Monday, December 24, 2012

The Fire Wife Grinch

I was inspired by an amazing sister fire wife and her guest post here, to share my first Christmas married to a Fire Fighter.  Another Fire Wife was miserable about the holiday season.  I was going to send her a link to my first Christmas in this world.  I was certain that I blogged about it.  But, I did not.  I was SO mad, I bottled it all up.

It was 2010.  My kids were 10 - 2.  It was my first year teaching in the school I am currently teaching.  He had been out of the academy for 7 weeks by Christmas.  Talk about baptism by fire.  I knew our world was going to be turned upside down - the academy taught me that.  14 weeks of him being gone from 6:30am to 7 pm M-F, Saturdays being spent at the BIT washing his turnout gear and studying where there were no children - a luxury I was VERY jealous of, as I graded 100+ research papers with four children in my hair who missed their Daddy, terribly.  14 weeks of an exhausted recruit who used to be my husband passing out in his books taught me that our life would never be the same.  Moving my classroom from our garage to my school two counties away - ALONE - with all four muppets in tow, taught me that our lives would never be the same.  

I KNEW our lives were forever changed by this shift in the universe.

But I didn't really learn until Christmas how our lives would never be the same.  And it was a HARD lesson to learn.  His first shift was Halloween.  And Halloween fell on a Sunday - which meant his first day of work as a firefighter, I learned what it meant to be a fire wife.  I had to take the kids Trick-or-Treating - ALONE.  It was O's first time going out.  The boys weren't old enough to totally go by themselves. No worries, we'll go in my dad's neighborhood.  We visited Daddy at the firehouse, where the Captain greeted us warmly and my FF rushed us out, so as not to embarrass him.  And I was grumpy.  Off to T-o-T we went.  I took everyone out, but then I had to drop the girls back at Grandpa's house as fatigue kicked in.  Eventually, I let the boys fly on their own.  My niece was with them and we figured if the three stooges stuck together, they would be fine.  And I made that decision on my own.  His first day on the job was my first holiday alone.  You would have thought I would have learned.  
Daddy's first shift, before he kicked us out - quickly.
I remember it so vividly - yeah, only two years ago, I know.  But you would be amazed at how much my Swiss Cheese wedge for a brain loses.  We celebrated with his family because he was scheduled to work Christmas Eve - which is their day.  I hate it when we celebrate early, truth be told.  Things feel forced and not everyone is happy about it.  So, we knew that would be "off". 

Actual picture from Christmas Eve that year.
None-the-less I tried, I really did.  I tried to make things "normal". The Muppets and I made cookies, we went and saw the Miller Brewery light show, we visited daddy at the firehouse, with our cookies in hand...until he rushed us out the door because his Cub FF self was afraid that we would get him in trouble.  I made breakfast for the guys, which my FF did not get to partake in because he brought a guy back to life - from the jail and then he got transferred   I finished the wrapping by myself.  I put together all the toys myself.  I played Santa by myself - which was no easy feat as my oldest was looking for a reason NOT to believe.  I did not make it to Midnight Mass - which made me VERY cranky.  I got no sleep.
The kids really are in this picture, I swear!

And then he Mandated. 

His number (486) came up and he had to work Christmas Eve AND Christmas Day.  Ironically, he actually got the day off - there were jovial times at the firehouse, only a few runs.  Movies were playing, he got out of housework for the holidays and dinner was made for him.  He actually wasn't too grumpy.  


I got to fight with Skype so Daddy could be "with us" when we opened Christmas presents.  I got to be the one to steal the muppets from their new favorite toy so we could do the round robin of homes on Christmas Day.  I  got to haul the toys and kids who were so tired they were drooling on themselves back to the house.  ALONE.  I tried to rationalize it in my brain, as evidenced here, but it did not work.

And, I got to sleep alone, again.  Probably the worst part of the day.  I still wasn't used to that.

When J got home, I was frazzled.  He was tired.  And I needed to tell him how unhappy I was...but he went to sleep.  Being the Cub, he took watch.  Which meant that even though there weren't many runs, he still didn't get much sleep.  

And I had the four kids - alone - again.

And I CRIED!  I had the messiest melt down you can imagine.  

He looked at me and said, "What are you so angry about?  You got to celebrate Christmas with our family."

And, if my eyes could have literally thrown daggers, I would have been writing this post in an orange jumpsuit.  If looks could kill...

It wasn't a pretty argument.

And I felt so ALONE.  Alone in the marriage, alone in the world.  I was SO much older than the girls married to the guys in J's class.    And there is not much fraternization with the new guys.  I hadn't made friends in this new world we were in.  Many of our teacher friends weren't sure where we fit in anymore.  My husband was asleep.

I was all ALONE.  Even if it was only in my mind.   

This year, the stars aligned.  A FF from J's class was desperate to have off NYE, J asked what I thought.  I flippantly told him sure, he'll take Christmas Eve for you.  It will never happen...but it did. So, my FF is home for both days. And the ironic part is that I would have been totally okay doing it alone.  Because now I am not alone.  We live next to another Fire Family - which is a blessing beyond all blessings.  So when things go stupid wrong, I just go next door.  When I need another set of hands, she is right there.  I have a fire wife in Texas on speed dial.  She and I are friends because her husband took pity on what he saw on this blog, ironically enough.  From the Christmas time shenanigans mentioned above, actually.  It is the friendships that I have made because of my husband's vocation (for him, the truest sense of the word) that has allowed me to make sense of this world.  Of missed holidays and birthdays.  Of Christmas Concerts and school programs - alone.  Maybe I had to go through  that first year of misery to find that I was strong enough, with the right support network.  And I was never alone. Who knows.
The founder of, reached out and
was amazing.  You are never alone in this world.

Just know that if you are married to this crazy fire world, you are never alone.  You will have to take your traditions and make them your own, not anyone else's.  You will have to learn to ignore the date on the calendar.  And you will have to learn to stand on your own two feet.  We all know that if anything bad is going to happen, it will be when they are on shift.  But, you are never alone.

So, as we enter the day of celebrating.  Take a deep breath.  Remind yourself that if everything doesn't go as planned, it is okay.  And don't take your FF's head off as soon as he enters the door.  Guys, realize that Christmas is the most stressful time of the year and it is only compounded when your significant other is thrown into the depths of single motherhood because you are at work.  Be patient and loving, even when they are having the messiest meltdown you have seen.  Your girl is still in there, she is just buried under all of the comments from friends and family, under the scotch tape and ribbon that got tangled in her hair, under the layer of chocolate she had to scrape off your kids' faces.  Find her and love her.  She needs the extra pampering to remind her that this is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

Merry Christmas!  Hug your FFs tight, take some mistletoe with you to the firehouse.  Remind your muppets that this season is not about the gifts under the tree, but the joy and love we bring to the world.  Hug them tight as they are probably missing the FF just as much as we are.

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