It's all I had of him, there were no pensive poses, no deep-in-thought profiles--every photo was balloons! party hats! table streamers! The funny thing is, I don't remember having all of these parties growing up. My family was not a celebrating bunch. My childhood home would best be described as quiet, heavy, tense.
And yet, I had over 30 pictures showing him with arms raised, all with huge beaming smiles, and he is at the center of it all. I mean, how many childhood birthday parties can you have when you only celebrate once a year, right?
Then it hit me like a bolt. There wasn't picture after picture of smiles and joyous grins because we were always in the midst of a celebration. The one common denominator of every party picture is that he is in it. HE was the party. HE would turn any occasion into a slice of life. You see him, in the moment, the joy, the arms in the air, over receiving a swirly red and white marbled playground ball.
My nephew would spend weekends with us when he was so very very small. I was 12 and the main baby sitter who would take care of getting lunch ready for him. One day, as he stood on his tip toes and watched me slice up an apple, he looked up at me with widened eyes; waving his arms up over his head, he began shouting breathlessly, "are we having an apple party?! It's an apple party, isn't it?!" This, over getting apple wedges rather than a whole apple handed to him. He worked his magic on bananas, oranges, pears--turning any fruit--into a fruit party.
Nothing was ever ordinary with him. I would come home with tangerines, the ones called "cuties" that come in those miniature wooden crates, that he'd later use to build a Hot Wheels parking structure, and he'd clap and shout, "you brought the baby oranges that come in the Hot Wheel house!"
This is who he was to me, who he was to my entire family. Mention his name to anyone now, and before a word is spoken about him, a smile first appears. Laughter, joy, pura vida, with him in the middle of it all.
So, no, growing up, we didn't have parties a lot--what we had was him a lot.
For a family that lived in a reserved, guarded, non demonstrative manner, there are no words for how larger than life he made us all feel. Like we were somebody, and look at us--we're happy!
We thank you, Tommy, for bringing noise, raucousness, mega-watt smiles into a house where the air felt as if it were weighed down with bricks.
You were lightness and presence and yes, when we were around you, there was a reason to blow up the balloons, put on the party hats, and crank the noise makers.
You were with us, you were there, and you made everything a celebration.
Thank you, for the way you made our world shine so bright, for the time you were here.
We will miss you in a way I will try to explain for the rest of my life.
I love you so very much.
*We lost my beloved nephew, Tomas, suddenly early Sunday morning. We're still reeling from this news, and I can't imagine how we're going to go back to our lives, as we must. But we have to return to work, jobs, responsibilities, commitments. I thank you all here, for the love you've sent me since Monday. On twitter, on Facebook, the amazing comments offering to listen, from all of you--I appreciate them more than I can tell you.
Thank you all so much. It is community that carries us through, it is the wonderful people who will listen to my stories about him, that make the one day at a time in our lives right now, possible.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.