I looked at my watch as I got into the car, it was 9 p.m. on a Saturday night and I was headed home. I had just spent a great evening at a surprise 70th birthday party for a friend and former firefighter.
I seem to be getting invited to more and more of those milestone occasions as my friends and family continue to age around me.
There were other old firefighters and retired chiefs and their spouses and we all gravitated to one table and in a few minutes the conversation, the banter and the laughter came back and we picked up where we had left off years ago.
There were some subtle differences. Instead of talking about our kids and what school they were going to, we seemed to talk more about our grandkids and how amazing, intelligent and athletic they are.
One of the group went one better and even threw a great grandchild into the conversation.
In the past, the most recent fire our halls had attended would have been dissected and refought two or three times but now it was the most recent vacations that got replayed and the upcoming travel plans discussed.
Our tents and sleeping bags had been replaced with much more civilized, exotic accommodations and the time away now was extended from those long weekends we had to squeeze into our working life.
In the past we may have shared information on our new pumper truck and all the features and devices it would come with.
This evening, we talked more about blood pressure than we did about water pressure and the new features we discussed were devices like knee braces and bifocals.
If we were designing a new fire hall today, it would not have any stairs.
By 8:45 we had eaten dinner, cut the cake and watched the slide show and guests were sharing hugs and handshakes and gathering up their coats. I couldn’t help recalling that 8:45 was about the time the band or the DJ would start playing.
The tables got pushed back in the fire hall rec rooms to expose the dance floor and as soon as the music started, we were up. Whatever the dance of the day was popular we did it, the chicken dance, YMCA, bunny hop, and for those of you that go back to old Saturday night Community Halls you know what I’m talking about. Maybe a band, maybe just a lone fiddler but the night was young and so were we.
Often we would get an alarm during a Halloween party, a Christmas dinner or a New Year’s Eve celebration but the turnout gear went on over a clown costume or a three piece suit and off we went. I recall one night headed to a fire sitting in the cab of the truck between Dracula and Elvis.
The women carried on the party without us and when we returned, we cleaned up and picked up where we left off.
About midnight, the hat would pass around and we would coax another hour out of the music, and then try beat the milkman home.
We worked hard and we played hard and enjoyed life.
You have to do that now, because all of a sudden, you look at your watch and its 9 p.m. on a Saturday night and you’re headed home.
Dance to every dance, sing to every song. At least that’s what McGregor says.