It’s been one long, cold winter.
Hilda never really feels the chill even on her worst day; maybe it’s the sheer megaton of energy she expends running around the farm, but with a big mountain of snow piling up outside the door of her shack she’s a little chillier than normal. Which is why she’s on her hands and knees, trying to get her stove to ignite.
“Come on you old hunk of…” She smacked the cold belly of it, then lit one more chunk of newspaper and threw it into the flames. Miraculously, it caught a spark and the coals within it began to glow. She sighed in relief and stood up. Now she could wash her hair and face without worrying about freezing.
Soon it was toasty warm inside, and Hilda’s hair was cleaned and set. Ready to change into her nighttime clothing, she stopped to dress her little dog, Jacks, in a matching red union suit. He finally looked just as Christmassy as she felt.
“There we are Jacks,” she says to her pup. “All cozy warm!” The dog seemed less than impressed with his outfit, but barked before curling up at her feet. She didn’t even try to dress up the cat, knowing from personal experience that such hubris often ended with her receiving monstrous scratches.
That's when she feels a chill brush against her backside and shudders - oh darn, a tear! Hilda mends it before she shimmies back into it. For just a moment she stood with her bare backside to the glowing belly of the stove and then buttoned the outfit up with a contented sigh. Putting a record on the phonograph, she made a cup of coco and then sat down with a contented sigh beside the record player as Bing Crosby filled the air, topping her head with a green Santa hat. Jacks and her cat, Mittens, gathered nearby to enjoy the music, and she didn’t shoo Mittens away when she climbed up her leg and arm to walk along her shoulder.
“You know what’d go really well with this cocoa?” she asked aloud. “Ice cream!”
They crowded around her ankles as she churned up a batch with snow, sugar, vanilla and the last of the morning cream. The mixture was satisfying and thick and sweet. She added a scoop to her coco but also made an ice cream cone –which she managed to dribble on her chest.
“Oh, darn!” She mopped it up with a little bit of leftover hot water, and Mittens and Jacks were happy to lick up the leftover droplets from the bare wooden floor.
She sat down with the last of her ice cream and the cocoa, but then something small and grey darted across the floor.
Then across her feet.
When she realized it was a mouse she crawled up on her footrest, letting out a surprised scream. Jacks was hiding in the corner thanks to her loudness, but Mittens was meowing in agitation. Hissing from under the couch. Mittens stared at it.
“Mittens, where’s your bravery?!” She wondered. But Mittens wasn’t going to save her now. Only Hilda’s own courage could.
She watched the tiny pink twitching nose of the mouse as it stepped forward, then sat on its hind legs. “If you promise not to bite me,” she said, “you can stay here for Christmas.”
The mouse hesitated, its whiskers vibrating. But it didn’t run away when she placed some of the leftover cream in a pie plate. It dipped its mouth curiously into the mixture, and settled in.
Jacks and Mittens had no quarrel with the interloper; they settled in as Hilda did, in her rocking chair. “Let’s give our new fellow a country welcome,” she said. Reading aloud from Samuel Clemens’ story of Santa Claus’ arrival, Hilda didn’t fall asleep until she was midway through the book, Mittens, Jack and the mouse all following suit.
The next day she would have her family over, and there’d be a big country feast. Mittens and Jacks would have new presents.
And the world would always be as gay and bright as it was that very night.