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One Big, Happy, Squished Family Celebration

I was very young at this particular Christmas time, so my memory is hazy, but the memory of it has stayed with me all these years.

On one side of my family, the ages of my first cousins, siblings and myself spanned a couple of decades and more, so when I was a toddler, I attended my oldest first cousin’s wedding. He was finishing college and then graduate school, and he and his wife lived in the dorm complex in a very small apartment. I don’t know who first voiced the idea, or how so many normally practical people ended up agreeing to it, but the entire extended family was invited to spend the holiday with my cousin and his wife and baby son at the college a very few years after that wedding, and everyone accepted! As best I can remember, there were about 28 of us at the time including the host family. Normally, every Christmas was spent at my grandfather’s house at his insistence, and how he was convinced to do this, I’ll never know.

The entire family descended upon that tiny apartment, between the men’s and women’s dorms which were devoid of any other students because of the holiday. There wasn’t room for everyone to even sit in one room, so naturally, we were all spending the night—by invitation — since the accommodations were so grand!

I don’t remember how we handled eating, perhaps a lunch room, but I remember getting ready for bed in shifts, and going to talk to my mother before I was taken off to my sleeping spot. She was bundled into a bed with three other women, and all four were giggling almost to hysteria. My dad was sleeping in the lounge in the men’s room. He was lucky because he got a couch. The younger male cousins had to sleep on the floor on a pallet.

My slightly older sister, a female cousin of her age, my very youngest male cousin who is two years younger than I, and of course, me, were put on a pallet in some sort of gymnasium type room, which seemed enormous to me at the time, but was probably not large at all. I think some older cousins might have been across the room on the floor, but in my child’s memory of it, it was just the four of us. My little cousin, who was a real tough acting little boy with a notorious temper, cautiously reached over and put his hand in mind and whispered, “I’m kind of scared. Will you hold my hand? Just don’t tell anyone.” I squeezed his hand, assured him it was fine, and that it was our secret. I was about six, but his fear made me feel brave. We slept well.

The next day was a crazy day of opening a mountain of presents, visiting, and packing up to go. People had slept in rows on the living room floor, I discovered, in addition to the crowded bed and the other rooms that were used. It should have been a nightmare, or at least a fine submission as a Holiday Hell story, but it wasn’t.

Instead, it was fun. We enjoyed ourselves happily while we laughed and laughed, and we continued to laugh over that Christmas for years to come. No one ever complained; they always re-told the funny parts over and over. I never squealed on my little cousin, who is now a fine upstanding man and a loving grandfather to little ones as well. It was the Christmas celebration of a lifetime. We never wanted to do it again, but we wouldn’t have missed it for the world! 1006-15


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Marozia December 22, 2015, 4:54 am

    That’s a great story. It’s good to hear such heartwarming memories from people.

  • Ange December 22, 2015, 6:10 am

    I wish there was a “like” button for this post!

  • Skaramouche December 22, 2015, 6:50 am

    “I never squealed on my little cousin…”…until now…muahahahahaha…

    This was a heartwarming story and very fun to read 🙂

  • crebj December 22, 2015, 6:54 am

    Wonderful memory.

  • Charliesmum December 22, 2015, 7:13 am

    That is a very sweet story.

  • Jessica December 22, 2015, 8:17 am

    I kept picturing this as like last year or so as she was telling the story and then she says the little 4 year old boys is now a grandfather.. I dont know why but that got to me in a good way.

    • Mustard December 22, 2015, 12:14 pm

      Me too!

  • Laura December 22, 2015, 9:00 am

    This should have been a Friday story. Sounds like great fun.

    • Amanda H. December 22, 2015, 1:47 pm

      You know, I’m A-Okay with having a week of “happy ending” stories for Christmas, rather than keeping them just for the Feel-Good Friday. 😀

      • Anonymous December 22, 2015, 8:11 pm

        I don’t know; I mean, a lot of rudeness happens at Christmas time, so I’m fine taking the bad stories along with the good.

        • Amanda H. December 23, 2015, 3:18 pm

          It does, but there are three other weeks in the month where we can have the rudeness stories. As I said, nothing wrong with a week of good feelings and seeing how people in situations that could’ve gone so wrong were able to make something good of it anyway. It’s an excellent example for how the rest of the stories this month should’ve made the best of things.

  • bap December 22, 2015, 9:03 am

    I love this! This is how we love to see families getting along and making memories.

  • Jen December 22, 2015, 9:34 am

    Love this!!!

  • don't blink December 22, 2015, 10:19 am

    What a great story to read this morning!!! I loved this 🙂

  • Dyan December 22, 2015, 10:53 am

    I would have loved to have a Christmas memory like this..so cool!!!

