Show and tell at school was usually tedious because it often meant that I had to sit through other first graders going on and on about something. But one day I didn’t even hear what the other kids shared. I was too caught up in the awesomeness of the story I had to tell. When it was my turn I went to the front of the room and launched into the story of my family visiting Phoenix.
We went to Phoenix every month or so. My grandparents lived there and my dad had district meetings. I didn’t share that or anything about the drive down. I just told them that we had gone shopping. But the shopping wasn’t the story either.
“And then,” I gasped to the class. “Right when we were walking out of GemCo, a great big fire truck went by! With its siren and lights on! And it was honking its horn! It was loud!”
I’m sure my sharing was probably loud too. With my story done I went back to my seat. I didn’t notice or care if anyone was impressed. I thought it was neat. If I had been any kind of writer back then, I could have painted the picture better, with less exclamation points. It was night and the streets were wet with rain. The red lights of the fire truck blended with the red and white of the rest of the traffic. The truck sort of emerged from the rest of the lights, mostly in its noise. It blasted its horn, the kind unique to fire trucks and perhaps locomotives. But the story I told to the first grade that morning was emotional and not descriptive. I had been thrilled and needed to share that.
For most big city-dwellers, it was nothing special. But the town I lived in at the time had only a volunteer fire department and I lived on a quiet suburban street where the loudest thing was the neighbor’s Corvette. At a young age, I wanted to be a policeman only so I could drive a cool car with lights and a siren. Later on, perhaps starting from that night, I wanted to be a fireman. I didn’t care about fighting fires, squirting water or anything else like that. All I wanted to do was drive fast, have a siren and flashing lights and run red lights. How much more king of the streets was that?
Sometimes my blog is like that. I get caught up in something that maybe thrills me or just sparks my imagination. I rattle on about it and post it. Later on I look back and wonder what I was thinking. I have gone and re-written a couple of entries, making improvements, being more descriptive and trying to make better sentences. I think it’s growing as a writer.
I kind of miss the times that all it took to thrill me beyond words was a speeding fire truck. And not only thrill me, but inspire me. I wanted to do what they did.
A year or so after seeing the fire truck that night, I was riding with my dad and we approached an intersection. Out my window I heard the wail of a siren. We had a green light but my dad came to a stop anyway. I looked out my window and saw an ambulance speeding up to the intersection, where it had a red light. I bristled with excitement at the thought that they would blast through and run the red light.
The ambulance slowed, came to a quick halt, then proceeded through the intersection. My stunned heart sank. They had stopped for the red light. The disappointment I felt was crushing. I asked my dad why they had done that and he explained that they were just being safe and careful.
Careful of what? Could someone actually not hear the siren and mosey out into the path of an emergency vehicle? It was inconceivable. But yet, I saw the ambulance pause. At that moment, I didn’t want to live in a world where ambulances were not free to run red lights.
Well I pulled through that disillusionment that time. There were more significant betrayals of my innocence and trust later in my life that I am still working through today.
And then last Wednesday I was driving the family van to the bank in my hometown. Coming up to a busy intersection, I heard a siren off to my right and stopped at the green light and waited as an ambulance came up, made a complete stop and then sped on. The shock of recognition hit me. I hadn’t thought of the ambulance at the light for years and was taken back at the sight of that replay. I got to the bank minutes later and was thankful I had my notebook and pen. I wrote “the ambulance at the light” on the first blank page I found. I thought about the fire truck when I was coming out of the department store and I remembered sharing it for show and tell. Then I anxiously awaited the time I would compose my blog. I would write about the loss of innocence seeing the ambulance stop at the light.
Then as I wrote this I realized that there is another recurrence. Again, I saw something so awesome that I had to share it. I usually tell the story without being able to really gauge any reaction. I was pretty impressionable back then and thought I was less so now. But not being impressed by things does not make for a good writer.
The goal of Roadwalker isn’t just to be writing every week, but to be looking for things to write about. They’re out there, sometimes it’s a noise out the right-hand window that recaptures the picture of an old memory. And sometimes that memory brings on a string of others, and finally a realization. That kid telling the story to the first grade hasn’t changed that much.