They're cutting down trees
They're putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
~ Joni Mitchell, "River"
This hasn't been an easy year for the New York Public Library; more than once, the city's budget-balancers threatened draconian cuts — the worst of which were avoided thanks to great upwellings of outrage from the citizenry. Our library needs all the friends it can get; so on Sunday, when it hosted its annual open house for friends and supporters at the main branch on 42nd Street, it was good to see the place was mobbed.
We waited first in the cold in a line that snaked around and finally inside, followed by more lines to climb stairs, travel down hallways and eventually wend our way to the main entrance. At last we stood in a room filled with light and cheer and the music of the Brooklyn Waterfront Dixieland Band.
When my eyes finally focused, I realized they were resting on Vanity Fair Editor Graydon Carter, a strikingly tall presence with intellectual-length hair and beautifully tailored clothing. He was just one of many fancy-dress characters — some of them a good bit taller.
|Dancing soldiers on stilts|
|Patience and Fortitude, the library lions|
|Of course Mother Goose|
|A Grinch that seemed less mean than lonely|
|Old Scrooge, evidently before the ghostly visits|
|The West Point Glee Club in fine voice|
|A very proud Christmas tree|
The party wasn't all photo-ops. There was food and drink and entertainment for all: music from the Rock & Klezmer Holiday Consortium and the Ari Ambrose trio; enchantments for children including the Galapagos Puppet Company, the Duncan and Grins Circus, origami lessons, face-painting and storytelling; and exhibitions of some of the library's wonders, including its outstanding photography collection and the hand-marked copy of A Christmas Carol that Charles Dickens used for his public readings. You could almost hear him say, "There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour."
A man is at his finest towards the finish of the year;
He is almost what he should be when the Christmas season's here;
Then he's thinking more of others than he's thought the months before,
And the laughter of his children is a joy worth toiling for.
He is less a selfish creature than at any other time;
When the Christmas spirit rules him he comes close to the sublime...
~ Edgar Guest, "At Christmas"