The Spaces Between Your Fingers

Click the image to flip

Context: This is a memory of my mom, Donna. She's 60 years old and grew up in North Philadelphia, fairly poor. There were times when her family thought they were going to lose the house. She had to start working to help her family when she was 16.

One of our plastic ceiling frames fell on our Christmas tree. The porcelain angel with glowing wings fell to her demise. 

We could never afford to get a repairman, so we always fixed everything ourselves. Dad was sick so it was really all up to me, my twin Denise and my brother Charlie.

Our North Philadelphia home sat at the end of the block. We were in a good earshot of the high school’s football field, and every Friday night the stadium lit the skies.

I missed out on the games because I had to work. I was even voted homecoming queen but I couldn’t go. I never missed a chance at making money for my family.

I opened the door to chairs turned over. Papers thrown everywhere dressed our plain shag carpet.

Mom was combing my little sister Nancy’s thick, dirty blonde hair.

Dad was on the phone, shouting and tugging at what was left of his receding hair.

From the furrowing of his eyebrows and displeased demeanor, I knew it was about money. It always was.

“Just trust me, please. My family depends on this.” He was always doing something in the name of the “family.” But he never took a second to say I love you, so it was hard to feel like anything other than roommates.

He slammed the phone down. Mcom took Nancy into the other room.

“Donna, can I talk to you in the other room.” He said to me.

We walked into our kitchen with its leaky sink and creaking wooden cabinets.

“I don’t want to scare you dear.” It had to be something unfortunate since he used a pet name.

“We don’t have any money. I think our water is going to be turned off.” He said and a tear rolled down his wrinkly cheeks.

I never saw my dad cry before. This felt like the worst day of my life.

I always thought the only time I’d see him cry would be if a family member died or something, not like this. This was because of his pride as a father and I think that was harder on me than anything else.

I took a walk around the neighborhood, with its crooked sidewalks and trees that reach higher than the sky’s limit.

I saw a sign in front of the local market that said “Hiring. Inquire inside."

I was 16. Most girls my age weren’t working, they were too busy riding in boy’s cars or straightening their hair with irons.

But I felt like I had to bring something to the family table and make a difference

I started working as a cashier two weeks later and I remember my dad’s reaction the first time I brought home my 10-dollar check.

“This is yours, please keep it.” He kissed my cheek for the first time that I could ever remember.

I think in the hardest of times, like this one, I learned how important family is. And being there for each other, a backbone, is how you get through the most difficult times.

First Job

Alert IconAre you sure you want to permanently delete this postcard? You cannot undo this action. Delete