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"Wyatt Durrette has been a friend, a mentor and an inspiration to me for almost four decades. He is also one fine reader, whose suggestions have made me a better writer. The adoption fictionalized in A Southern Girl had its roots in our friendship with Wyatt, and his daughter is the remarkable woman he describes." --John


by Wyatt Durrette

I should have known in January 1975 when Shannon arrived from Korea in the blizzard-shrouded Philadelphia airport that nothing about her would be within the bounds of typical expectations for your children. But I didn’t. The journey with her from that three-month point in her life until now has been a joy as we moved from one unexpected adventure to the next.

Shannon is one of two adopted siblings among our brood of eight--equally divided between the sexes. Her mother and three older sisters picked her up in Philly. I was then in the Virginia state legislature and we were in session. I chose not to go but I would not make the same decision again. Now I would like to have that decision back and to have shared those initial moments with this tiny three-month old Korean blessing, as she landed for the first time on America’s shores.

Early years were pretty routine as I recall. The uniqueness starting emerging, however, when she chose horseback riding instead of the routes of softball, baseball, football and soccer taken by her sisters and brothers. Even at eight she wanted something different. Unique. A choice not made by anyone else in the family. Neither she nor we intuited then that this reflected an unfettered spirit and penchant to chart her own course, not influenced by those around her.

Her mom and I separated in 1992 and were divorced in 1993. I remarried and when she and her mother found challenges in getting along--not now but then--she moved out when entering her senior year in high school, changed schools and moved in with Monica and me--how many high school seniors voluntarily change schools in their senior year! She took a basement room and made it her own, including painting the floor green except for the portion under the bed and under a pile of dirty clothes on the floor. Fine while she was there but it required some “touch up” when she went to college.

The four years it took to graduate could not pass fast enough and she waited impatiently to move to New York City, where she found an apartment in Brooklyn and a job in Manhattan in August of 2001 about 50 blocks from the World Trade Center. The fallout from 9-11 closed the restaurant where she worked, but she quickly found a job as an administrative assistant to a fashion executive following an interview arranged by a brother-in-law. She sealed the deal when at the end of the interview she told the executive that “I know my brother-in-law got me this interview but I don’t want the job for that reason. If I am not the most qualified person you interviewed [turns out 26 were interviewed] I don’t want the job.”

Fast forward to today. Shannon remains in fashion but now works on contracts that run for 2 to 3 months to organize shows for several high-end manufacturers. From this she establishes the financial ability to then travel for two to three months to surfing paradises around the globe where she surfs at world-class levels with several broken boards, scars and stiches to show for it!

We are lucky if we see her once a year and it is a treat when we do. Shannon is beautiful, intelligent, poised, self-confident and fearless. Her adventures might someday land her a publishing contract or who knows what. I look back on that snowy January in 1975 and cherish the decisions by my former wife that brought her to these shores. Shannon is but one of the remarkable women who have graced my life, for which I am forever grateful.

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