When I worked downtown at a big Chicago insurance company as a
single girl, my attention was never drawn to the men in suits.
Instead, I had a huge crush on the cute cafeteria guy who gave me
free bread. Why, you ask? The uniform. I have always had a thing
for guys in uniform.
It should come as no surprise that I am married to a Chicago
fireman. Back before Joe was hired by the city, he worked for a
private ambulance service. Every time I saw him in his crisp white
uniform, I swooned.
With three young sons, my exposure to uniformed paramedics has
unfortunately increased. Our first ambulance trip occurred when
Daniel was 5. He inadvertently stuck a screw driver directly
through his eye. The paramedics were able to tend to Daniel's
injury while simultaneously calming a hysterical mother with gentle
words of comfort and humor. I was so grateful.
A few years later, Jack managed to catch his head on the corner
of some furniture. I panicked as blood spurted six feet across the
room. I immediately dialed 911 and basically threw Jack at the
arriving paramedic with the solitary demand for him to fix my baby.
Oddly enough, my own licensed paramedic is always at work when
disaster strikes. Then again, if he was home, his typical response
would be to "just put some ice on it."
I am in awe of the uniformed heroes of Chicago. As a neighbor
and friend to many of these folks, I cannot get over how quick they
are to laugh. With so much of their jobs steeped in horror and
tragedy, they all seem to reach for humor first.
It's almost like they are mothers.
Some of my favorite people on the planet work at Joe's
firehouse. There is a pair of exceptionally handy guys who relish
building things. Some time ago, they were christened Phineas and
Ferb after the Disney Channel's cartoon brothers who build triple
decker lemonade stands and nuclear-powered roller coasters.
They also are fierce competitors. Every summer, there is a battle
of engineering superiority between various firehouses and shifts.
This year was no different. The directives were clear:
One shift opted for a catapult. Another chose a trebuchet. And
the final group went with the "floating arm" trebuchet. The
different architects tried to explain ratios and physics to me, but
I became distracted by the hamburgers sizzling on the grill 50 feet
After the first three attempts, Phineas and Ferb appeared to be
on the verge of defeat. With a solid year of bragging rights on the
line, the team rallied together, adjusted some weights and somehow
managed to launch a 16-inch softball directly into space.
The assorted crews gathered around, congratulated each other on
their impressive efforts, and plotted next year's competition:
"I was thinking we motorize some shopping carts."
"I'd love to use a snow blower engine and build a speed
"I like using plywood. Can we do something with plywood?"
Whenever I visit the firehouse and watch these men banter,
laugh, and come together to keep Chicago safe, I take great pride
in the example they set for my sons. Despite the heavy burden of
responsibility in their professional lives, they still show endless
humor and consideration in their daily lives. One minute may find
them furiously debating the merits of A1 Steak Sauce and the next
second they are hustling off to the scene of a terrible accident or
They are Chicago. And I really can't wait to see what they build
For more pictures and video, visit
Marianne is mother of three sons and the wife of a southside Irish fireman. She has learned that sometimes you're just too dumb to know what makes you happy. She blogs regularly at We Band of Mothers (webandofmothers.com) and curses with even greater frequency. Her material is written for the imperfect, the imprudent, and the impatient mothers who know that all this stuff is really very funny if you just give it a minute.
See more of Marianne's stories here.
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