LAST WORD

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

Af­ter a finicky Fe­bru­ary 2014, a new month brings the prom­ise of re­newal and re­vi­tal­iza­tion as­so­ci­ated with spring­time in Hot Springs.

As our sur­round­ings be­gin to “green up,” we look for­ward to the “wear­ing o’ the green” on St. Patrick’s Day when ev­ery­one who is not of Ir­ish de­scent pre­tends he or she is duly en­ti­tled to don a tweed cap, wear a sham­rock pin, and speak a bit of blar­ney on this cel­e­bra­tory oc­ca­sion.

I ad­mit to be­ing some­what en­vi­ous of per­sons whose given names re­mind one of the Celtic land and her­itage that in­trigues and fas­ci­nates us all.

My aunt, Mar­garet Brid­get Brown LeJeune, was born in St. Mary Par­ish, La., but cer­tainly with that moniker, she might well have been as much a child of Dublin or Done­gal as Jeanerette. In any case, she was a spir­ited and gen­er­ous soul who en­joyed life to the fullest. She most cer­tainly would have rev­eled in the way this re­sort city hosts its much her­alded and “short­est ever” March 17 pa­rade.

The lure of Eire and the per­cep­tions Amer­i­cans have of that is­land across the At­lantic Ocean were not lost on my mother who had the good for­tune of trav­el­ing abroad via cruise ship in the sum­mer of 1931.

In a daily jour­nal, which be­gan with an en­try in June, she wrote, “… we had sighted the coast of Ire­land. It was the grand­est feel­ing to see land again, even if I do rather hate to see this end.

“Ire­land isn’t quite as green as the ‘Emer­ald Isle’ should be, but it’s beau­ti­ful along the coast. Lots of farms plot­ted off, giv­ing the ap­pear­ance of a crazy quilt. The light­houses are just like pic­tures and much more ex­cit­ing when you re­ally see them.”

Never hav­ing en­joyed such an elab­o­rate and ed­u­ca­tional ex­cur­sion, I am grate­ful to have this per­son­ally penned ac­count of mother’s trip to Eng­land and France dur­ing her 21st year. I am es­pe­cially glad to study her writ­ing style and the way she de­scribes the in­di­vid­u­als who moved in and out of her life and the his­toric places she vis­ited.

When­ever I pe­ruse its pages, this par­tic­u­lar “lit­tle black book” takes me along on what surely was a sen­ti­men­tal jour­ney and also pro­vides con­sid­er­able in­sight into her youth­ful per­son­al­ity and con­sid­er­able gift for lan­guage.

It like­wise pro­vides a sense of the era, giv­ing the reader a look back at Hot Springs when lo­cal tele­phone num­bers were just three or four dig­its and good friends’ call codes and ad­dresses were jot­ted neatly down in the back of the book for easy ref­er­ence.

Mother’s in­ti­mate re­count­ing is a his­tory book of sorts. It re­minds me of how lucky we here are that sim­i­lar nuggets of in­for­ma­tion about “our town” are pre­served us by the Melt­ing Pot Ge­nealog­i­cal So­ci­ety and the Gar­land County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety.

There’s no bet­ter read than these per­sonal sto­ries that in­ex­orably con­nect us to a spe­cial place called home.

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