Monday, May 28, 2007


chicago fire dept

My cousin W is 15 now and wears that sweet shy hang dog face that boys sometimes get when they're crossing over from the territory of boys into men.

Hanging out with him and his family over the weekend (his mother is my mother's sister -- she's the youngest of the seven kids of which my mom's the first) I held back my favorite memory of him from him, because I didn't want to embarrass him.

But I course I told his mother later, just as we were leaving and walking to the car, and W was back at the house, out of earshot. Maybe she'll tell him herself, later, and maybe he'll blush a bit, but maybe he'll be glad to be remembered this way.

About eight years ago I passed through their mountain town of Truckee, where I saw them again yesterday. I was at a crossroads then that feels a lot like the crossroads that I'm at now -- trying to work up the courage to take the next big step into the abyss. And wondering if I'll ever find courage enough.

The four of us -- S and her two boys, who were closer to 7 and 8 then -- spent the day hiking around an old railroad line that had been supplanted by a new tunnel that bored right through the mountainside. After knocking around for a while we drove to the top of a nearby pass to take in the view of the valley.

On the way to the summit we passed a series of local firemen in full gear, hiking their way to the top, as some kind of training exercise. Their engine was waiting for them at the lot that we pulled into, staffed by another fireman, this one in shirtsleeves (SO fit -- lord have mercy), and after we piled out of the car and S got the Christmas card shot she was hoping for of her boys with Rosie, their Rottweiller, and the Sierra Nevada Range behind them, W's brother D went off to scramble on some rocks, and W clung close to his mother, all the while looking off longingly in the direction of the firetruck.

Finally he asked the question: "Mom: think I can see the firetruck?" I don't know honey, said Mom -- but you can ask them. "Mom: will you come with me?" I can watch you from here, sweetie -- go ahead. Ask nicely, and don't forget to say please.

W dragged his feet the short distance across the lot to the fireman by his truck, and all shy-like he asked his question, and he got his tour.

The fireman showed him the ins and outs of the truck, let him sit behind the wheel, then spotted him while he climbed up over the backside. We watched the whole thing from not too far away, watched the fireman at last lower him from the truck, the quick exchange (a thank you to go with that please, I'm guessing), and then the quick burst as he dashed back over to his mom to tell her in a rapid fire stream about everything he saw.

But it's the last little bit that stuck with me the most, and hit me then like something I needed to hear, after the storytelling was over and we were bundled back in the car and heading down the mountain and W had that weary happy look that follows excitement.

He said "Mom?" And she said, yes W? And he said: "I'm always going to ask."


anniemcq said...

Oh God, I love this. so much.

Lolabola said...

stop it with these stories, I'm getting all sentimental...

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