I will never forget the beginning of my two-week Christmas vacation when I was 9 years old. I had big plans when I arrived home from school. I rode the school bus to and from school every day, because our 70-acre farm was five miles from the nearest town in rural central Ohio. When the bus stopped at the lane leading to our farmhouse, I leapt down the steps and ran all the way to the front porch, completely out of breath as I entered the front door. Gulping for air, I asked, "Did you buy me a jar of paste?"
Mom's frown answered my question. "I'm afraid there wasn't enough money left over to buy anything extra. Let's hope your Dad gets a good price for our cattle at the auction next week," she said.
Unable to hide my disappointment, I whined, "How will I make Christmas cards and paper chains for the Christmas tree?"
"After supper I will show you how to make homemade paste," Mom said.
Because our farmhouse did not have electricity, we lighted three kerosene lamps at suppertime. After the supper dishes were washed and dried, Mom showed me how to mix one part flour, two parts water, and a dash of salt together to form a thick mixture.
Immediately, I went to my bedroom to make cards out of sheets of red and green construction paper, and bits and pieces of white ribbon and string. Carefully, I secured the cards with dabs of the homemade paste and placed them on my desk to dry overnight.
I planned on cleaning the small bowl of leftover paste the following morning.
At bedtime, when Mom read me, " 'Twas the night before Christmas ... Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse," I tingled with anticipation as she said each word aloud.
As Mom tucked me in, I whispered, "Don't peek. I have Christmas secrets drying on my desk."
Around midnight, I was awakened by a rustling noise. Moonlight filtered through my bedroom curtains, but I couldn't see anything in the room. Frightened, I sprang from the bed and headed for my parents' bedroom, shouting, "Come quick! There's something in my room!"
Dad was lighting a kerosene lantern when I entered their bedroom. "Stay here with your mother," he whispered.
Soon, we heard Dad laughing uproariously. Mom and I raced to my bedroom and saw Dad holding a pudgy brown mouse full of paper and paste. "This noisy little creature helped himself to a midnight snack. Sorry, no leftovers," Dad said, laughing.
At first, I wasn't amused that my Christmas cards were ruined, but after Dad freed the mouse outdoors, laughter ensued.
The next day, Dad surprised me with a jar of real paste, and I was able to complete my Christmas crafts.
That happened 50 years ago, but there has never been a Christmas season that when "Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse" is mentioned, I don't remember the little brown mouse that stopped by for a midnight snack.