What I Learned from the NFA Last Year

The National Fire Academy week is here again. Already? When my fireman got accepted for the same week as last year, I thought we still had months to worry about the details and figure things out before he left. As time often does, it fast forwarded us to this magical week. The week I get to be pleasantly supportive and take care of things on the homefront while he drives up the coast to spend a week supposedly in class all day, doing homework into the night, eating cafeteria food and networking. Of course, I know this is just code-talk to soften the blow for me. Here is the list of translations as I have come to know them: • “In class all day” = “Learning fascinating stuff from some phenomenal instructors.” • “Doing homework into the night” = “B.S.-ing with other firefighters late into the night with our coursework open in front of us.” • “Eating cafeteria food” = “Finding creative ways to avoid cafeteria food, such as trying grass-fed beef burgers in a neighboring town.” • “Networking” = Again, this involves “B.S.-ing with other firefighters, but ones who are not usually on the B.S.-ing list because they are from all over the country and not just my department.” Other than becoming familiar with these terms, I came to some other conclusions from last year’s NFA week too. For starters, something will break before he returns. It is inevitable. So far this week, the back screen door has been knocked off track and my old Jeep stalled out on me, but I fixed both of those and the kids are still intact so we’re doing okay for now. I also learned that even though he’s gone, everything that goes missing will somehow be his fault. In the past two days, the girls have lost one winter boot, the hard floor attachment to the vacuum cleaner, and the cord to our Christmas village firehouse. This last one spans two categories though because it is not only missing the cord, but the corner where the cord should connect is completely broken off. The crooked firehouse now sits sadly extinguished among the merry houses in the rest of our Christmas village. Poor firehouse. When questioned about this dreary, cock-eyed structure the girls said, “What cord?” “Um…the cord that, just last year, trailed from the wall outlet into the corner of the ceramic firehouse here so that all these pretty lights inside it would actually glow at the flip of the switch,” I said. My questioning was met with some blank stares and a hearty “I don’t know. Maybe Daddy does.” I’m guessing he doesn’t, though. I will round out the list of lessons with these: • It is impossible to transport three kids and a bag of trash to the dump in my old Jeep Wrangler, so there will be a lot of cussing at neighborhood cats and re-bagging of trash this week. There will also be a large load for my husband to haul off with the truck when they both return home. • No matter how much I miss him, he is probably having more fun and missing me a lot less. • Even though I will internally lecture myself on how not to sound jealous and bitter on the phone, my supportive side will suffer a minor failure when he calls on our anniversary and describes the fun evening he’s having in town with the guys. Really though, I have noticed that the lessons he learned at the NFA had an impact on him in his role as an officer at his department. Sure, the week was fun for him. He met new people and made new friends. He visited exciting places and enjoyed new experiences. But he actually went up there to learn and he came away having done just that.