Yesterday's Magazette

12 – The Christmas Mouse

The Christmas Mouse 

By George Thomas

When we were first married, we traveled every summer to my in-laws’ Maine home. During one trip, my wife had left the house to go shopping. My mother-in-law and I were seated in the living room in rocking chairs slanted toward each other with their arms touching. We shelled peas into a colander in her lap, letting the shells drop into her apron.

“Where’s Mehitabel?” she asked.

“I’ll bet she’s in her cubby hole,” I said. “I’ll go see.”

Mehitabel was our Siamese cat. The cubby hole was her favorite spot, a small storage room off one of the upstairs bedrooms. Mother left its door open during the summer to let air circulate.

I climbed the stairs, stooped down to enter the little room, calling to our cat. I traced the weak “meow” response to a wicker basket filled with towels in which Mehitabel had burrowed down for an afternoon nap.

Near the cat’s basket stood an old steamer trunk, the leather straps weathered and cracked with age. A cardboard sign was tacked to the lid with the words, “Grammy’s – to be sorted” written with Mother’s firm, cursive penmanship.

Curious and yet feeling a little guilty, I opened the trunk. Next to a stack of scrapbooks was a yellowed envelope with spidery handwriting, labeled “Christmas Reading.” I opened the envelope and slid out a piece of folded, dog-eared, lined paper yellowed with age. Written on it in the same spidery hand was a poem. I scanned it and then read it again more slowly. I put the sheet of paper back into the envelope, tucked Mehitabel under my arm and went back downstairs.

In the living room, I plunked the cat beside the colander in Mother’s lap where the sleek feline poked around and finally curled up and started purring. I handed Mother the envelope. “I’m afraid I’ve been snooping in your family things in the cubby hole. I couldn’t resist.”

She fished a pair of bi-focals out of the pocket of her apron, opened the envelope and studied the paper for a few moments. Then she put her glasses in her lap and stared out across the room, a faraway look in her eyes.

When the silence became uncomfortable, I said, “Mother?” She didn’t respond so I spoke louder the second time, “MOTHER?” The faraway look vanished as she came back from wherever she had been.

I said, “There must be a story that goes along with that.”

She smiled. “Yes dear, there is.”

I waited for her to continue and she spoke softly. “When I was a little girl, we went every year for Christmas to Grammy’s and Grampa’s. Starting a week before the big day, they had a tradition of the family sitting around the wood stove after supper and reading Christmas stories or poems. We took turns and could each choose something we wanted. Except that every year we always read T’was the Night Before Christmas and this poem about the little mouse.”

She handed the paper to me. “Would you read it to me now?”

As I read, the only other sound in the room was the shelled peas clinking against the side of the colander. Every now and then, Mother would reach down and stroke Mehitabel’s silky, soft head.

“The Christmas Mouse” I began.

One Christmas Eve, when Santa Claus 

Came to a certain house 

To fill the children’s stockings there 

He found a little mouse. 

A Merry Christmas, little friend, 

Said Santa, good and kind. 

The same to you, Sir,” said the mouse. 

I thought you wouldn’t mind 

If I should stay awake tonight 

And watch you for a while. 

You’re very welcome, little mouse, 

Said Santa, with a smile. 

And then he filled the stockings up 

Before the mouse could wink. 

From toe to top, from top to toe,

There wasn’t left a chink. 

Now they won’t hold another thing, 

Said Santa Claus with pride. 

A twinkle came in the mouse’s eyes 

As humbly she replied. 

It’s not polite to contradict 

Your pardon I implore – 

But in the fullest stocking there 

I could put one thing more. 

Oh ho! laughed Santa. Silly mouse. 

Don’t I know how to pack? 

By filling stockings all these years 

I should have learned the knack. 

And then he took the stocking down 

From where it hung so high. 

And said, Now put in one thing more, 

I beg of you to try. 

The mouse just chuckled to herself 

And then she softly stole 

Right to the stocking’s crowded toe 

And chewed a little hole. 

Now if you please, good Santa Claus, 

I’ve put in one thing more. 

For you’ll agree with me 

The hole was not in there before.

How Santa Claus did laugh and laugh 

And then he gaily spoke, 

Well, you shall have a Christmas cheese 

For your nice little joke. 

If you don’t think this story’s true 

Then I will show to you 

The very stocking with the hole 

The little mouse chewed through. 

I finished reading and we were both silent for a few moments. I saw that faraway look in her eyes again. It was so quiet I could hear myself breathing. Finally I broke the silence. “It’s a delightful little poem. I don’t remember hearing it before. Was your grandmother the author?”

“I don’t really know. I never thought to ask her. Quite possibly she was. She was very clever, in some ways far ahead of her time.”

“And what happened to the Christmas readings?”

Mother sighed. “I don’t remember when we stopped doing that. Maybe when the First World War came along and we thought it was somehow not right that we should be celebrating and happy when our boys were across the water sacrificing and dying. Then after the war, with the Roaring Twenties, we felt it was old-fashioned. And then the Great Depression set in, and we couldn’t afford to travel for Christmas.”

I went over and kissed her on the forehead. “Maybe it’s time to start doing it again.”

Vol. 38 No.4 – Copyright © Yesterday’s Magazette – Winter- 2011-12



  1. Thank you so much for this story. This poem is one that my mother had put on a poster and hung every Christmas. It became a favorite of our families. As years passed, the poster was lost and I thought the poem was as well. I had thought at one time that my mother had been the one to write the poem since she use to write poetry. I searched the internet with every possible word to try and find this poem again. Just a few days ago I was cleaning out my filing cabinet and found the poem in my mother’s handwriting. As I was talking with my brother he mentioned that he had seen it somewhere he thought and so I searched again, and found your story. I guess it proves that my mom didn’t write the poem but it has been fun to find it again and make it a part of our family traditions once more. I would love to know who actually wrote the poem if you happen to have found that out.

    Comment by Tonya Jolley — March 20, 2012 @ 5:11 pm | Reply

  2. We used to use this poem when I was in verse choir (Drama Chorus – a spoken choir) for every holiday season. I was the Christmas Mouse and performed her with a falsetta voice. I earned her my first year in High School and kept her throughout (hers was a coveted character!) Many a performance, I lost my voice doing just her. She became a tradition in our household – so much so, that every year, in her honor, my mother has presented me with a mouse ornament – so that now my tree is filled with them. I have always loved this poem.

    Comment by Kathie Dunn — December 7, 2012 @ 6:34 pm | Reply

  3. Thank you so much. I have been searching for this poem for years. I remember it from a book I had when I was very young. It was combined with The Night before Christmas but The Christmas Mouse was my favorite. Now I can pass it on to my children, my grandchildren, my nieces and nephews and their children.

    Comment by Janice King — November 30, 2013 @ 7:16 am | Reply

  4. PS Does anyone know anything about the author George Thomas?

    Comment by Janice King — November 30, 2013 @ 7:18 am | Reply

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