Ever since I can remember, I have been interested in writing. As a teenager, I would stay up late at night writing poems and stories while the rest of the family was sleeping. Since I shared a room with my sister and could not leave the light on, I would sit on the floor in the bathroom, the warmest place I could sit with the light on in the middle of the night.
When I was in fifth grade, I did not stay up all night writing, but I did write during my free time. During fire prevention week, the Foxboro fire department came to our school and gave a presentation about fire safety. I wrote a story about a family that escaped harm because their child told them not to smoke cigarettes in their bedroom. I believe I shared the story with my teacher, who shared the story with the Foxboro Reporter, our local newspaper.
The fire department read my story and was so impressed that they called our house and asked my mother if they could recognize me by taking me for a ride on a fire engine. The Principal of the Taylor Elementary School, my elementary school, was so excited that he brought the whole fifth grade out to see me board the fire truck. I was so shy that I did not initiate conversations with anyone until I was in middle school. So, when I was rewarded in such a public manner, I was mortified!
Chief Sheehan is the man in the photo. Mr. Gaulin was a firefighter and the father of one of my classmates. I remember boarding the fire truck, and Mr. Gaulin asking me questions as we drove throughout town together. I expect that I probably answered him, because I was rarely rude to an adult. He drove me across town and down our dead end street. My mother, surprised and with her hair in a towel after showering, and my younger brother, Billy, waved to me from our driveway as we drove by with the sirens on.
Most kids would have been excited to receive a ride on a fire truck. I was so embarrassed that I think it was difficult for me to enjoy the experience.
Once the photo was published in the newspaper, I was haunted by the permanence of my image with my dorky blue, snorkel parka, my transition lenses glasses, and my plaid pants. I remember buying that coat with my mom; her advice was that it is best to buy a coat that "covers your butt", and now instinctively, I say the same words to my daughter, Grace! I'm sure that, in 1977, plaid pants were "hip", but I don't remember them "coming back" into style since then. Fortunately, writing has always been "in style" for me, and this ladder truck ride was one of the earliest benefits of my writing that I can remember.