A Writer Comes Home By Cathlene Smith Saturday, September 12th, 2009, I had the opportunity of a lifetime.

I was slated to do a book signing at the Helper City Library; promoting my thriller, "Slivers of Reality." I had attended many book signings and readings in the previous months; but not in Helper. My excitement grew as my husband - Don, Mother - Rose Rachele Gillespie and Sister- Jennifer Gillespie drove down Helper's Main Street. I reached back forty years to the days when I traveled this same path with my Dad - Dan Gillespie, Mom and Jen. Helper, population, 2025; 1.8 square miles, is not my place of birth; but it is my mother's. The Rachele family has graced this immigrant, mining and railroad town with its: Swinging Bridge, Balancing Rock, and rich western history for decades. My Uncle Raymond, Aunt Shirley and Cousin Eldon still call this quaint settlement, home. My precious Aunt Vee, or Iola Cobain as she was known to most; was the Helper City Librarian for fifty-five plus years. Yes, while not my birthplace; Helper was always considered "home." My family and I spent a few weeks every summer: lazing on the porch of my grandparents Sam and Rosina Rachele's house, listening to the sounds of train whistles. We shopped at Cornet's Five and Dime where candy was truly a penny and paper kites were a ten cents. We drank sodas at Veltri's Drug, went to church at St. Anthony's, and traveled the eight miles to Price to Checkerboard Grocery to eat licorice whips and gulp down Orange Nesbit; Uncle Guido refusing to take any money. Life was simple in Helper. You got up, watered the garden, swam at the old pool across from my Aunt Helen and Uncle John Bradley's home, and helped Aunt Vee at the Helper City Library. I loved those memories, they flooded me as we arrived for my book signing. Amanda Holley, a young, attractive librarian with an adorable personality to match, went to much detail in preparing the event. A folding sign announcing my arrival greeted me. It stood under the watchful gaze of the enormous statue of the Coal Miner; affectionately named "Big John." Jenny and I used to run through his legs and sit on his enormous feet as we ate ice cream or popsicles; the drops of childhood hanging from our chins.

The library has changed. It was once the small building attached to the recreation hall that jutted out towards the street. Now, it replaces the old coal mining museum which once housed some of Helper's scariest exhibits in the coal black basement. The museum has also relocated across the street to the Old Helper Hotel and renamed, the "Western Mining and Railroad Museum." Amanda rushed about carrying plates of cookies and drinks. Her assistant, Leila Andrews greeted me with home town charm. I had just finished a rather large book signing event in Salt Lake at the People's Market, surrounded by other local authors, the Utah Humanities Council, the Salt Lake City Library Association and other celebrities and institutions of note. I was a tiny minnow in a sea of wordsmiths; a bit out of place. In Helper, I was treated as a celebrity, which brings a shy smile to my face. Amanda arranged several chairs in the hall with a speaker's table and reception area. I was delighted and touched by her efforts. I asked if I could sneak a peek in the library before my scheduled event. My mission was one of guilty pleasure; I wanted to touch and smell the books I used to dust. I wanted to look at the yellowaged pockets where the checkout cards were meticulously signed and dated. Jennifer and I delighted in pasting many of these pockets, then rolling the rubber cement into a ball before being caught by Aunt Vee. They were all there: The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, The Boxcar Children; all of the books so lovingly enjoyed by our generation and the ones that came after. The card holders were there too and even with faded print; I could make out the signature of a child from 1957. I fingered the small, stiff card and envisioned the child who checked out the book under the watchful eye of my aunt. The book signing was sparse - but when you figure the population; I'd say about 2% of the town showed up that day. Not bad; a much higher ratio than the book signings in Salt Lake. I took my seat; as my Mother and Sister explored the town. Don was there, as always; a tremendous support. Amanda and a delightful woman, Anna sat down and for an hour, they interviewed me. Yes it was just the four of us at first; but the questions, the interest and my ability to relax made it the most delightful presentation of my book to date. Later, my mother and sister returned from their adventure. Several others stopped in to welcome us and purchase a book. Mark; the caretaker of the library and his

lovely wife, David Johnson; the head of the Helper City Arts Council, Tom Williams; local and national artist from the "Boxcar Gallery" and others whom, regretfully I cannot remember their names but I will never forget their hospitality. My heart was full and my eyes darted to my mother's. I could see her transform to the little girl that walked these streets, went to school and worked for her sister at the library. After an incredible visit and invitation to return; we rode up the hill to visit the rest of the family. Getting out of the car; the air stood still and my feet felt planted in cement. My family was here; at the Helper City Cemetery. Grandma and Grandpa Rachelle, uncles and aunts and even my Dad; who also called Helper home. We visited for awhile and I picked up a rock outside the gate to remind me of my roots, my history and my family. The rock sits on my desk at work. When I long for a loving memory, I hold it tightly and feel the breeze off the Price river as my sister bounced the swinging bridge; sending me into screams. I tasted the homemade bread of my Grandma and Aunt Helen, and I smelled the books. It's the books that remain the same; while everything else evolves. That's why I write. The written word is the one constant we have in our lives. This visit, this book signing, this stroll into my past, brought me full circle. I will be back, Helper. There is no greater love than that of a small town everyone calls "home."

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