Mothers are very influential creatures. Oftentimes the things that they teach us become so ingrained that we don't even realize that we learn them--anything from the way we treat other people, to the order in which we wash our dishes. Silverware then cups? Wash the cups first? I bet whichever way you do it, your mother did it the same way.
I was thinking about this when I was putting the leftovers from dinner away today, and I wrapped the rice into indivual servings of saran wrap. Next time someone wants rice, they can just take a packet and microwave it as is for a minute or two. It will steam itself inside the plastic wrap--very convenient. I picked that up from my host mother in Japan...but the way I used the leftovers from the bread I made yesterday to make breadcrumbs for the meatloaf was from Zuzana's mother in Prague...although the recipe itself came direct from my mother.
I take many things home from my travels: presents for friends and baby cousins, pictures, and memories. However, the things that are most worthwhile have been the things that I've learned from the many excellent women who have welcomed me into their homes for a time. They didn't replace my mom, of course, but in a way they became a mother to me for a little while. Especially when I was in Japan; in some sense, there I was a child again, and was taught all over again the rules of society: how to greet people, table manners, phone manners...all of the things that mothers teach us. Just in the way that I do things or say things sometimes and then think "Dear Lord, That Was My Mother!", very occasionally I'll do something or say something and then think, "Dear Lord, That Was My (Japanese) Mother!" Aside from the occasional tone of voice or turn of phrase that I picked up, qualities that my parents have taught me since I was little, like generosity, service, and common courtesy, have been driven home by role models in different cultures.
I don't often think about this, but when I do I am deeply grateful to my mom for letting me come under the influence of other families. I know many people think my parents a bit...crazy, shall we say...to let me go live abroad from the age of sixteen. I dare you to say that I have learned anything that they didn't teach me in the first place, lessons only made more impressive by their affirmation from outside sources.
Unless, of course, we're talking about my habit of doodling chinese characters all over any piece of paper that comes under my pencil...