Michael was a cute little kid. He was short . . . well, shorter than me, and very inquisitive. He had brown hair, a loveable little round face and was very smart.
One thing I really admired about Michael was that he loved his mom very, very much.
He spent a lot of time making up games, imaginary friends and he asked a lot of questions.
“Mom, why are there buildings?" or “Mom, why are there cars?" he would ask when driving to school.
Walking to the park, he would ask, “Mom, why are there cracks in the side walk?" or when eating in a restaurant, he would inquire, “Mom, where do french fries come from?" Don’t even get him started on ketchup and mustard, because he would be asking, “Why does ketchup smell like that?" or “Why is mustard yellow?"
His mom would kindly and patiently explain things to him and he would learn so much from the things she would tell him. At his age, he was very smart and already knew a lot. He knew that Santa comes from the North Pole and that if you don’t put your tooth under your pillow, the Tooth Fairy wouldn’t leave you any money.
When it came to games, Michael never lacked imagination. He could come up with things all by himself and could spend hours creating an adventure in his own bedroom. He had toys, but it wasn’t his toys that kept him busy, it was what he did with his toys that was so remarkable.
With Michael’s help, his action figures would rescue the ladies trapped high on his dresser and keep them from falling the vast distance to the floor and getting hurt. The action figures would also gather together and save the teddy bear under his bed from a long, dark night without hugs and other people. And in the summer he would play in the yard, building cities with his cars and other things he found around the house. Michael had a huge imagination.
Michael also loved holidays.
At Easter, he was the absolute best at making Easter eggs all perfectly colored with beautiful little designs. And at Halloween he had the best costumes, carved the scariest pumpkins and loved to go trick-or-treating, bringing home big buckets of candy, which he of course, shared with his mom.
But at Christmas, he really had fun. He loved to decorate the Christmas tree, placing the ornaments selectively in their places and helped his mom put up the lights. He shopped very intently, looking for just the right gift for his mom then waited anxiously for the perfect moment to give it to her.
Then once, he woke up in the middle of the night, got out of his bed and walked out to the living room to look at the Christmas tree. It was twinkling and glowing in the evening light and he sat there admiring it and how beautiful it was. There were gifts tucked underneath, wrapped tightly with pretty, shiny bows. He loved Christmas!
He rubbed his eyes when he saw something stir from behind the mounds of packages beneath the tree. He thought he was dreaming, and pinched himself to make sure he wasn’t.
“Helllooo, Michael," came a teeny, tiny voice from the direction of the tree.
“Whu—," Michael stammered in disbelief.
“Michael, I am the Ghost of Christmas Presents," said the voice and just then a mouse, all dressed up in Christmas attire, stepped out behind one of the gifts. The mouse wore a fuzzy red stocking cap and funny looking green slippers with bells on the toes.
“Ghost? But ghosts are scary and you don’t look scary at all," said Michael, peering forward trying to get a better look at the creature in the dim light of the holiday glow.
“Not all ghosts are scary. I happen to be a ghost mouse and I’m here to share my message with you."
“Message? What message do you have? Where did you come from? I’ve never heard of ghost mice before, what are you doing here?" came the questions from Michael.
The mouse held out his arms in a gesture to slow him down. “Too many questions. Mice, especially ghost mice, don’t have answers, they just have messages."
“What? I’ve never heard of ghost mice with messages. What is your name, little mouse?"
“My name is Franklin and I am the Ghost of Christmas Presents," he said and raised his little furry arms in an attempt to look scary and spooky.
Michael giggled at Franklin because he didn’t look spooky at all. He looked very silly trying to be big in such a little tiny body with a fuzzy stocking cap and crazy little slippers.
Franklin looked annoyed. He said, “Okay Michael, you should not laugh at the Ghost of Christmas Presents. It isn’t respectful." And he crossed his arms in an expression of indignance.
Michael got down on his hands and knees and looked face to face with the creature that commanded his attention. In the twinkling lights, he could see the expressive shiny little eyes. Tiny ears protruded from under the fuzzy cap, while the little arms with tiny hands showed one finger tapping with impatience.
Michael couldn’t help but be smitten by the creature, so cute and cuddly looking. Michael wanted to hold him and feel his soft fur.
“Can I pick you up?" Michael asked.
The little mouse rolled his eyes and said, “Well, if it will get you to listen to my message, I guess it won’t hurt. But don’t muss the cap!" said Franklin arrogantly.
Gently, Michael picked up the adorable rodent and held him in his palm very carefully, looking closely into those warm, expressive eyes. Franklin’s wet little nose wiggled in the glow, making his whiskers twitch adorably as he got a good smell of his new friend. But his facial expression was growing impatient as the boy was obviously more interested in his appearance than the message he came to relay.
