Here is a treasured family memory: Years ago I read Leo Lionni’s Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse to my daughter. It is a marvelous book about Willie, the wind-up mouse everybody loves. The very real Alexander, on the other hand, is chased with a broom and made to feel unwelcome and unwanted. He wonders what it would be like to be loved, cuddled, and appreciated.
That Christmas my daughter asked if Santa Claus would bring her a wind-up mouse. It sounded like an easy request for Santa. We had every confidence he would deliver. But when we checked on wind-up mice in Baltimore–in case Santa needed any assistance–they weren’t to be found. Coincidentally, my husband and I were making a trip to New York. We felt sure Santa would appreciate the help.
I can’t count the number of toy stores we visited, including the famous FAO Schwarz store on Fifth Avenue. Nobody, but NOBODY, had a wind-up mouse.
Santa Claus left Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Two Bad Mice and two very nice little life-sized stuffed mice who were perfect stand-ins for Hunca Munca and Tomb Thumb. Santa also left a slightly larger stuffed mouse that seemed like a good companion for Alexander, another Alexander book, and a little stuffed mouse Christmas Tree ornament.
I was never sure whether my daughter felt as disappointed as we did over Santa’s depleted wind-up mouse stores. Sometime in her older childhood years a wind-up mouse made its way into her collection. And for just about every remaining year of her childhood, a new stuffed mouse graced our tree.
This year we are spending our Christmas in Stratford-upon-Avon, where my daughter has been studying at the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute. I miss all the mouse ornaments and the other Christmas ornaments we have collected over the years. But we have a tiny tree that befits our little house and wonderful new memories to treasure.
Happy Christmas to all! May your memories be bright.