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'Twas the night before Christmas and all through Pam's house
Her mother had been ironing and left the room momentarily, so Pam set the little bundle down on the warm ironing board. When her mother returned, she was not happy to see a bunch of pink, hairless baby mice on it.
“Needless to say, out they went, and of course I couldn't sit down for a little while,” Pam says, chuckling.
Unscathed by the childhood spanking, she has spent the past five decades filling her house with mice.
Mice ski down slopes and skate across frozen ponds in a winter wonderland she created on her dining room buffet. Mice dangle off lampshades in the living room, and they dance and sing in various displays in the cubbies of her entertainment center.
She has glass mice and brass mice. Some are stuffed, some are plastic, and some are ceramic. There are snow globe mice and music box mice.
From pewter mice the size of thimbles to large stuffed mice that recline on the sofa, her collection encompasses a range of sizes.
She has hundreds of the whiskered critters and enjoys displaying groups of them in themes.
For instance, a collection of sleeping mice are tucked in a serene, snow-filled scene beneath a glass coffee table in her living room. In it, a smiling mouse dozes peacefully beside a slumbering cat.
Nearby, a candleholder mouse reading a book occupies a prominent space beside an antique book of poetry on a shelf top.
Above the shelf on a half wall between the living and dining rooms, marching band mice swing from left to right, striking bells that play Christmas tunes. Of all the mice in her collection, this animated, music-making group is a favorite of Pam's.
Other mice peer out from hiding places depicted on rugs, table runners and place mats. They smile from pot holders and coffee mugs.
And anyone who has partaken of hors d' oeuvres at Pam's house during the holidays will probably recall having used her mouseware — a serving knife with a mouse perched on its top — to slather jellies and cheese spreads across crackers.
Known for her cheerful countenance and mischievous sense of humor, Pam is naturally quite fond of her laughing mice. One jolly-looking mouse holds his belly while rolling on the floor with apparent laughter, and the sight of him always brings smiles to people's faces.
Those smiles are the reason Pam spends several hours a day, several days a week, creating and re-creating little fantasy scenes with her extensive collection of mice each year.
She groups tiny mice in shadow boxes, some of which she has fashioned from wooden silverware organizers and spice racks. She hangs some on walls in baskets, and she perches others in every nook and cranny she can find or create.
She began collecting the mice here in Yuma in the 1960s after she had bought a group of ceramic mice ornaments.
“I saw this cute little set of mice, and then I was house sitting for somebody so I put up a little Christmas tree and put the mice in it,” she says. “Well they were lost in it. You couldn't see them.”
So she created a group display instead, and then when she moved to her current home in 1969, she added new mice to the collection every year.
“A lot of the mice have been given to me by different people,” she says. “There are some duplicates — a lot of the miniatures — and I just pop them around in different displays.”
The process is simple. “I just find a little cubby and start playing,” she says. “I've got an idea what I want to do and just work around it.”
She says she feels like a kid again while creating miniature scenes of snow, trees, toys and mice.
To create staggered heights for the displays, she places things like the Styrofoam blocks underneath and behind the fake snow.
“I poke pins in it to keep the mice where they belong so that they're not running around when I'm not looking,” she quips. “Actually, I've never had any real mice show up at Christmas or any other time.”
Well, not since ironing day in Boise, anyway.
She says Christmas mice used to be abundant, but they've become so scarce that for the past four years, she has only added two new mice to her collection.
The supply seems to be winding down as Pam contemplates this may be the last year she displays her collection.
Although making displays for her collection is a lot of fun, it can also be very daunting to take out boxes and boxes of mice each year and create miniature worlds for them.
Plus, mouse maintenance is a pain. “Sometimes I think I'd better dust them, and then I think I'd rather not do that,” she says.
So this year when the Christmas season has passed, she will once again pack up her collection — the winter games mice with their sparkling blanket of fake snow and their “ice pond” mirrors in one box, and the marching band mice in another.
The list goes on, and the boxes stack up.
“I may not do this again,” Pam says. “I haven't decided what I'll do with my collection, but I'll probably keep the band and the laughing mice. You can't look at those mice and not smile.”