The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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I interviewed my mom, Gina Kutchner (Elisio) at our home in Northeast Philadelphia. When I asked about her favorite holiday, her eyes lit up and she yelled “Christmas” without hesitation. Her Christmas memories are held near and dear to her heart, especially those with her father. Throughout my life, my mom tried to create similar Christmas memories for myself and my sister. My mother's love for Christmas also lead her (along with my dad) to start their own charity called Angels of Christmas.

It’s Christmas Eve at the Elisio house and Gina and her father just finished carrying up the last heavy, plastic bin of decorations from the garage. Her father was a tall man with a strong build. His hair was thinning on top, but was still dark and thick around the sides. He had a firm voice and an ever-present soft smile. “What should we start with first, dad?” Gina asks.

“Well I think we should start with the lights outside and then decorate the tree,” her father answered. Gina nodded her head in agreement with a huge smile on her face. They each snapped open a bin and began sorting through the spaghetti-like mass of multi-color lights and extension cords. They spent the better part of an hour fumbling with the mess of lights; laying them out, testing them and replacing any bad bulbs if necessary. When they were finished and the lights were checked and double-checked, Gina and her dad each grabbed an armful of lights and carried them outside.

They hung lights from the railing, and the roof, and the windows, even along the short wall which runs parallel to the driveway. Gina’s dad performed all the dangerous maneuvers, climbing on railings and hanging from window-sills in an effort to cover every inch of the front of the house in lights. Gina was responsible for plugging in the lights, grabbing this or that for her dad, and giving minor critiques.

“A little to the left…. OK now a little to the right…. OK…. stop, perfect!”

Proud of their accomplishments outside, they moved inside. In the corner of the dining room stood a beautiful, green Christmas tree which filled the room with the smell of fresh pine. It wasn’t too big or too small, or too fat or too skinny, it was perfect. Gina delicately opened each ornament and placed them on the branches being sure to fill each branch with a ball, a snowman or a star.

“I think the bottom could use a few more,” her father remarked pointing to a small spot with no decorations at the bottom of the tree. Gina hurried to fill the space with another ornament. Her dad began draping shimmering, silver tinsel across all the branches. Gina watched in awe as her dad hung strip after strip of tinsel perfectly on the tree. It was like watching a rhythmic gymnast gracefully perform with a ribbon wand.

Everything was in place and the house was decorated from top to bottom and it looked fantastic. The lights were hung, the hand-painted Nativity scene was set up, and the festive blankets and bright red poinsettias in the middle of the coffee table made for the perfect complement to the decorations. Her dad dimmed the lights as Gina tiptoed and nudged the porcelain angel onto her perch at the top of the tree. They both stood back to admire their hard work.

Christmas at the Elisio’s

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Christmas, late 1970's
Philadelphia, PA

I interviewed my mom, Gina Kutchner (Elisio) at our home in Northeast Philadelphia. When I asked about her favorite holiday, her eyes lit up and she yelled “Christmas” without hesitation. Her Christmas memories are held near and dear to her heart, especially those with her father. Throughout my life, my mom tried to create similar Christmas memories for myself and my sister. My mother's love for Christmas also lead her (along with my dad) to start their own charity called Angels of Christmas.

Decade: 1970s
Rating:
Recorded by Timothy Kutchner on December 7, 2017
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