Sensing his impatience, Michael stood up straight, and though he tried to be serious, the grin on his face betrayed his enchantment. Nevertheless, he suppressed his amusement and said, “Okay Mr. Franklin, Ghost of Christmas Presents, what is this message that you have for me?"
“Well, I’m glad I finally have your attention," announced Franklin who puffed up his chest and opened his arms grandly, ready to make his announcement.
The room grew very still and for a moment, the only sound was the Michael’s heartbeat and the tiny breaths of Franklin, displayed by the rise and fall of his tiny chest.
“You are a good boy, Michael. You play in your room, you make up games and you are the best darned Easter-egg-decorator in these parts. You love your mom and you go to school every day. But after smelling you, it appears you could do a better job of bathing and brushing your teeth. Despite these things, you do a great job.
“But your mom needs your help. You could pick up your room and help her with chores now and then. You are getting old enough now."
“You are very smart and you already know a lot. But a little help in the chore department and a little more washing behind the ears would go a long way. Parents are people, too. Just like you, you know."
Michael put his hand over his mouth, embarrassed because he didn’t brush his teeth before bed. Thinking back on it, he remembered that he didn’t pick up his toys, either. He couldn’t believe that he forgot.
“Don’t sweat it, kid," Franklin said in reassurance. “Most kids forget. But it would really make your mom happy if you would try to remember and do those things on your own."
Michael sat still for a moment, thinking about Franklin’s words, then brightened up. He kissed Franklin firmly on his little mouse cheek and exclaimed, “I can do this!"
Setting Franklin down the coffee table, he ran into the other room coming back with pencil and pad of paper. He wrote furiously on the paper for a few moments and ripped a sheet of paper off the pad. He shoved it proudly into Franklin’s face so he could see it. The paper dwarfed Franklin and the swift movements nearly knocked him off the table. Franklin held out his arms again in an attempt to keep from being bowled over by Michael’s enthusiasm.
“Whoa! Michael! What is that?"
“It’s my list of chores! It’s all the things I need to do every day so I won’t forget!" Michael beamed proudly.
Franklin leaned forward and examined the list with his shiny mouse eyes. Then he said, “You know, kid, that looks like it will work. Now put it in a place that you won’t forget."
“I know just the place!" exclaimed Michael who ran into the other room, grabbed the tape and then ran to his bedroom, where he taped the list to his closet door.
Racing back to the living room, he found Franklin sitting on the edge of the table, arm propped on his crossed mouse leg. Franklin stood when Michael entered the room, making sure to clear the edge of the table.
“Are we cool now kid?" he asked to ensure Michael understood his message.
“Yes, Mr. Franklin, Ghost of Christmas Presents, I understand and I promise I will do my part to help my mom." He crossed his chest in gesture of solemn promise.
“Now, Michael, it’s time for me to go," said Franklin.
Michael got very sad. “Nooooo. You can’t go. We’ve just become friends!" And Michael began to cry.
“Oh! Not that!" cried Franklin, waving his arms frantically in the air, trying to wipe away the emotion.
Tears welled in Michael’s eyes and had begun to run down his cheeks in huge, wet trails.
“That’s my least favorite part," said Franklin.
“Okay, there is something you can do so I don’t have to leave," said Franklin.
“What? What? What?" Michael asked eagerly, willing to do anything to prolong their friendship.
Franklin waved a “come closer" gesture at Michael. Then Franklin held up his hand next to his mouth as he whispered very secretly into Michael’s left ear.
Nodding, Michael picked Franklin up gently and carried him into his bedroom. Michael kicked the bedroom door closed behind him very quietly.
The next morning was Christmas morning. Michael woke up before anyone else and carefully pulled the step stool into the kitchen, mindful to be quiet and not wake anyone.
He took down a bowl, got the cereal box from the cupboard and the milk from the fridge. He found the serving tray, a vase and carefully pulled a flower out of the arrangement in the living room.
He prepared a beautiful breakfast, complete with juice, toast and a little note that said “I love you Mom. Merry Christmas," and trotted down the hall to his mother’s bedroom. He stood beside her bed until her sleepy eyes opened and she saw her little boy standing next to her.
She sat up and was greeted with a lovely Christmas breakfast, hugs and kisses from her beloved little boy. They sat for a long time telling stories and eating cereal that never tasted better. Then Michael plodded out to the Christmas tree, gently moving the little stuffed mouse with the crazy little slippers to the side and retrieved his mother’s special gift.
He proudly presented her Christmas gift on that cheery morning and never felt so proud and happy in his life. He loves his mom so much.
Later, he played happily in his room with his new toy mouse while his mom made a scrumptious Christmas dinner.
Franklin is now displayed proudly above Michael’s bed, fuzzy stocking cap and all, and keeps watch over Michael every night. Franklin continues to advise Michael on such things as the Easter Bunny, Santa, etc.