The Last Word
Autumn's arrival in the Spa City was always a welcome change of seasons by my mother, who on numerous occasions admitted her distaste for warm weather. Unlike me, the sultry days of summer were not to her liking and in one personal diary entry, she described the high temperature of the day as “hotter than blue blazes.”
A penchant for dropping a familiar adage or two into her writings was something else we shared although I did not fully realize it until after she died in 1981, allowing me to peruse her journals in greater detail and with a humble appreciation for our mutual love of language.
Were Mary Virginia Proctor Brown here today, she would relish how Hot Springs has flourished and how it continues to emphasize the artistic aspects that draw so many to the city for the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and for other cultural events that give our town panache.
If mother ever considered leaving the resort city for bigger, more fast-paced environs, she never expressed such to me. But, it's something I wondered about given her travels to London, Paris, and Berlin, and her post-high school time at a Boston finishing academy for young women and a brief stay at Sweet Briar College in Virginia.
Even after a bevy of beaus and flitting about the country for various social visits, often accompanied by her mother, Mary Elizabeth Parker Proctor, my maternal parent-to-be remained inexorably connected to Hot Springs and a way of life she found most comfortable. Of course, the fact that Joseph Russey Brown, my dad, was waiting in the wings with a marriage proposal no doubt factored into her decision-making.
While mother and I had a common desire to explore new vistas, there was no certainty that I would eventually return home after college graduation in 1965. With my Bachelor of Journalism degree in hand, I went off to newspaper stints in Southern California, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Those experiences were invaluable — especially for a budding journalist who needed a broader perspective on the world. To their credit, my parents encouraged my wanderlust, knowing that an only child also required opportunities to strengthen her resolve and independence.
What they did not realize perhaps was how “front and center” Hot Springs was in my heart and mind. It embodied everything important to me —family, friends, history, a beautiful and inspiring natural environment, a sense of belonging to one place that would always nurture and shelter me.
Fortunately, fate brought home in the early 1970s and I rediscovered why it had always been mother's `muse.'
And mine, too.