Sometimes when we push the switch that turns on the gas fireplace in our home, he’ll pretend he’s putting out the flames while aiming an imaginary fire hose.
When he’s backing up his rig, ‘beep, beep, beep’ he’ll make the sounds until satisfied with his parking effort.
Roaring out of the station (living room) with siren (pull-string bell) screaming, Engine No. 7 is answering the call, its driver outfitted from plastic helmet to rubber boots including a walkie- talkie that doesn’t connect to anyone – which, for him, is neither here-nor-there – and he confirms with dispatch he’s on his way.
Upon arrival at the blazing inferno he’ll mount his ladders (unless they’ve fallen off in route) and rescue whomever needs it.
At three-years old, Isaac, our grandson, idolizes his heroes who have a real red fire truck with real flashing lights, a siren and ladders that don’t fall off (they retract) in a real fire station just around the corner.
And yesterday, seated in his Christmas present he received from his adopted aunt, he pulled into Station 23.
But the big red fire truck was gone.
Someone needed them, and they’d responded.
We have been that someone.
They came when his grandmother was stung with so many bees she was slipping into anaphylactic shock.
They came, long before he was even born, when grandma-and-grandpa’s house caught on fire just before Christmas one year and very early that morning they hooked up their hoses to the fire plug right at the corner of their property, saving the structure. Though they would lose all their possessions, their cat and all their four children – one who would one day be his mother – were saved and insurance enabled the house to be rebuilt.
They came and assisted the family in grief and despair beyond description for which their hug in the hallway of their fire station more that served – much more – when words could not.
When the community was without electricity one cold week of Winter, their fire station generator was made available to plug in neighbor coffee pots.
When the cat, chasing a squirrel, got its big head stuck in the too-small hole of the decorative foundational brick of the house, they came and with Jaws of Life they set the cat free.
But this day, someone else needed their fire truck.
Disappointed, but knowing that might happen, we walked – Isaac peddled – the one block back home.
And then, we heard it, and saw it. The big red fire truck was coming down the street.
As fast as he could get his little engine (legs) cranked up, checking both ways for traffic and ringing his bell to send all imaginary vehicles to the side of the road, he commandeered the middle of the street and then the sidewalk (mom’s insistence) and arrived just mere minutes after they did.
At first, he was so awed at the size of the big red fire truck (just a single tire dwarfed both he and his rig altogether) and real firemen exiting that he just sat there and stared.
Then, his three-year-old pride at being behind the wheel of his own red fire truck kicked in and round-and-round he peddled furiously in tight circles, perhaps thinking not even their truck could do that.
That demonstration over, he pulled away to the sidewalk and sat. Didn’t ring the bell. Didn’t adjust the ladder that had come off again and was dragging the ground. His hands on the wheel, he just sat there as the fireman in charge approached.
‘Did you know we have ladders on our fire truck like you have on yours?’ the nice fireman said.
‘Would you like to see them?’
Yes, he would.
‘Do you have reverse on this fire truck of yours?’
Yes, he did.
‘Well, how ‘bout you put it in reverse and pull into the station? We have a special parking spot for you.’
So, there he was. His hand in grandmas, he looked up as they retracted the ladders.
They had a steering wheel like his too. And walkie-talkies that really worked. And head phones linked to a real dispatch person.
And then they got a call from that real dispatch person. Both fire trucks at that point pulled out of the station, and one, its siren blaring, horn blasting, lights spinning headed off down the street leaving the other little red fire truck and the little fireman standing awestruck beside it.
Someone needed them.