We cannot ignore the importance of our upbringing. If we are lucky, we are blessed with good enough parents who do their best with what they know. I can credit my parents with most of what I hold near and dear to my heart. I can remember my father going to work everyday with a suit and tie to his job as an auditor for a large hotel/motel chain/apartment chain. He and another man were African-Americans working for a Jewish man who owned the chain. This was way before Civil Rights, so it was rare to see two black men holding such visible positions. My father would come home from work, maybe take a nap before dinner and then we would all sit down at the table for dinner. It was just my brother and I and our mom and dad. We were a small middle class family. I say middle class because my father was able to support us and allow my mother to stay home and take care of the kids and the home. My parents made sure that we spoke properly, that we went to good schools and that we were cleaned up before we went out to play. They also made sure that we felt equal to everyone. They exposed my brother and I to classical and jazz music, different kinds of food, different kinds of people and art. My father loved to garden and his rose bushes were the envy of the neighborhood as well as the peach and lemon trees planted in the back yard. He once made an arbor for a fuchsia colored Bougainvillea vine that bloomed profusely most of the year. My dad was a self-taught landscaper and made our front lawn look like something out of Beverly Hills. He would haul huge boulders from construction sites all by himself. I still can’t believe the strength that he had for such a slightly built man. My mom was a self-taught gourmet cook, an artist, a writer and seamstress. Mom and dad also entertained a lot. There were barbecues in the summer and cocktail parties with jazz playing in the background. As a family we took long drives, sometimes driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco just for a weekend. Or we would drive to San Diego, Palos Verdes and to the mountains of Mt. Baldy or Big Bear. Dad loved to drive. We lived the good life with very little money, because we were not wealthy, because my parents had taste. Where they got their taste from I am not too sure about. It must have been their upbringing. So I owe my taste and appreciation for everything that I love : music, art, gardening, travel, food, hard work, a can-do attitude, self-learning, education, and the importance of family to my parents, who brought me up.