It is the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays, 1911—a time for charity and wishes. Lily’s days are too crowded, living in a three-room apartment with her large and growing family. She must sleep in a bedroll on the floor with her sisters, share a seat at the supper table and wait her turn for the hallway toilet with three other families on the fourth floor tenement.
The family offers charity to a woman from Sicily claiming to be Mama’s sister, Zia Teresa. She brought nothing more than a wild story and two young stepsons, mute Calogero, and mean Vincenzo. Vincenzo refuses to speak English and scowls. Lily is stuck interpreting for him and putting up with his sour moods. Zia Teresa’s stories get more troublesome and things go missing, including little sister’s beloved rag doll, Principessa.
Endless chores, the heaviness of grief, and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire trial squash any hope for a merry holiday season. There is little room or money for wishes, like a piano Lily desperately wants to play.