  • JO December 22, 2015, 11:02 am

    Love this. It sounds like a very close loving family. How wonderful 🙂

  • CJ December 22, 2015, 11:25 am


  • LadyV December 22, 2015, 11:39 am

    What a fabulous family you must have! So many people would have been pitching hissy fits over a situation like this, but it sounds like your clan not only took it all in stride, but remembers it fondly. Great people!

  • TexCarol December 22, 2015, 11:56 am

    We always did this in my big family. We lived in a little frame farm house, and for Christmas, the adults got the beds and the kids slept on pallets on the floor. I hadn’t even heard the word “pallet” in years. Mom had feather comforters and quilts galore, so we always slept warm and comfy! Like the princess and the pea!

  • DoubleYou December 22, 2015, 12:03 pm

    Nice. Reminds me of a beach holiday my family went on when I was little: one medium-sized car, six adults, five children – and the luggage. A clown car would have looked roomy in comparison, but we had such fun!

  • ColoradoCloudy December 22, 2015, 12:10 pm

    What a wonderful story!

  • IceQueenPenguin December 22, 2015, 12:23 pm

    A shining example of how attitude changes everything. It could indeed have been Holiday Hell but grace, cooperation, civility, good humor and love ruled the day.

  • DGS December 22, 2015, 1:30 pm

    What a lovely story. Thank you for sharing!

  • Tracy W December 22, 2015, 1:30 pm

    This reminds me of family Christmases where i was sleeping in the living room or a tent in the back garden (southern hemisphere) along with my brothers and cousins.
    Also adventures with our hiking club – such as arriving at some spot at midnight, putting up communal tents, unrolling our sleeping mats and bags, and awakening the next morning to some strange guy offering me a swig from his hip flask.

    • crebj December 22, 2015, 8:39 pm

      Yup. You could meet a spouse that way.

      • Basketcase December 24, 2015, 1:00 am

        Lol, I DID meet my husband that way… 🙂

  • stacey December 22, 2015, 2:00 pm

    It sounds as if the story was a far happier one in the retelling than in the living, as many great stories are. Sometimes the social “sword of Damocles” does hang on by a thread- a thread of dignity, a thread of goodwill, a thread of humor and of family bonding. Happy Holidays, OP, to you and to yours! (And I hope you’ve all had many more comfortable holidays with plenty of merriment AND a bit of luxury!)

  • Coralreef December 22, 2015, 2:01 pm

    It really must have been a good time for all since the OP talks about it so fondly. What’s a little squeezing when everyone is happy?

    Reminds me of my sister’s wedding. Most of the relatives (very large families on both mom and dad side) had to travel quite a bit to get to my parents’ house and none of them had money to spare. The only place we didn’t have people sleeping was in bathroom and in the kitchen. Good times :).

  • NostalgicGal December 22, 2015, 5:10 pm

    Other than being at Christmas this sounds like our family reunions of the 6o’s and 70’s. Mom’s side, a few families still lived near ‘the old farm’ and we would accept the influx, and tents, campers on backs of pickups, and floors were all fair game. It was close to a week of ‘togtherness’ then we’d all part ways.
    Us host families always got the king’s treatment if we went visiting on vacation across the rest of the country (we went to one city one year for the Christmas holiday and too many places to stay so I actually went by myself to stay over at one aunt (I was 13) just to fulfill family obligations that they got to play hosts back.) Our house had a huge living room (place had been cut into tiny little rooms and dad took out walls so we had a 12×24 living room, and some creative move furniture and a lot of kids slept there. Only issue was designating the walk paths between flop spots before everyone went to sleep. Oh, and the strobe lighting storm that one night when most of us wanted to be UNDER the shag rug not on it. Good times.

  • Pam December 22, 2015, 8:27 pm

    This is great on so many levels. Thanks for sharing “functional” family memories!!

  • Laurita December 23, 2015, 7:45 am

    Such a fun story! Like the OP said, it could easily have been an eHell story, but with the right people, even uncomfortable circumstances can turn out just fine. I have a very close extended family as well, and this story reminds me of all those happy times squished into my grandparents’ house over the holidays. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  • MeganAmy December 27, 2015, 3:09 pm

    I come from a dysfunctional family and it is very nice and inspiring for me to read a story like this where there were happy memories made and people enjoyed each other’s company without big arguments.

  • Erin December 27, 2015, 10:30 pm

    I remember Christmases like the one OP wrote about. My mother’s side of the family is pretty big, with her being one of 11 siblings, and nowadays the family is so large that if we were all together, there would be about 80 people present. Growing up, the big family Christmas rotated between different houses, both in town and out of town, so we’d all go to the host’s house and stay the weekend for Christmas. There would be people sleeping on every available surface–beds, floors, couches. It was like a giant slumber party! Everyone was in good moods and we played games, watched movies, and laughed. I miss those days, now that my first cousins and I are all grown and some are married and have kids. But hopefully my cousins’ children will make some of the same type of memories that my generation did!