ROXBURY, NJ – She lost her 10-year-old son three years ago in a boating accident on Lake Hopatcong, but Laura D’Amico is sure her beloved Christopher speaks to her all the time. It’s subtle but firm, she says; messages that come as sparks of recollection, inspiration or intuition.
One of those unexpected inklings led Laura and her husband Chris to a jewelry store not long ago. They left with a Tiffany ring for Maddie Martino, the girl Christopher fell for when he was eight years old.
Now a Roxbury High School senior, Martino was in eighth grade when that happened. Christopher was only in third grade.
He didn’t care, according to his mother.
Whatever you do, don’t suggest that Christopher - being just a little kid - wasn't really in love, says D’Amico. Nothing else explains the way he behaved when it came to Maddie Martino and only to Maddie Martino.
“In grammar school, he would see her in the hallways,” said D’Amico in an interview. “He would go up to her and hug her. He would totally hug her. There was something about her he liked ... He totally did whatever he could to get her attention.”
He Would Wait For Her
The other day, motivated by something she saw on Facebook, D’Amico decided to write a long post on the social media site. She called it “Our Favorite Love Story“ and put it on the Kindness for Christopher page, a site dedicated to the international movement inspired by Christopher’s tragic death. As of today, the story’s received more than 700 “likes” and nearly 70 comments.
“He drew pictures and taped pictures of her next to his bed,” wrote D’Amico. “We used to make fun of him, but he didn’t care. He heard that she had a boyfriend and would say it was ok. He said he would wait for her. He was 5 years younger than her...it was a cute crush.”
Her son’s affection for the girl with the long, blond hair only increased during the ensuing two years before June 24, 2015, the day Christopher fell off a pontoon boat and was struck by its propeller, D’Amico said.
After Martino moved on to high school, Christopher’s desire to be around the girl led the family to regular attendance at her soccer games. The boy would watch Martino’s every move.
“You couldn’t talk to him while she was playing,” wrote D’Amico in the Facebook post. “He told her mother he was going to buy her a ring one day. It was just the cutest thing. We let him go with it.”
But Christopher was serious. He began saving money to buy the ring, said his mom. “When he died, we found his wallet with money in it for her ring,” she said. ”We left the money in the wallet. It will stay there forever.”
The Perfect Ring
That’s not what Christopher had in mind and his parents knew it. Although Christopher was gone by then, something told D’Amico that Martino’s 16th birthday was a good time to fulfill his wish.
“When Maddie turned 16, I don’t know what made me think of it, but I told Chris, ‘I want to get her a ring,’” she said. “I said ‘I want to get a special ring for her from Christopher because he never got a chance to get her that ring.'”
Hence the trip to the jewelry store. “We found the most beautiful Tiffany ring that was perfect for her ... from our son,” wrote D’Amico on Facebook.
At her Sweet 16 party, Martino lit a candle for Christopher, D’Amico noted. “Warmed my heart like nothing else,” she added.
Christopher’s over-the-top sweetness for Martino never seemed to bother the young girl, says D’Amico. Even at the outset, when the kid showed no restraint in expressing his feelings in public.
“It was almost embarrassing because we didn’t know her well,” said D’Amico. “But she just thought it was cute. He always made her smile.”
Earlier this week, Martino did something to prove Christopher’s unabashed love meant something and made a mark. “Tonight, she went to get a tattoo in her ankle … number 86 in honor of our son,” D’Amico wrote on Facebook. “The number "86" was his football number that the football community retired after he died.”
Martino “will always be a part of our family now,” added D’Amico. “She holds a special place in our hearts. We don’t know why people are put in our paths/journey, but I know this girl is something special and will do something special in her life. Christopher knew it years ago ... that’s why he loved her.”