A writer’s tribute to the world’s greatest mother
By Mike Lauterborn
Her smile lights up a room. Her warmth lights up the world. Her generosity knows no bounds. I’m proud to call her my mom.
Sylvia Lauterborn was born in May 1939 in a small coalmining town in South Wales. Teaching and nursing, then a stint as a stewardess with Pan American Airlines, led her to my dad, an American with upstate New York roots, and a budding marketing talent at General Electric Company. The two married in September 1963 and settled in Schenectady, NY, where GE was then headquartered. Mom had hung up her flying wings at that point, and focused on building a family. I appeared in December 1964, followed by a brother, David, in February 1967.
From the start, mom encouraged my creativity, introducing me to drawing, painting and modeling clay, which instilled in me a certain way of looking at the world. She taught me to read, through the Dick and Jane series of children’s books, a skill that opened my eyes and imagination to volumes of literature, other cultures and foreign lands while instilling in me a love and curiosity about words. Being a Brit, manners were a priority for her to teach – in this, she may only have been partially successful, but provided the guidelines nonetheless.
A lover of games, mom introduced me to playing cards, jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, word scrambles and more, challenging my brain. Often, we would work on these collaboratively, which created special bonding moments.
Through my elementary school days, she helped me with my penmanship, tutored me on difficult subjects and praised my achievements. She was such a visible presence at my school that classmates embraced her as their mom figure as well.
In my high school years, mom tried her best to help me avoid pitfalls and dangers, while guiding me about dating, teaching me to drive and helping me excel with my schoolwork. At the same time, as a product of lean war years, she showed me how to make things last, reuse and recycle, ahead of her time as a green pioneer.
She also taught me the joys of being social and great acceptance of people, no matter what color, status or plight. She is always the first to strike up a conversation, to offer a hand, to make the introductions… even to offer a complete stranger room and board.
As I entered the working world fresh out of college, she took interest in my career pursuits, expressed concern for my well-being and even shared recipe cards so that I might prepare the same meals I’d enjoyed under her roof.
When I started my own family and then bought a first house, she was there with paintbrush in hand, grout mix and whatever other supplies or equipment to do some initial renovating. There seemed to be no limit to her energies, or willingness to help.
She continues to inspire -- painting landscapes, illustrating books, gardening, making her own clothing, quilting, genealogical research, home maintenance and traveling, among her many pursuits. She has an infectious passion for learning and maintains a genuine interest in people.
I’m happy to pay tribute to this very special woman and send heartfelt Happy Mother’s Day greetings to my Mom!
Much love and many hugs from your son,