Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Tansi Smoke Signals

May 28, 2014

Celebrating mothers on Mother’s Day, and every day

CROSSVILLE — A Jewish Proverb says, “God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers.” Tansi has celebrated another Mother’s Day with cards and flowers reminding mothers they are appreciated. Lake Tansi has amazing and wonderful mothers all from different parenting perspectives, backgrounds and philosophies. But all harbor a single goal: loving the children they were blessed with in this world, teaching them and bringing them into adulthood.

A mom can have many different faces, come in all shapes and sizes, and be found in the most extraordinary of women. A few of Lake Tansi’s mothers have graciously shared morsels of their motherhood.

Allison Jackson-May is a Lake Tansian by way of California. She has lived here for about nine years with her husband and their 12-year-old son, Jacob. May is not an atypical mother, or woman for that matter. She is a self-proclaimed “tom boy,” and always has been. She loves sports, generally avoids girly things and is not sappy. She doesn’t get sentimental or emotionally attached to things and if it isn’t functional or it is in her way, she gets rid of it.

While May was perfectly content that her son would be their only child, she now finds herself on the brink of a new and exciting venture. She is due to have a little girl, Olivia, in a matter of weeks. Now, motherhood as she knows it has changed.

“Having a daughter has forced me to come into my womanhood more. I don’t say the word ‘woman’ often, but having a girl and wanting her to be comfortable in her womanhood has me embracing that side of me, and purple and ruffles,” May said. “There’s a different perspective when you have a daughter. You view the world a little less callously. A daughter softens the whole world.”

May said when it comes to her motherhood philosophies, they have been handed down, as well as advice, traditions, discipline, beliefs, and recipes. Her mother and grandmothers, all examples of very strong women, kept it very straight and narrow when it came to motherhood.

“Take it as it comes. You never know what kids will throw at you,” May recited. “Be honest with your kids. When in doubt, don’t do it,” then, May quipped, “and if all else fails, call Grandma.”

May finds that, at the realization of having a daughter, she will be the vessel that passes down generations of being a girl; she’ll pass down her both grandmothers, mother, sisters, and aunts’ teachings, memories and influences that have impacted her.

“Every woman, taking from the example of each woman in her life, carries them in her and passes those influences to her daughters,” said May.

She loves that her children are going to be a dozen years apart. She appreciates that she has had the time and opportunity to develop her own special relationship with her son and they will essentially be two “only” children.

“All this time with Jacob has been fabulous,” May continued, “and it has prepared me to have the same individual relationship with this little one.”

As May sees it, “Kids are just little adults who don’t know better yet.”

Heidi Smith, has had 14 children in her home at one point or another, half of which she and her husband, Larry, adopted. Recently, their second daughter blessed the Smiths with a beautiful granddaughter.

Heidi Smith and her husband moved to Tansi from Michigan 14 years ago. Larry Smith wanted to live near the water. After visiting their families near here and finding they could afford a nice place by the water, Heidi Smith said, smiling, “We didn’t have children so we packed up the dogs and moved to Beverly.”

The Smiths then tried to start their family. Despite fertility treatments, though, the Smiths were unable to conceive. Heidi Smith said, “I’ve always loved kids. I babysat when I was younger and I got to be an aunt first. But, I’ve always wanted to be a mom.”

So, her journey into motherhood began in 2004 when she and her husband decided to open their home to children placed in foster care. They passed the required classes and had their home approved in August and had four children placed with them by November.

“We went from zero to four,” Heidi Smith laughed. “The first two placed with us were actually sisters and they try to keep children together, if possible. They were the first children we adopted.” 

Heidi Smith is refreshingly candid and open when it comes to motherhood. “I love being a mom. There are some days I ask myself ‘What was I thinking,’” said Smith. “But, it makes me feel good to hear ‘Mom’ because for a while there we didn’t think we were going to hear it.”

It seems when a mother opens her heart and home to care for beings for whom she would otherwise not be responsible, a floodgate of mothering takes hold and there’s no stopping it. Smith talked about how her cats and dogs, who were strays, came to be a part of the family and laughingly said, “Cat strays. Dog strays. Yep, we take them all in.”

Smith said she was always more passive, a daddy’s girl, and became closer to her stern, outspoken mother since her dad passed away. But, she also finds that the older she gets, the more her mother comes out of her mouth.

So, Smith mothers her children through whatever issues they have from their pasts in an attempt to keep it from becoming a part of them. She strives to give them as much structure and consistency she can and let the flow of growing children waft through her home. Smith is somewhere between being a new grandma called “Nomie” and potty training her three-year-old twins.

When the Smith’s adopted the twins, Heidi’s parents brought her the bassinet she slept in as a baby. For Mother’s Day this year, Smith got to keep the grandbaby and it was special having the grandbaby sleeping in her bassinet. She hasn’t relished in becoming a grandmother because she is still considerably young and she still has little ones. So, to Heidi Smith, becoming “Nomie” hasn’t been much of a circumstantial change, as exciting as having a new little one in the family is.

The twins are miracles in their own right. Born 23 weeks premature, Laurance was only 2 pounds and Eva only one pound and 12 ounces. By the time the Smiths had been contacted and going through the motions to be an adoptable family for the twins, they were already a few months old and almost ready to be released from the hospital. They were under a year old when the adoption process was completed, so the Smiths were privileged with the opportunity to name them. Eva was named for her new grandmothers while Laurance IV was named for his adoptive father. Until then, though, they were and still are referred to as “the babies.” To avoid additional confusion, Laurance was called “Little Man” and the name stuck.

She isn’t terribly sentimental about objects, but cherishes little moments of her children. Tender Mommy moments like when Tyler was placed with them and he could fit under the countertop in the kitchen, and the subsequent, bittersweet realization when he had outgrown his little spot. Another when Little Man started saying to her, “I so much love you.” These are the moments her children, Tyler, James, Eliza, Eva, and Little Man Laurance, create for her to treasure up in her heart.

Smith doesn’t know if they will foster or adopt again in the future. She still says she would like to have another baby, but Larry is content. For now, she is busy working, raising, homeschooling and camping with their five beautiful children.

“Parenting, in general, is not something you can expect. So, we just expect the unexpected,” said Heidi Smith. 

Motherhood is a multifaceted feat unsurpassed by any other. A mother can come in the form of a birth mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, Godmother, aunt, adoptive mother, step-mother, foster mother, and otherwise any woman who acts as a guardian and protector of a child. Proverbs 31: 25-30 (ESV) says:

“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, praises her saying ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’”

In honor of Mother’s Day, we take a moment for all the mothers who made us who we are and show our gratitude because, like the French Proverb says, gratitude is the heart’s memory.  

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Tansi Smoke Signals
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