Tampa Convention Center, New Years Eve, entering 2013.
For New Years Eve, Robyn and I went out with some close friends of ours to the Tampa Convention Center, where there would be a “ball drop”, fireworks, and some music. 2012 had been a hard year – walking the line between grief that burns so icily deep it pauses your very will to move forward, and the thaw of knowing our life does in fact continue, fighting to give meaning to our loss of Ezra and Price (and perhaps a level of innocence in ourselves), and rebuilding the picture we’d had of our future family.
New Years is a unique holiday – these celebration or remembrance days tend to trigger our retrospective selves, but none comes close to the heightened scrutiny we feel on December 31st each year. It is a day when the past is tangible. I usually think not only of the past 12 months, but of the years I’ve had before – every end of year slideshow plays in my mind, every stop-and-consider-myself moment. It is one of those evenings when the future and the past are equally present.
The night was spent in good company with good talk; fast forward to the countdown.
Fireworks would be shot off above the bay, so shortly before midnight thousands of us pushed to the terrace. There was a ball drop with cash inside the door, which kept many people inside, hoping for a fluttering $5 bill to land in their stretched fingers. We stood just outside the door.
Just after the cash “ball” dropped, hundreds of people bottle necked out the door to watch the fireworks (they went on for 5 or 6 minutes after midnight). People were pushing and shoving – negating all their resolutions to be more aware of the human race around them – and generally having a good time. A girl in her young 20s somehow got pushed into our small circle of 4, and we brought her into our group to shield her from the throng around us.
It was loud, it was sweaty, and it was pushy. This girl had been nearly falling, and we brought her in and held her up. She smiled and yelled a “Happy New Year!” to us. People were celebrating all around, and the fiery sky was making our faces glow red and green as explosions went off 500 feet overhead. The girl grabbed Robyn’s face and kissed her on the cheek, turned to me, and did the same. In our ears she said “you guys are great. You’re going to be great.“
It was an odd moment, practically, although in us there was no strange feeling. Conversationally (at high volume), Robyn asked the girl her name. She leaned in to us and said,
Robyn quickly slipped a bracelet on her wrist, and the girl looked down and said “wait – is this a joke?” None of us really could talk for a minute – so our friend (who’d been watching this all) leaned in and gave a quick recap of our story.
“They had a son named Ezra, who died of cancer in 2010. He was 2.”
She looked at us again, and said “I’ll find you.” Then she disappeared into the crowd, and we haven’t heard from her since.
Thank you for the kiss to start 2013, Ezra. We love you, we miss you.