our garden hose at a real-life fire shooting out of the roof. As I watched her battle the flames, I wasn’t scared—I was exhilarated. And right then, I decided I wanted to be a firefighter when I grew up. 

Thus began a long love affair with all things related to the fire department. Unlike some of the boys I knew, I wasn’t fascinated by fires themselves so much as I was mesmerized by the people who put them out. My poor mother fielded dozens of questions about my chosen vocation and waited patiently at our local firehouse while I coaxed the firemen there into letting me sit in their fire truck and drag their heavy hoses around—though my mom drew the line at letting me slide down the fire pole. I also insisted on having one of those metal fire ladders under my bed in case our house went up in flames again. (It didn’t, but that ladder sure helped me sneak out a lot when I was a teenager.) 

How I got from wanting to be a firefighter to being an editor beats me. All I know is that every time I pass a fire station on my way to work, I tip my imaginary helmet to the brave men and women inside and think, They have big red trucks; all I have is a bunch of lousy red pens.  

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