Miss Mouse could just make out a scurrying shape in front of her as she struggled through the deepening snow toward the National Cathedral. The big lump of gorgonzola in her backpack made it hard to scamper. The tower bells played “Silent Night” as people streamed out the huge doors into the dark night. The doors would close when the music ended and if she didn’t hurry she might miss the Christmas Eve celebration that brought mice from all over Washington D.C. Miss Mouse made her paws go faster.
The scurrying shape stopped. “Merry Christmas,” she called to the stranger as she came closer. He was bending over a small brown mouse, almost covered with snow.
“She must be very sick,” he said. He lifted her head and the small mouse moaned, her eyes closed. “We must get her inside. By the way, my name is Theodore.”
“Miss Mouse, here. Nice to meet you.” The bells were on the last verse of “Silent Night” and only a few stragglers were coming down the cathedral steps. “We have to hurry!” They tried lifting her arms. She groaned. “It would be easier if we had something to hold on to,” Miss Mouse said. She took off her backpack, dumped the cheese in the snow, and buckled it around the brown mouse. They each took a strap and pulled, struggling through the snow to the bottom of the steps.
“I’m going for help,” Miss Mouse said and she scampered up the steps and into the Cathedral. It was warm inside and smelled of incense and pine boughs. She ran along the shadowy walls to the chapel where the nativity scene was displayed. The mouse choir was warming up behind the figures of Mary and Joseph.
“Come quick and bring the ribbon!” she called to the mice wrapping gifts. They followed her out into the snow as the bells in the tower played the final notes of “Silent Night.”
“Quick,” Theodore said, “tie the ribbon to the backpack!” Miss Mouse knotted the ribbon around the strap, hoping it would hold. “Now, pull!” cried Theodore. Mice spread out along the ribbon, dug their paws into the snow, and slowly moved the sick mouse up the steps. Just as they reached the top, they saw the verger in his long black robe, coming down the center aisle.
“Do something!” squeaked Miss Mouse. “Don’t let him close the door!”
They let go of the ribbon and charged. The verger jumped back and dropped the key as twenty mice scampered and squeaked around him. It took three mice to push the key under a nearby pew. Miss Mouse and Theodore pulled the sick mouse through the door and into the shadows. The others fled in all directions as the verger bent to pick up the key.
“Well, I never,” he muttered to himself, shaking his head. He closed the giant doors and headed out into the snowy night.
Theodore and Miss Mouse lay panting next to the small brown mouse. “Who is she? What’s wrong with her?” everyone wanted to know. Miss Mouse and Theodore had no answers. They helped move her to the nativity chapel. Gently, the mice lifted the small body into the manger and made a nest for her in the straw next to the figure of the infant Jesus.
Cathedral mice, hosts for the evening, lit candle ends placed all around the chapel. It glowed. Over some of the candles hung pots of herb tea made from plants in the Cathedral gardens. As the tea warmed, its soothing summery scent filled the chapel. Other candles warmed pots of bean soup brought by the Senate mice. White House mice arranged platters of the President’s favorite fruit cake. Theodore sat by the brown mouse, stroking her forehead. He rubbed behind her velvety ears.
The choir gathered and the celebration began. They sang “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful.” Miss Mouse had a second verse solo. The brown mouse opened her eyes. “Away in a Manger” was a favorite. “. . . the little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head.”
There was a squeak from the manger.
“Oh! Oh! Oh!” stammered Theodore. Mice ran to the manger and saw not one brown mouse – but THREE brown mice – two of them tinier than a thimble.
The new mother smiled up at them. They ran to get her an acorn shell full of tea and a particularly blue piece of cheese. “Thank you,” she murmured.
“Oh, what a Christmas!” exclaimed Miss Mouse.
The choir sang “Joy to the World!” as they never had before.
May your Christmas be full of small miracles – 2016 too!