The Best Place I’ve been in Months

February 2, 2003:

I’d like to say that I have shirked my readership at The Mighty Signal because I was out publicizing my new book, “Newbie Chiefs”.  But…no such luck.  While other real writers have been doing what they do best I’ve been doing what I do best: managing life in my own way.

In the past few months I’ve been through the sudden illness and death of a very close family member, toured a few private schools, sold our rental house, and celebrated my husband’s new promotion as a Battalion Chief.  I cannot share my feelings about our loss, as we are still very “raw”.  The private school issue is a matter of expense versus the benefits of a 20-2 student teacher ratio among other things.  And the sale of our rental house is what is allowing us to investigate private schooling.

So, that leaves a much-needed glimpse into the life of a Newbie Mrs. Chief.  At least I think that’s the topic most of you should find entertaining.   First of all Newbie Mrs. Chiefs sometimes require Newbie Chiefs, to attend “balls” and/or celebratory festivities.  We require other things, like big-time bragging rights, but I think that’s fairly obvious.

As you may recall my husband, the LA City Firefighter, (Okay it’s time for my editor to wince because every time I mention my husband I always include his title.) recently promoted to Battalion Chief.  (In case you need further reminding, he was #1 on the Chief’s list.
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  And, yes, I have the list framed.)  What will now follow is an accounting of what happened, to my life, after his promotion took effect.  (To tell you what happens between the time when they study for the test, take the test, the list comes out….etc. is an exercise in frustration.  I assume all firefighters go through this when they are waiting to promote.  They start several projects never to finish any of them before said promotion.  For Eddie is was ripping out the rot iron fencing that used to protect my home from the street and begin “ideas” on how to ever replace, put in a new house fan whose switch electrocuted me more than once, take my computer down in our office to paint the room just the right color of yellow, find the perfect halogen lighting, order shutters and new desks and then finally, hook up my computer with a keyboard with the now sticking space bar…suffice to say this is his third promotion.)

So back to the “celebratory festivities”.  For years, well at least 3, we attended the annual holiday “Fire Ball” with only LA City firefighters and their wives dancing and dining and all-around-partying for an evening.  Cocktail dresses, in the theme colors of red or black, seemed mandatory.  This year, we were to attend our first “Chief’s Ball”.  And we were going to not only rub elbows with other Chiefs but also Chiefs from LA County.  There might even be Chiefs from SCV in attendance.  I was reminded, as usual, to watch my P’s and Q’s.

With his promotion I had decided to buy a new floor-length dress that wasn’t on a discount rack for a change.  I pulled a dozen dresses in the aforementioned red and black colors.  Then I saw it: fully beaded, white, halter-style top, slit up the back with nothing but about two inches of fabric at my waist to attach the top to the bottom.  It was buried on the sale rack for $20!  I forced the one gentleman in the store, of course, to comment.  Not only did he turn out to be a LA County firefighter but he also voted for the cheapie dress to boot!  Even the new white shawl I had picked out to match was more expensive!

The ball was very nice.  I met lots of Chiefs and their wives that night-none quite as Newbie as us.  The dress was a hit too but, being the Eve of Destruction, I couldn’t help but tell anyone and everyone that complemented me how much the dress cost.  Oh well, I think I’ll be more comfortable being my true cheapie self at the regular firefighter’s ball next year.  Then I could wear the same dress!

Fast forward (Is that possible?) to the next event.  Ed had made a number of friends at the National Fire Academy in Maryland in the last few years.  As he was the only Captain that had slipped into the Academy based on his resume and not his title, he had been alternatively ribbed and stroked to make Chief.  We simply had to celebrate with these guys.

It seemed Las Vegas was a place they were all willing to meet for a weekend in January.  We couldn’t believe that Chiefs Derryl O’Neal from Florida, Pete Lamb from New Hampshire, Bob Meyer from Washington and Chris Pendleton from Arizona all RSVP’D!  Of course a few local firefighters, former firefighters, Captains and lay persons also attended.  We entertained them in a lovely suite at Bally’s with plenty of food and drink.

Each of the Chiefs that had flown in had prepared short (Except for Pete’s lengthy derailment that included a threat to not go home to New Hampshire where it was four below and, he couldn’t where his favorite T-shirt that read “Rehab is for Quitters” and, move in to Glitter Gulch on Fremont Street.) speeches and presented Ed with T-shirts with their department logos and his name stitched on.

Eddie is now settled in at his new assignment, Battalion Three, across from USC.  He likes to joke that they will exercise on the track with the co-eds.  I like to joke that he’s at least twenty-five years older than said co-ed.  He doesn’t seem daunted.  He’s had a hellish few months with few bright moments.  And I may not have a landscaped front yard or a kid in private school just yet but I’ve got that beaded dress hanging in my closet as a reminder that we are getting over this hump and are finally in a better place than we’ve been.