I am proud of all my brothers and sisters.

But each year you get an extra family stripe on your shoulder when you volunteer to host Christmas at your home. For about 30 years, Christmas was usually held in our home. Over the past six years and because of my wife Susie’s cancer journey, Christmas celebrations have hopped from family to family.

My sister Aurora, her daughter Junior and grandchildren hosted this year’s Flores Christmas Day gathering in her home. “Hosting” in our family usually means accommodating between 70 and 90 brothers, sisters, cousins, grandkids, aunts, uncles and family of the heart.

People may think I exaggerate the number of our family and friends who celebrate Christmas together. So every year, we try and do a head count. With children running in and out of the living room playing hide and go seek in the middle of total chaos throughout the home … well it made an accurate count nearly impossible.

Our best guess this year was 91 family and friends, give or take a few, who gathered in Aurora’s home. How do you fit 91 family members into any home? You just do. The only formal sitting rule we have is if you get up and don’t crisscross your seat, you lose it.

What’s the most crowded and busiest place you have ever been? Times that by 10. That was Aurora’s home on Christmas Day. In other words, a perfect Flores family Christmas Day.

There are only two times the house becomes silent during these festivities. One is when we all hold hands and say a family prayer before we eat. The next is right before my brother Willie and his wife Mary start to pass out the Christmas presents. Willie always asks if there are any family announcements anyone would like to make.

The silence is always deafening. Trained by years of unexpected announcements, we all seem to hold our collective breath and look around the living room to see if a hint of a wedding announcement, a new pregnancy, or someone joining the service is about to be shared with everyone. And yes, to our glee, all those have been announced.

Aurora made a very special announcement this year.

Her life’s journey has been exceptional in many ways. I am proud to say she is an international world traveler. I won’t attempt to list the many ports, countries, islands and exotic places she and some of our cousins have visited.

Before we opened the first gift, Aurora said to everyone, “I have been blessed to travel to many places. I was looking for happiness and joy I thought I had lost. But today I realized all the happiness and joy I need is right here in my own living room with all of you. Hearing all the laughter and seeing how much we love each other makes my heart smile.”

Sis, you did good. You did real good.

As did all the 91 family members who brought food, tables, chairs, drinks and cheated at Pictionary.

Like I said, it was a perfect Flores family Christmas Day.

Relay for Life

Local organizers just held their kickoff team registration event for largest Relay for Life in the world to be held May 5 at the Kern County Fairgrounds. Donna Hermann, one of the event organizers, reminds us, “You may have missed the kickoff event, but you can still register your team.” She also invites the public to a fashion show fundraiser at the Petroleum Club on Feb. 24. Visit their website or call the Relay for Life office for all the fun details.

Campout Against Cancer

The Campout is taking place April 6-7 at the Bakersfield Sports Facility at 9001 Ashe Road. The team registration kickoff event is this coming Saturday, Jan. 20 at 10 a.m. at 2300 Bahamas Drive. Sheryl Gallion, one of the event organizers, says, “We will have game demonstrations and important team signup information. If you would like to participate in the challenges, meals or have a campsite we encourage you to come to our kickoff event and register as a team or team member.” For additional information, visit their website.

Email contributing columnist Steve Flores at floressteve32@yahoo.com. His work normally appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are his own.

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