LAst WOrd

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Events - BY MELINDA GAS­S­AWAY

New years are like new shoes — com­fort­a­bil­ity takes awhile and in the be­gin­ning, our steps are slow and mea­sured. Even­tu­ally, though, things just seem to fit and we stride for­ward with con­fi­dence.

Dur­ing my grow­ing-up years in Hot Springs, the post-Christ­mas pe­riod seemed like a seam­less en­try into what­ever came next. At least, that was the way I re­call those care­free girl­hood days on Wood­bine Av­enue and Hawthorne Street when Mol­lie Lol­lis, Mar­sha Hud­low and I tested our steer­ing skills on trikes, then bikes and did bal­anc­ing acts on shiny new roller skates.

Mostly, though, we be­gan Jan­uary just as we ended De­cem­ber — caught up in the won­der of just be­ing young and gig­gling a lot. The only sched­ules to which we ad­hered were daily vis­its back and forth be­tween our houses. We were more than con­tent to live in the mo­ment.

How­ever, that all changed in high school. When the cal­en­dar read Dec. 31, thoughts turned back to se­ri­ous sub­jects. For one thing, I re­solved to be­come more pro­fi­cient in trans­lat­ing Latin so as to give Mar­sha a bit of com­pe­ti­tion in El­iz­a­beth Buck’s class. Mar­sha was the true scholar, but do­ing well in this course was also im­por­tant to me. How im­por­tant be­came abun­dantly clear much later when I opted for a ca­reer re­liant on lan­guage skills. And Latin cer­tainly helps if one is an avid crossword afi­cionado.

My roots run deep in the re­sort com­mu­nity, but some­where be­tween my sopho­more and ju­nior years at Hot Springs High I de­cided to ap­ply to the Univer­sity of Missouri at Columbia be­cause of the jour­nal­ism pro­gram. I also ap­plied to the Univer­sity of Colorado in Boul­der, prompted by re­mem­brances of one idyl­lic sum­mer in those glo­ri­ous moun­tains around Estes Park. The time had come to con­sider the fu­ture and I never wa­vered from that com­mit­ment to ex­plore new hori­zons, to meet new peo­ple, to take on new chal­lenges.

De­spite this new-found de­ter­mi­na­tion and en­cour­age­ment from fam­ily and friends, break­ing away was ini­tially a scary un­der­tak­ing. The Miz­zou cam­pus was big, the lec­ture halls were filled to ca­pac­ity. In 1960, the stu­dent pop­u­la­tion was well over 17,000. Chi Omega soror­ity kept me from feel­ing to­tally at sea and gave me fur­ther re­solve to keep mov­ing for­ward — one step at a time.

Mean­while, my home­town was go­ing through its own grow­ing pains and on re­turn trips, I no­ticed changes to the land­scape, to the down­town busi­ness dis­trict, to neigh­bor­hoods once so fa­mil­iar and invit­ing. I was not cer­tain then if cir­cum­stances would one day bring me back to live and work in the place of my birth, but I was sure that the city and I would for­ever be con­nected by the “ties that bind.”

And such was the case, no mat­ter where all of my new years and new shoes took me af­ter col­lege grad­u­a­tion in 1965. I stopped be­ing a “vis­i­tor’” in 1974, and it’s good to see that Hot Springs is still evolv­ing, still adding chap­ters to its col­or­ful and fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory.

It’s par­tic­u­larly nice to wit­ness the on­go­ing trans­for­ma­tion first-hand.

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