Because it’s nearly impossible to blog or read blogs in a house full of eighteen people, I’m blogging in the dark in the middle of the night. There are sleeping people on nearly every soft surface in this house, including one on the couch beside me, and one on the floor at my feet. I can’t turn on the light, nor can I walk very far without tripping over a body.

No, I’m not hiding out in an overcrowded bomb shelter – we’re just celebrating Christmas the way we used to do it. With the whole family camped out under one roof for the holidays. It used to be that we’d all head to the farm and the first family to arrive got the best chance of getting an actual bedroom. Latecomers ran the risk of sleeping on the kitchen floor.

In the years since Dad died, Christmas has changed. Mom moved into an apartment in the city, and at Christmas time, those who lived outside the city showed up for a few days and spread out among the available homes in the vicinity. We got together for a meal or two and maybe a night of bowling, but it just wasn’t quite the same without the challenges of shared bathrooms and the joys of late night games of Skip-bo.

This year, we finally took my brother up on his longstanding invitation to converge on his house in Calgary. All of the rest of the family are Manitoba-based, so we all loaded up our cars and headed west. It may not be the farm – there are no fresh eggs for breakfast and Dad won’t come in from the barn cradling a small animal to delight the children – but this Christmas has held a charm and beauty all its own. There’s nothing quite like the pleasure of sharing a few days of undivided attention with my siblings, their spouses and children, and mom and her husband.

There are games to play, loads of food to eat, movies to watch, jokes to laugh at, cousins to entertain the kids, and conversations to fill the hours. There’s time for skating, time for hangin’ out in the hot-tub, and time for wandering around the nearby lake.

Tomorrow, we head to Banff for the day, and then we begin the trek home. We’ll be ready to sleep in our own beds by then, and the people in this house will be ready to have their soft surfaces free of sleeping bodies. In the end, we will be refreshed and reminded why there is nothing quite as good as family.

Sometimes I think that maybe those people who live in cultures where their extended families live under the same roof have got some advantages over the rest of us.

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