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DEBRA HALE-SHELTON: Considering possibilities of what's to come

by Debra Hale-Shelton | July 12, 2020 at 2:05 p.m.

A reader suggested I focus on what's ahead in my life rather than the past to boost my spirits.

If I were 40, even 50, that might work. At my age, I'm not so sure. But I'll give it a try. Here are a few scenarios that might or might not work.

• My daughter Annie suggested I find a boyfriend later and remarry. No, no, no. That decisive answer is based in part on my lessons of the past and the desire for a future of peace, freedom and a bed of my own. I no longer expect Prince Charming or even Prince Get-the-Job-Done to whisk me away in his arms to a land of dreamy stars, pillows of soft luxurious clouds, and no doubt a white-lace canopied bed.

As faithful readers already know, I no longer weigh 110 or even 130 pounds. So, unless my prince is a young Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, he would probably drop me somewhere over a muddy ditch outside a Walmart Supercenter where I'd be trampled by Black Friday Christmas shoppers.

• Adopt another child. As much as I love my 18-year-old daughter and enjoyed potty-training her 2-year-old self, and gasping whenever I'm a passenger in her car, I don't think this is the time in my life for another. After she finishes college, matures and is married, a grandchild would be nice. Or we could just visit a day-care center.

• Move again. I'd like that, just not when I'm still unpacking from the last move and my mom, daughter and sister live here in Conway. But someday I'd love to live again in a Chicago high-rise near Michigan Avenue or in a two- or three-flat on the city's North Side. I'd want a deck for a container garden and a tan wicker rocking chair like the one my grandmother Nana had on her porch. And I'd want a good view of people, taxis and skyscrapers for company whenever I needed a friend day or night. A small grocery within yards would be great, for a walkable city and mass transit are what matters when you get rid of your car and the costs that go with it.

Being more practical than idealistic these days, I realize I might not get to move back to Chicago. So Little Rock or maybe Fayetteville also would be great. I'm not a frequent Walmart shopper but would be a frequent visitor to Alice Walton's wonderful Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art if I lived nearby.

• Take some creative writing classes at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. I would like to write a book of essays, experiment with satirical fiction, and more. Now that I'm retired from my full-time job, I have the time. A class might offer the writing prompt and the critic I need.

If you're thinking, "But she's written so many stories about problems at UCA," you are correct. But I've also written stories about good things there--hard-working professors, students and staff who came to the aid of hurricane victims and an honorable president who guided the university through a time of financial crisis after scandal ousted a once-popular president.

But the task for Tom Courtway was much more: He had to deal with incredibly low staff and faculty morale that followed the departure of another president, a man who had been more focused on sidewalks and a house than on student needs. So, I think I'd be welcome there, and I promise not to gripe even if I my heel gets caught in a sidewalk crack.

• With my daughter, visit her birthplace Jingmen City in China's Hubei province. I've found the newspaper notice, in Mandarin, after she was born and taken to a nearby orphanage within a day. We didn't get to travel to Jingmen City when we adopted Annie on July 23, 2002, because of flooding along the Yangtze River. I'd love to retrace our 2002 trip--touring the Forbidden City, where I bought a cold drink at a now-closed Starbucks, climbing more of the Great Wall, feasting on congee for breakfast and Peking duck for lunch, playing with Annie in the baby pool at the White Swan hotel beside the Pearl River in Guangzhou.

• I'd like to attend my next high school class reunion and visit with Mary Lou Lovell, the English teacher who instilled in me a love of writing. I'd also want to have lunch with my almost-lifelong friend and classmate Sherry Young Burrow, the college roommate who tolerated more than a few of my pranks like setting her alarm clock three hours ahead so she'd be all decked out at 5 a.m. for an 8 a.m. P.E. class.

And maybe I could even flirt with that cute boy I once chased up the social ladder but fell on my face along the way. Truth is, I saw a picture of him online a year or two ago and magically got past my teenage crush. It turns out cute boys get older just as girls do, and the former are less likely to wear makeup.

The reunion wouldn't be complete, though.

Another lifelong friend, Rose Bell Ming, left us in March 2019 when she and her husband, Jerry, died in a wreck on Interstate 40 near Marion. Jerry had extended his arm to protect Rose as she held a Bible in her arms.

Rosie, as I called her, was one of 13 children who missed six weeks of school to pick cotton, then aced her history test the day she returned. She was as kind as she was smart and deserves more than a paragraph. So another column idea awaits for another time, another memory.

I set out in this column to write about my future. But the past keeps interfering, and that's not always a bad thing. For our past helps form our present and our future--the good parts, the bad parts and those yet to be determined.

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