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  • As I mentioned in a previous story about my son, Gabe, I think my kids are pretty unique. Beyond the normal parent-speak of "Oh, my kid is so smart, and so talented", they both grew up in a very conservative area, populated by right wing Christians. They're both left wing Jewish kids, and as a result, often left feeling a bit as outsiders with their school and their friends.

    Unlike her brother, Elly, my daughter, is exuberant, outgoing and -- dare I say it -- more inclined to say what's on her mind. While they might both see someone horribly disfigured in a store, Gabe would get very upset and whisper to me that he wished this person could feel better, while Elly would walk up to that person and say "Does it hurt?" I love that.

    When she was 6 or 7 years old, Elly decided, for no explicable reason, that she wanted to be an astronomer. She's very good in math and science, so I had no problem whatsoever making sure she was exposed to everything Carl Sagan ever said, the movie "October Skies", and virtually everything I could find in the library about celestial bodies. She ate it up, decorated her room with stars and planets, and her Bat Mitzvah party was decorated with the Solar System.

    She is, of course, a teenager, so I wasn't at all surprised that she continued to enjoy music, dancing, friends and frolic, all while seemingly sticking to her guns about being an astronomer. I'm careful about nourishing this without pushing too hard since she wouldn't be the first teenager who does the opposite of what a parent thinks is a good idea.

    So, I was quite surprised the other day when, during our weekly evening out together, she became quite serious and said she wanted to talk to me. With my heart in my throat, and my face, hopefully impassive, I said "Sure, what's on your mind?"

    The conversation, paraphrased:

    Elly: I've been thinking.
    Me: Yes? About what?
    Elly: About my ambitions.
    Me: You mean marrying Paul McCartney and moving to Paris?
    Elly: Dad! I'm serious.
    Me: OK, sorry. Tell me what's on your mind.
    Elly: I don't think I want to be an astronomer any more.
    Me: Oh. Well, people your age change their minds about careers a lot.
    Elly: Gabe (her brother) never did.
    Me: That's true. Gabe's been an avid filmmaker for a long time.
    Elly: I feel like I'm betraying you.
    Me: What?? What?? How do you figure? Whatever makes you happy makes me happy. That's silly!
    Elly: But I thought you wanted me to be an astronomer.
    Me: No, I want you to do something that makes you want to wake up each day, happy.
    Elly: OK, well I think I know what that is.
    Me: Yes?
    Elly: I want to be a writer. Like you.
    Me: (sputtering) But wait. I thought we just talked about what makes YOU happy.
    Elly: No, you don't understand. I'm a lot like you so I know that when I write, I'll be happy.
    Me: You're a great writer, Elly. If you want to be a writer, that's what you should do.
    Elly: So you're not upset?
    Me: Sweety, you have no idea how not upset I am.

    Sitting in my truck on the way home, the radio played "Ventura Highway" from America and I thought about what a great kid I have.

    Ventura Highway by America
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