True family winter story - first published in 2004
Both of our two childhood homes and neighborhoods were classic: this one, in 1959, was part of my Mother's inheritance from her Father. In happy and prosperous times, she and my Father remodeled it completely, and he carved her name in a heart on the foundation. Respectable property with vegetable garden, iconic local flowers and fruit trees, and , on the fence Mother and neighbor Julia Mills grew concord grapes and there was jam-making every summer ! There were huge maples and oak with a swing always tied to its branches, and evergreens to tantalize us with promise of Christmas, all year long !
That year, however, we had a problem: construction of new homes, begun that summer, just across the street, was going quietly and beautifully and our real estate value expected to improve from the neighborhood upgrade. If only the clearing of the sunny, grassy field hadn't created many homeless field mice, the project would have been flawless ! Father and Mother leading our Army, we fought a mighty war against the mouse invasion till winter ended it.
Our home calmed and then shifted into Winter Holiday preparations. Time enough to forget our " Battle of the River Street Field Mice". But now, WE were the "scurry-ers", with so much to do ! Cooking, at least, was again safe and hygienic, without the mice, and decorations and the Nativity Scene, shopping and choir and Christmas-caroling group and the sacred re-enactment of the birth of Jesus, and Midnight Mass, and Santa, restoring all the warm and generous feelings. After chasing things OUT, we could WELCOME once again !
Family time after dinner - an hour to relax with our favorite tv shows, till my Brother pointed to a spot behind us - at the very center of the living-room carpet, just behind the TV area, a mouse was sitting up and politely alert, as though he had been invited to join our TV circle !
He was "theater", in his cheery innocence; solitary, self-contained and thoughtfully sharing the television program, he kept to his spot, as though it truly was HIS spot. We simply stared in disbelief, and determined not to lose our Christmas Spirit, warily welcomed him to the circle and resumed our enjoyment of the Television Program with our unexpected and unlikely guest. Sometime during the show, he must have left, since he was gone when we next glanced in his direction.
Off and on, but ongoing, throughout that holiday, the mouse reappeared, and an imaginary, smiling, rapport developed among us, as he carefully took the same spot on the carpet, and seemed to fit right in. After the first few visits, my Brother named him "Oscar" - since he showed dignity and personhood - he was quite the "ham" - and after all the "mouse-in-the-house" troubles, this Christmas Mouse brought warmth and smiles and a secret among us, since most of our neighbors would not understand this "about-face" from Mouse Wars to rapport with Oscar !
Father, being always the Libra philosopher, captured our eyes and attention with that look that says, ' there is an important life lesson to be learned here.' Christmas Mouse stories are classic - "And now," he said, we have a "Christmas Mouse" story of our own.
Sometime thru that holiday, Oscar ended his visits, but more than forty years later, the memory is still a delight ! I hope you think so , too!
May we celebrate the special winter holiday renewal of the fundamental spirit of Hospitality throughout the Season, especially for unexpected and unusual Guests ! ~ elle