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A Daughter's Choice, a Parent's Legacy

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My six-year-old daughter and I stand in front of her closet. It's "Take Our Daughters to Work Day," but Elizabeth hasn't heard about the dress code.

"No other girl will be wearing leggings and a ski sweater," I say. "How about this?" I point to a Black Watch tartan dress. Hand-smocked, it has a white Peter Pan collar edged in navy and a sash at the waist that ties in the back. "This would be perfect."

"Oh, all right," she agrees. The prospects of the train ride in and a visit to my office have buoyed her naturally good spirits.

And I am right about the attire. Gathered at breakfast later in my employer's guest dining room, my colleagues and I beam at each other over the heads of our dressed-up daughters. Elizabeth and I have chosen well. At 6, however, she is the youngest attendee. And though the program suggests a range of 9 through 13, I have brought Elizabeth because this could be the last year I work outside the home. I am contemplating a lifestyle change - going back to school to study creative writing - but I want my daughter to see what I have accomplished in the business world before I leave it all behind.

This is nothing like how I grew up. While there was no question that my mother ran the show in our family of seven, she did so from the command post of our kitchen table.

It was my father, the local surgeon in our small agricultural community, who went out into the world every day to care for his patients. I loved and revered my mother, but I would never let her sign my report cards. That was an accomplishment only my father could properly recognize. He knew what it was like to compete and encouraged the pursuit of excellence. My mother wanted to know if I was happy. To her, it didn't matter so much what the source of that happiness was, as long as it was the state in which I abided.

My memories of my mother are everything wonderful. But I want Elizabeth to know that the whole world is open to her and, as the T-shirt handed out to each girl today proclaims, "You can do anything!"


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