In March, of 2013, our family was at Chuck E. Cheese celebrating my niece’s seventh birthday. Over the years, I have come to realize that there are three groups of people who go to this establishment: In the first group, there’s the kids (and some adults) who tirelessly run around, enthusiastically playing all of the games, wining tickets for prizes, eating lots of pizza, and generally having the time of their lives. In the second group, you have the parents and caregivers; chasing their kids around, replenishing their token cups, purchasing food, wiping away tears, talking their children out of selecting the caffeinated soda, and attempting to get five minutes of uninterrupted adult conversation before being summoned to replenish the token cup once again.
And there is the third group –my group– the people without children, who are simply there to celebrate family members or children of friends. In my group we play a few games of Skee Ball or Basketball. We eat a couple of slices of pizza, sing “Happy Birthday,” and enjoy some cake. We smile at the birthday boys and girls excitedly opening their presents. We love our family and friends and we are so thankful to celebrate with them; however, we also feel as though we stick out like sore thumbs.
My husband Shane and I were looking forward to seeing our family that day, and of course, giving the birthday girl a big hug! We were also prepared to take our rightful place in the third group. Upon entering the building, we immediately saw Shannon, Chris, Christiano, Gabriella, Brian and Nate. We greeted one another with warm hugs, (there really is nothing like getting together with family!) purchased some food, and took our places in our booth.
Our niece arrived shortly after, and the event officially began. It was a lovely party and all of the kids seemed to be having a great time. The parents were busy keeping those token cups and bellies filled, and Shane and I sat back, visited the family, and observed our surroundings. I soon realized that Christiano had not left our booth the entire time. The three of us had been continuously chatting about movies, music, television programs, books, school, and our upcoming wedding. We decided to play a game of Skee Ball, and yet the conversation and laughter didn’t stop. We were seriously having a blast at Chuck E. Cheese! Shortly after, the three of us and continued to chat and laugh for the remainder of the party. The three of us. It suddenly hit me that we had just formed a fourth group – Our Group.
Shane and I will soon be entering into the ‘”second group,” as we are expecting our first child in July. I can already see myself chasing our child around Chuck E. Cheese, and probably with lots of hand sanitizer! However, nothing will ever compare to that day that Shane, Christiano, and I formed Our Group. My Chuck E. Cheese memories go back well over twenty years, but that day will forever hold a very special place in my heart.
Christiano was an unbelievable person. He was funny, empathetic, smart, and so incredibly loving. His heart exuded kindness, and he believed in people. He truly saw beauty in every single person. I miss Christiano every single day. It pains me that he won’t be able to meet his cousin here on Earth, but this child will KNOW him. We will share our stories, smile at the photographs, and laugh until we cry as we watch the videos. Our child will share Christiano’s middle name. We will keep his memory alive, and continue to be inspired by him, because that’s what he is – a truly beautiful inspiration.