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.