Our earlier story…
My character, Mrs. Middlejoy, came to me on a walk. I had been trying to write a murder mystery, mostly because I love reading them.
But the story wasn’t going well. It was predictable, trite. I had tried to setting it in my home town, and I could imagine the embarrassment of my high school friends, seeing the mash-up of characters from my high school years, and cringing in pity at my effort.
Walking along, I started thinking about what I had enjoyed reading as a girl. My thoughts often stray to a book that had transported me to another world, Mistress Masham’s Repose, by T. H. White.
The Church Mouse that Sang, continued.
…I had been enchanted with the idea of finding a civilization of tiny beings, co-existing with the British culture, repurposing items cast off by humans. I loved how the Lilliputans perspective showed the marvelous value of the most mundane objects.
I began to envision a mouse. A middle-aged female, who could find beauty in the most ghastly kitch, because of her own naiive and joyful perspective.
I saw her in a church. Duh, a church mouse. I could work with that.
The first story started out as “Mrs. Middlejoy and the Missing Marble Statue.” It was supposed to be a detective story, and she was supposed to track down the missing item.
So she lived in a Lost and Found Closet. I loved Mrs. Middlejoy from the beginning. I loved how, skittering at the edge of human society, she almost tracked with their phrases, almost understood the culture, and certainly valued their cast off items.
I had the whole story outlined, a comedy of errors that resolved in a touching tribute to the great detective.
But it didn’t work. The plot hinged on a tribute the other mice wanted to keep a surprise. But why the tribute? Just because I loved her wasn’t enough reason to suppose all her fellow church mice did.
So I decided there had to be a back story. I had to show her bravery, love and status in the community.
And just as surely as I knew why there would have been a New Year’s Eve tribute to Mrs. Middlejoy, I knew what had happened that Christmas in the church. And I began writing Mrs. Middlejoy and the Minister’s Cat: A Christmas Story.
Imagine my surprise when the mice held their own Christmas Eve service in the Mouse Assembly Hall, and Father Churchmouse preached the Christmas Story from the animals’ point of view. And I heard the mice singing their simple carol of faith, “There must have been mice in the stable that night…”
Part of my surprise is how well the scriptures backed up the sermon! As humans, we read that shepherds were in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And when we read that the Angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid, etc. We humans assume the pronouns refer to the humans, and the announcement was to the shepherds.
Well, the faith of Father Churchmouse helped him see that the pronoun referred to all God’s creatures who were in that field: the sheep, the shepherds who watched them, and (is it so very odd to suppose?) the field mice who must have been there.
Before I knew it, I had heard The Carol of the Church Mice and hurried to write it down.
There must have been mice in the stable that night
When the Lord of All was born.
Maybe Joseph made sure to clear away
A nest of mice from the manger hay
That Mother Mary might gently lay
Her Babe there on Christmas Morn.
There must have been mice in the fields that night
When the Angel told the sheep
(And the shepherds who watched them) not to fear,
For there was joyful news to hear
As glory shone round and heaven drew near
With a song of love and peace.
So, sing, every mouse in the church here tonight.
Give thanks and Christmas praise
To the Lord who made both Heaven and Earth
Yet came down to us in His humble birth.
Sing, every mouse, of the marvelous worth
Of Blessed Christmas Day!
Since Mrs. Middlejoy hummed the starting note, so all the mice could sing along, I would like to thank her, and honor her as The Church Mouse That Sang.