There's so much lavish, lovely Christmas adornment at the Voorhees home of Tina and Rocco Fiorentino that it's difficult to take it all in.
And no wonder: In every room of this contemporary house with a rich, deep color palette, Santa is there, grinning from walls or tabletops, resting on shelves. No two representations of the jolly old guy are alike.
"I guess I have a thing about Santa Clauses," Tina Fiorentino admits with a sheepish smile. "I've definitely lost count."
This is a place where Christmas is epic, elegant, and homey - a place thoroughly enjoyed by the guests who cascade through it during holiday season.
From the balconied entrance foyer, with its sweeping split staircase festooned with garlands and lights by early December, to the Santa on the landing and the wooden soldiers at the entry and on the steps, Christmas is everywhere.
The family room, with its ceiling-high, columned fireplace backdrop, is where the Christmas tree stands. Ornaments rest on every branch, some sentimental favorites, others just seasonal. The dining room table has a Santa and sleigh running down its center, under the glow of a crystal chandelier.
The Fiorentinos are not minimalists, and their exuberance and joy in the season are even shared by the household's canine occupants, an adorable Havanese puppy, Watson, and his Havanese playmate Louis, who chase each other in unabashed delight, then rest side by side.
"Mama" Athena Billington, Tina's mother, and son Rocco Fiorentino, 16, revel, too. The fact that the young man, who was born prematurely, has been blind since he was 2 months old has no bearing on his appreciation of Christmas.
"I can make out a little bit of light, like the candles in the windows when they're lit, and some of the other changes over the holidays," he says. "My mom and dad go a little crazy!"
His parents help him reorient his navigating because of some shifts in furniture placement during the holidays, but Rocco is independent and sure-footed because of his own determination, encouraged from early days.
When he was a toddler, Tina says, she would sit with him at the piano and play simple songs. One day, after Rocco had heard "Old MacDonald" several times, she realized he was not just listening - he had figured out the notes and the nuances of the music and was playing it himself. He was 4 at the time.
"I was stunned," says Tina, 51, who is an accomplished pianist. "And I knew we weren't going to ignore that gift." His music lessons began the next year.
Today, Rocco is a composer, singer, and pianist with a CD of his own and gigs lined up months in advance. He also is ambassador to the Little Rock Foundation, a nonprofit named for him that is dedicated to improving the lives of other blind or visually impaired children. In the Fiorentino home's lower-level recreation area/music studio, a wall holds his awards - and some just rest along the floor for lack of space.
One of young Rocco's favorite spots is at the baby grand piano in the room the Fiorentinos have designated the "piano bar." A crowd is often around that piano listening or singing.
The living room/parlor at the front of the house is where the singer entertains at his pride and joy, a sophisticated organ that has enhanced tracks and harmonies.
"We sometimes forget how lucky we are to have our own permanent entertainer in our midst," says the senior Rocco Fiorentino, 57, who owns a financial and insurance services company in North Wales. After his lengthy daily commute, he says, he loves to listen to his son play and sing.
Like most families, the Fiorentinos have holiday traditions, and special treasures that come out.
The crèche that Mama Billington had in her Voorhees home, the one in which Tina grew up, holds a place of honor on a downstairs table, its ceramic figures in perfect condition.
And then there's the Santa that Tina spotted years ago in an Ocean City antique shop, the one the owner initially refused to sell. A representation of St Nick's face and beard in three dimensions, it appealed to her because she knew its contours would give her son a sense, by feel, of Santa.
"After I spilled my heart out to the antique-store owner about how I wanted Rocco to have that experience, he finally sold it to me," Tina recalls. "And Rocco was able to feel Santa that year."
Rocco continues to feel the holiday in real and symbolic ways, spreading his own joy on Christmas mornings.
"Inside this house, everything is glowing," Tina says. "It's an unbelievable scene because Rocco is a kid who makes all of us believe in miracles."
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