Happy Birthday Mom: Photos of Virtues

Today is the 58th birthday of my mom, Sharon McLaughlin, one of seven children, mother of 4, grandma of 7, wife of a very busy man and elected public official, skilled interpreter for the deaf, talented and tireless quilter with an excellent eye for color, follower of Jesus who accepts his love knowing her shortcomings.

As I combed through my photos, looking for some of my mom, I realized how much they personified different personality traits, so they are here to give glimpses of my mom's character for those who do and do not know her.

There is, of course, an innumerable collection of equally-awesome family photos.  I am now a father of three, and I am just beginning to feel the incredible work and commitment that parenting requires.  I may be only feeling that now, but for many years, I have appreciated both of my parents' commitments to their kids.  We were never made to feel that we came second to any aspect of their personal or professional lives.  We were first. We were loved.

My mom championed my education.  It didn't come effortlessly.  She worked with my teachers to individualize my education, which eventually led to me skipping 6th grade.  She created "positions" in the school plays and the school choir for me to get involved at school, playing the piano.  She cared greatly about this.  I am proud of my public school education, yet I must admit that, without her efforts, it may have gone quite differently. 
college graduation
I like to imagine the courtship of my parents.  My dad, with his nomadic childhood, and even more nomadic naval career, meets my mom, who had lived her whole life in the twin cities, and couldn't believe that he would go "camping" without a tent.  However, married they were, and she moved far away to Tucson to make it happen.  Shortly later, they head out to Anchorage, Alaska, where I was born.  And ever since, she and my dad have embodied a love for adventure that each of their kids has benefitted from, and certainly shared as well.
with Maggie outside Juneau, Alaska
 These two pictures are the beginning and the end of medical school.  What is obvious about them is the contrast of my temperament and hers.  It is very difficult to get me exuberant.  My mom is exuberant as a primary way of being happy.  And though I am very different, I need people like this in my life, and I'm grateful that my mom is one such person.  She gets excited. 

My mom is an excellent seamstress, and she has been quilting as long as I can remember.  Her creations are numerous.  They are beautiful and they are creative.  Below is the quilt she made for Maggie, before knowing if she was a boy or a girl, and it's easy to admire how she managed such a nice gender-neutral quilt, without just going yellow.  I don't quilt, but I think I have "more than the average male" share of decorating and design skill, and it certainly didn't come from my dad.  =)

This picture was taken years ago in Colorado.  My mom thought the fountain machine at a gas station was very interesting, with it's ability to mix-and-match flavors, and she wanted me to take a picture of it.  For me, this picture represents all the things that she wanted me to do, but I didn't want to.  Some of them, like this one, are now amusing memories.  Others were crucial and central parts of my life growing up.  I'm thankful that she is like this.

This is a picture of my mom's longsuffering in regards to the silliness of her family.  There are many such pictures, with everyone goofing off, and my mom deigning to be in the picture, despite the fact that she is obviously not feeling it in the same way.  She's a good sport. 

4 years ago yesterday, my mom and dad became grandparents.  They care deeply and well for our kids.  Thus far, and for the foreseeable future, my kids live very far away from them.  This is difficult for us as well, but it is also due to choices that we made.  My parents made no such choice, which creates a unique difficulty.  Despite the fact that this is very hard, they do not waver in their support of us.  I am thankful for this.

This picture was taken in 2010, when my parents came to visit us in Kenya.  My mom is here with Rose, the lovely lady who cared for Maggie.  Within about a week, my mom knew things about Rose that we did not.  She would sit down with her, have chai, and ask her tons of questions about her life and family.  My mom does this very well.  This lack of hesitancy in personal relationships is part of what makes her so capable of communicating with people that have disabilities.  I admire this in her.

As seen here, we have benefited from the hospitality of my parents on numerous occasions, and I grew up with example after example of hospitality from my parents.  I hope that we can emulate this.

Happy Birthday Mom.  May God bless you this year, more and more.


Anonymous said...

Tears are streaming down my cheeks as I read this. What a beautiful tribute to your mom, my sister. Thanks Eric, and happy birthday Shar. ♥ Cathye

Timothy said...

Wow, am I ever blessed with a kind, loving, caring and rare son! What a very very very very special birthday present from our Eric. I just don't know what to say....thank you son from the bottom of my heart. I have the best son ever!
Love from your Mom

Anonymous said...

Well said Eric! Your mom has been a blessing to us too... as have you and the whole clan.

Happy birthday and mother's day Shar.