I managed to evade the issue almost 4 whole days, but finally after being reminded for the 4327th time this morning that "Mommy, Mr. Tony INVITED me!*", I broke.
And so today, I packed the youngest in the car and off we toodled to the fire station, where another firefighter named Mr. C.J. kindly showed us all over, showed us the poles and how to open the flap doohickeys, even slid down a pole so we could see, opened the little doors on the trucks, told us about shifts and crews and even introduced us to the Captain. And the youngest was very happy...right until he got back in the car. At that point his faithlessness in me became abundantly clear.
"Mommy, Mr. Tony was not there."
"No, he was not."
"The same firefighters aren't always there. They have families they go home to. Houses even."
"Why were they wearing those shirts?"
"What shirts? I didn't even notice."
"Those other shirts! Mr. Tony was wearing a white shirt!"
"Honey, they have more than one shirt, just like you."
Silence from the back seat. And then:
"You took me to the wrong station."
Winston-Salem Fire Stations
*This wasn't quite true - Mr. Tony's exact words were something like, "You're welcome to stop by the fire station any time," - but the youngest took it as gold anyway. I suppose to a five year old boy an invitation to the fire station is gold.