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   How the Christmas Tree Moved Outside
      A Christmas Story by Clarita McVickar


For many Decembers, a beautifully decorated Christmas tree stood in the Friends Meeting Schoolhouse in Downingtown. The decorations had been made and placed on the tree by the Meeting children. Besides the red and green paper chains, and the straw sunbursts and the paper-cut snowflakes, the children strung popcorn and cranberries and wove them through the green branches. When the tree was finished, all the meeting people would say "Ooooooo" and they would say "Ahhh" and everyone would sing "Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, how lovely are your branches."
           
After everyone went home, the mouse community who lived in the walls of the schoolhouse, came out and they would say "Ooooooo" and they would say "Ahhh" and they would sing "Oh Christmas Tree, oh Christmas tree, how luscious are your branches."
           
Then one year in late November all was changed: On a Sunday after the Meeting People were gone, Old Mouse stood up on the piano stool and said, "In the manner of Friends, I am requesting a Downingtown Mousely Meeting of Business to begin."

            The meeting began with silence and then Old Mouse said, "We have been fortunate. We have been well-provided for by the Friendly People. There are always crumbs on the floor after Meeting lunch each month, and from time to time the waste baskets contain broken crackers. Yes, these Friends are indeed generous to all manner of beings. Why they even gather the crumbs from the tables with a wet cloth and wash them down the sink...I wonder who they are feeding down there.”
           
Old Mouse went on: "It is getting near Christmas again. Each year we have heard the Friendly People tell the Friendly Children that Christmas is a time to share what we have, and I suggest we share what we have with someone."
           
Lots of questions came all at once. "What do we have?" and "Whom can we share with?" Questions like that.
           
Old Mouse had answers. "You know how the Friendly Children always bring in a big tree and put strings of popcorn on it for us? Well, let me tell...."
           
He was again interrupted. A young mouse asked, "Why do they put the popcorn on a tree? Why don't they just put the popcorn on the floor for us?"
           
Old Mouse explained patiently, "They put it on a tree so we can have the fun of bouncing on the branches as we eat."
           
Young Mouse said, "Oh, the Friendly Children have thought of everything."
           
Old Mouse continued, "Now this is my idea: We shall share our popcorn with our friends, the birds."
           
Someone said, "I don't know about that. I've never seen any birds in here. I don't think they can crawl under doors the way we can."
           
"I, too, have thought of everything", said Old Mouse. My plan is to make sure the tree is put outside this year."
           
"How can we do that?" asked another mouse.
           
Old Mouse said, "Well, you know the Friendly Children like us but the big people don't. I'm not sure they even know the children decorate the tree for us, so what we have to do is let the big people see us and they will insist the tree be put outside."
           
Someone asked, "Suppose they say the children can't have any tree at all?"
           
Old Mouse answered, "The Friendly People do not like to disappoint their children. They'll let them have a tree."
           
"With popcorn?"
           
"With popcorn."
           
Young Mouse had been quiet since Old Mouse had said the big people didn't like mice, and he began to cry. "I'm afraid if the Friendly People see us they will kill us."
           
"No, no", Old Mouse said gently. These Friendly People revere life and might chase us, but they won't kill us."
           
Young Mouse said, "I've seen the Friendly Children hit or push." "Well, that's not killing," said Old Mouse.
           
"Well, that's not friendly," said Young Mouse.
           
Old Mouse said, "And besides, they wouldn't do that so close to Christmas."
           
"Why not?"
           
"At Christmas they act differently."
           
"That's not nice," said Young Mouse.
           
"Yes, it is. They act nicer."
           
"But why do they act nice at Christmas?" Young Mouse wanted to know.
           
"It's easier," said Old Mouse.
           
“Why?"
           
"Because it's Christmas," Old Mouse explained.
           
But Young Mouse was confused by now and started to cry. "I'm afraid," he said.
            Another mouse said, "What do you mean, ‘you are afraid’? Are you a mouse or a man?"
           
Old Mouse interrupted, "Sharing is no good unless we really want to do it, and it is no good if it makes someone unhappy. Young Mouse is unhappy so maybe it isn't a good idea after all."
           
Young Mouse said, "But it is a good idea. I love the birds. They share berries with us outside in the summertime. I really want to share our tree with them. But couldn't we find another way to get the Friendly People to put the tree outside?"
           
A skinny mouse had an idea and decided to share it. He stood up and said: "One of the Friendly Children smiled at me one day when I was peeking around a chair. A Big Person came along, and so that I would not be seen, the Friendly Child scooped me up and put me in his pocket. Ever since that day I jumped in the pocket whenever the child was there. This child talks to me and now that I don't feel so shy, I talk back." Skinny Mouse looked down, and continued, "I know there is a Mouse Testimony that advises us that it is unwise to talk to People."
           
Old Mouse smiled and said, "We all have a little trouble keeping the testimonies from time to time. And perhaps this testimony needs revising. Well, our problem is solved. Skinny Mouse will tell the Friendly Child that this year it would be nice to put the tree outside for the birds. For some unexplainable reason Friendly People, even though they don't like mice, love birds!
           

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