The last few years have found me and The Man celebrating our anniversary in other cities, in other states.
But since we weren’t on a road trip this year, we decided to celebrate locally, enjoying the food and beauty of our own city, in a place that is especially near and dear to The Man’s heart.
I’ll get to that in a minute, but first, aren't these flowers the bomb?
The Man knows how to make my heart skip a beat, that's for sure.
Now, back to my anniversary tale, which has taken a nostalgic turn and thus requires a rambling back-story.
Pssst .... This may be the longest post in the history of blogland, and I don’t expect anyone to read all of it. Seriously, it’s going to be lo-n-g and drawn out, but the truth of the matter is that I document such events mostly for myself, to print and paste in a journal at some point, so it’s perfectly OK to skip over the boring parts. Who will know? Don't blame me if you decide not to.
A great deal of The Man’s 34-year career was spent at Houston’s downtown Fire Station No. 1, at 410 Bagby, shown here, back in the day. It was his home away from home for 15 or so years. He was there, 24 hours at a time during his shifts.
But in the year 2000, things changed at Station No. 1. The city leased the property to a restaurant mogul, and relocated the employees to another firehouse. Nobody was happy about this, except the city and the mogul.
I remember the last day that Station No. 1 was in operation. It was a sad day for all. The end of an era had arrived.
In time, the inside of the building was pretty much gutted, the outside redesigned, and a work of art was the result. Old Fire Station No. 1 is now a restaurant called Downtown Aquarium.
The funny thing is, in all the years since its opening, The Man and I had not darkened the doors a single time … until our anniversary last Wednesday.
Just driving to 410 Bagby is always a trip down memory lane, to say the least. There were times in our marriage when, for months, we found ourselves having to share a vehicle. Generally, the reason was because the other vehicle needed a repair that we couldn't afford. During those lean times, whenever The Man was on duty, I would have to wake early, in order to get him to the station by 6:30, which meant I had to repeat the same thing the next morning, in order to pick him up from his shift.
So, yes, the road there and back is a familiar one, well-traveled, especially for The Man. If you look closely, you can see the freeway takes you past the building (see it sticking up there on the left) before you take the McKinney St. Exit, to Bagby.
As we walked up to the second-floor restaurant, memories of the old building came flooding in for both of us, but especially for The Man. We both felt a bit melancholy, and that's where the back-story comes in.
I documented all of The Man's HFD years in his retirement scrapbook, and thought I'd share some of the photos in this nostalgic post. The photos chosen are from the mid-90's and were taken to share with Sunday school children for "Career Day." You will notice The Man looking younger and sporting a whole different hair-do. I apologize for the quality of the pictures; they are photos of photos (the scanner is on the blink).
It was in this very building that life and death were spoken of, that comrades came together to serve the citizens and business owners of Houston.
At various times in the day, if they were lucky, firefighters gathered around the table and shared a meal, but more often than not, the meal was interrupted by the crackling of the intercom, announcing the whereabouts of someone in need of help.
When that happened, it was time to slide the pole down to the ground floor.
Then it was off to a certain address, never knowing exactly what they would find upon arrival.
The days found the captain doing assorted things between runs. Taking phone calls, working on payroll forms.
Even filling in at the watch-office.
In the evenings, after an appointed time, firefighters made their beds in the dormitory and hoped for a quiet night.
The Man would retire to the captain’s room, while people at home missed him very much and prayed for his safe return. Such is the life of a firefighter.
That was then. This is now. Today, Fire Station No. 1 offers an aquatic dining experience, as well as six-acres of family entertainment.
One day, we will return and experience the whole nine-yards, but Wednesday evening, we were only there for the dining experience.
Surrounded by a 500,000-gallon aquarium, home to more than 200 species of aquatic life, it is something to behold.
While we ate, The Man shared 101 fire stories, then attempted to get re-oriented to what was where during his years at Station No. 1. How fun to realize we were probably eating dinner where the dormitory once sat. It was a bit like his own little treasure hunt.
After our magnificent meal, we wandered out to the wrap-around balcony and looked at Houston's amazing skyline. As in the days of yore, The Man had stood on a second-floor balcony in pretty much this same spot many times before, looking out at the same buildings that he knows so well.
He determined that this was pretty close to where the captain's room used to be.
As we watched the sun sinking into the west , we talked of yesterday and of the people who used to call him Captain, and how far we’ve come from that life in the few years since his retirement.
Before calling for our vehicle, we walked across the street where the gorgeous Wortham Center sits, right along the banks of the Buffalo Bayou.
It felt good to stop a spell and reflect on the beauty around us, and on the great life that God has so graciously granted to us.
We know how easy things can change, because life can be that way—unpredictable, unfair, and unpleasant—and the best you can do is slow down and be thankful for the present moment.
Since we were both too full to have dessert after dinner, we drove around the streets of downtown for a long while, talking of other special times and events in the city, and, of course, listening to The Man share more fire stories, of which I never tire. (I still find it fascinating that he has been on the roof of every high-rise building in downtown Houston.)
But, never fear, dessert is near.
No anniversary can be complete without coffee and dessert, so once back in our corner of the world, we stopped in for dessert—this massive bread pudding that could feed four people, easily. If you’ve never experience meringue on bread pudding, trust me, it’s an essay waiting to happen. I’m happy to say we brought more than half of it home.
Well ... if you're still with me, you can breathe a sigh of relief. That about wraps up the 32nd anniversary festivities. As for that horse and carriage in the background, we decided to wait for cooler weather before taking that little trip.
Thanks for your well wishes and congratulatory comments. As always, you made the day even more special.