There is a firehouse down the road about a quarter of a mile from us.  At the other end of our street sit two hospitals, so we get our share of emergency vehicles screaming by the house.  When I was home with our foster son for the first few weeks, I used to try to break up the day by doing different things, playing on the activity mat, reading stories, going for strolls in the neighborhood, etc.  The first time I heard the far-off cry of the fire truck I turned to the little baby in my lap and said, “fire truck, fire truck!”  I picked him up and raced to the window to watch the red and yellow flashing lights of the pumper truck as it barreled up the street.  I don’t think I knew then what I had started.  Anytime the whine of the siren could be heard, I would make the effort to get him to the window and sometimes we would go out onto the stoop to watch the action.

Thus began the fascination with everything fire truck related.  Generally speaking, I don’t think it takes that much to get little boys interested in cars and trucks, but put on a few flashing lights and a siren and its like honey to bees.  We of course have continued to feed the monster.  He has fire engine pajamas, he has two fire trucks which both make a series of fire truck sounds.  The other day I caught him putting together his fire truck chorus.  He pushed the button on the side of one truck, navigating through the sounds until he got to the “whirrrr “of the siren, then ran to the other truck and did the same thing so that both would play simultaneously.  Then he would repeat the whole thing over again.  He is a genius. 

Last fall we took him to the “Monster Truck” event in downtown Baltimore.  Unlike the smoke-filled and as we know now, somewhat dangerous events, where huge trucks race around dirt filled stadium floors, this event was very different.  One day a year, the City of Baltimore cleans up all kinds of trucks and other equipment from its fleet.  They give kids little plastic hard hats and allow them to climb all over the vehicles which are parked along the waterfront.  We even got to look inside of a Police helicopter and then watched it take off.  And of course there were a number of fire and rescue vehicles.  I know now that this will be an annual event in our house. 

To this day, anytime we are in the car he can spot a fire truck when neither of us can see it.  Sometimes while I am holding him in my lap, he will be still all of a sudden.  He lifts his head, poised like one of the dogs with his face turned, listening for the faintest sound.  There is the look of expectation, our eyes meet as if confirming, yes there it is, then he turns back toward the street.  As the whine of the fire truck grows ever so slightly he turns towards me for a moment and in a faint whisper he says, “fire truck” as if he were telling me the most fantastic secret.

I know that our son will eventually tell his teacher that he wants to be a fireman.  And I won’t fret that he doesn’t want to be a scientist or an architect.  I know it was that very first siren, that very first tapping at the window as the red and the yellow flashed through the neighborhood and the howl came forth.  Emergency, emergency, fire truck, fire truck!