Things of Significance

By Michael Morse

“You are a hoarder,” my wife said to me, shortly after I complained about all of the clutter in our home.

“I most certainly am not!” I responded, horrified that the person I share my life with could possibly accuse me of something so patently untrue. There was a hoarder among us, and it certainly was not me!

She raised her eyebrow and looked around, focusing on a few places in particular.

“Everybody has half of their dresser drawers dedicated to firefighter T-shirts!” I exclaimed, but without much conviction. The possibility that I might be a hoarder occurred to me, but in true middle-aged, set-in-his-ways fashion, I quickly discarded the thought.

I don’t ask for much, just a little space for a few things. The hydrant in the backyard doesn’t bother anybody, and the pull box on the shed looks kind of nice. And nobody needs to go tripping over the turnout gear in the basement; it’s over in the corner, not bothering anybody. And the helmet and shields look great on their perch in the garage, after all. And so what if the mailbox looks like a ladder truck, it’s the perfect size!

And whoop de do, I bought a bottle of Jim Beam that looks like a fire engine at a yard sale. It doesn’t take up all that much space; all I had to do was move the “how dry I am” music box fire hydrant-shaped decanter over a bit and slide it next to that pint-sized German mug with the old-fashioned fire helmet handle, and don’t even think I’m getting rid of that. Where else would I keep my badges, collar pins, lapel pins, and ax-shaped tie clip?

I suppose we could make some room on the bookshelf, but everybody loves Report from Engine Co. 82, so that has to stay, and the Firehouse Cookbook I got when I graduated from the Academy in ’92, well, that’s got sentimental value! My firefighter bookends need books to end, so they stay too, along with the dozen or so paperbacks from Peter Canning, Kelly Grayson, Dennis Smith, and Rick Lasky and the rest.

Then there’s the little firefighter garden gnome, and that was a gift, so he is a keeper. And the brass nozzle I found at that consignment store? That’s an antique! Can’t very well go getting rid of antiques, can we now. And speaking of antiques, how about those buttons I found at The Salvation Army–fire department buttons from the dress blues of a firefighter long gone but never forgotten for as long as his buttons are resting next to the badges in the mug on my dresser!

“Hoarders hoard things of no significance,” I exclaimed, after making a mental inventory of my things. “Therefore, I am not a hoarder!”

There. That settled it. Now all I have to do is figure out where to put all the other stuff I have in boxes down in the basement.


Michael Morse is a former captain with the Providence (RI) Fire Department (PFD), an author, and a popular columnist. He served on PFD’s Engine Co. 2., Engine Co. 9, and Ladder Co. 4 for 10 years prior to becoming an EMT-C on Rescue Co 1 and Captain of Rescue Co. 5.

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