Mom had always been ferociously protective of us; our home was surrounded by a big wall, perhaps modeled after homes in Mexico, where my parents often vacationed. My brother joked that we weren't allowed outside the big wall. But my mom actually worked very hard to make sure that we were exposed to a lot -- museums, ballet, theater, circus, trips, and foreign countries. She wanted us to see the world, to "broaden our horizons" -- those were her words.
My mom also made sure that she always talked about my dad, and how he had saved so many lives and taken care of so many families, so that my brother and I didn't lose his influence on what we should do with our lives.
My dad had been born in Australia, raised in China before coming to America where he became an oncologist, and spoke several languages. He was a world traveler, yet I think it was my mom who really made me the adventurer that I am. She would often tell me to "Hitch my wagon to a star." She wanted me to know no boundaries and to always reach for the stars. Mom constantly told me that I would do great things with my life. Those were positive affirmations that had a long-term effect. An important ingredient for success is self-confidence, and I got a huge dose from my mom every day.
While a parent might naturally want to keep children near and protect them, it's important to let children go and expose them to new things. When I was graduating from high school I had applied to several colleges. However my mom had other plans for me. Unbeknownst to me, Mom actually took my college essay and filled out an application for me to attend World Campus Afloat, a university aboard a ship that travelled around the world. She told me about her clever deed when I was accepted. That three-month experience changed me and my expectations of life dramatically. It was actually a very selfless act for a widowed mom. I had skipped grades in school so I was only sixteen when I set off for that college adventure round the world and she could have tried to keep me closer to home, but instead she made sure that I had an amazing growth experience.
My mom's influence on my brother and me was enormous. She always wanted us to have a positive attitude, to always try to do the best we could. My mom's friends had always called her Hap, which was short for Happy. And no wonder -- she always saw the glass as half full, and taught me to approach each day with a smile. Mom tried to teach us to be fair, to care, to have integrity and to think big.
Perhaps the quality that I am most grateful to her for instilling in me is never holding a grudge. It's such a waste of precious time, a drain of energy, and frankly it solves nothing. My mom believed in kissing and making up, forgiving and forgetting. If we had a disagreement, Mom insisted that we talk about it, get it out, and then let it go, and it was never long before she would reappear with a smile on her face, as if it had never happened. I loved that. I consider that one of the greatest attributes I got from my mom.