Who was the first person who believed in you? How did you discover this was true? Have you played a similiar role for anyone in your life?
I think the first person who really believed in me was my father. When I was very young, I enjoyed drawing and coloring and painting more than almost anything. My father noticed how I loved to draw and enrolled me in a local art gallery’s art school for young people. I was only 4 1/2 years old.
The art school is one of the fondest memories of my life. I can still smell the paint in the studio and remember the teacher and her encouragement of my art. I drew pictures and painted with abandon. It was one of the happiest times of my life. Unfortunately, my mother was not impressed by my art work and wanted to know why I didn’t make an ashtray out of clay or metal. She felt that I could draw and paint at home and that the art school was a waste of money. So I didn’t return to the art school after the semester was over.
But my father always encouraged me in whatever I did. I was a good student and he was a teacher. He praised me for my achievements in school, and I didn’t disappoint him. I was class valedictorian of my eighth grade class and won a scholarship to attend one of the Catholic girls’ schools in our city. I worked hard to make my father proud of me. I won scholarships to university and did well there, too.
About a week before I was to go to university, after dinner with my grandparents, I came home and had a meltdown. I was suddenly scared that I wouldn’t do well at university and started to cry and worry. Luckily my mother wasn’t home at the time because she would have thought I was being foolish. But my father cradled me in his arms and told me that everything would be all right, that I would do well, and if I didn’t it was okay, too.
My father had the greatest influence on me in my life and in my career. He was extremely proud of me and what I did, and he made me want to be a better person.
I try very hard to be that same encouraging person in my granddaughters’ lives. I support them in everything that they do. One of them has talent in art and I have enrolled her in art classes at an art school her where she has taken classes. The other granddaughter is blessed with a beautiful singing voice and can dance well. I encourage her in those areas and support both of them in all they do. I know how much it meant to me to have someone who believed in me and pushed me to do my best. I hope that I am that person for my granddaughters. It would be a fitting tribute to my father, who had such faith in me.