Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

My mother did not teach me to read. She left that to the good nuns. But once I started reading, it was Mom who introduced me to the public library that was within walking distance of our home.

I'm not sure how old I was when I got my own library card, probably 7 or 8, but I remember the thrill of checking out that first library book on a Saturday afternoon and curling up in bed with Mom that night so we could take turns reading the pages.

For Christmas, Mom bought me classics like "Tom Sawyer," "Huckleberry Finn," "A Tale of Two Cities" and "Jane Eyre" so I could build my own book collection, but that didn't stop us from going to the public library. It was our Saturday afternoon ritual for many years.

Last Thursday night I walked into Del Norte County Library and saw

more kids with parents, grandparents and friends than I've ever seen

there before. I don't know how many there were andndash; more than 50, maybe

close to 100. There were toddlers and pre-teens and children of every

age in between.

In fact there were so many people that all the chairs at the library

were taken. Kids lined up to get their first library card. Families sat

on the floor by the Christmas tree. Others huddled together in the

aisles between stacks of books. Grown-ups sitting in chairs held

children on their laps. And all of them were reading books.

It didn't take money or extraordinary resources to bring a crowd to

Del Norte County Library Thursday night. It was a simple event featuring

art projects, reading a story aloud, snacks and a visit from Santa.

What made it special were the loving guardians and curious children who

accepted the invitation to come together at our library and celebrate

the season.

Our library's staff andndash; particularly Kelley Nolan of Del Norte Reads andndash;

were gracious hosts, keeeping the doors open late and even lighting logs

in the fireplace to make the evening cozier. The city andndash; namely Eric

Wier and his crew andndash; made sure the community Christmas tree and

decorations were radiant and the area around the fountain was clean and

well lit. The city also provided power for the crock pots filled with

simmering organic apple cider that Deborah Kravitz of the DNUSD

Nutrition Program and her helpers provided. Deborah also handed out

homemade pumpkin-cranberry cookies and treat bags to take home to all

good boys and girls and a few adults as well.

I heard squeals of joy when Santa and Mrs. Claus approached Tsunami

Plaza. As soon as they appeared, the children rushed the Clauses,

reaching out for hugs while parents aimed their cameras.

It was a simple evening, yet a memorable one for me and for those who

attended. It celebrated community and family and especially the

children who shone as bright as the star on the tree.

Rick and I shot some photos during the event but we were so caught up

in the moment that we didn't do a very good job of gathering the names

of the people we photographed. So most of our subjects are not

identified. But they are the beautiful faces of our community:

enthusiastic young artists, determined readers, interested listeners and

caring families and friends who came together in the holiday spirit for

one evening in December.

Reach Michele Thomas, the Del Norte Triplicate's publisher, at

mtandshy;hoandshy;masandshy;@triplicate.com, 464-2141 or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.