A Mother’s Roots Grow Deep

A Mother’s Roots Grow Deep

BY MARIA IANNUCCI

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, people across Polk County are preparing to celebrate the love of mothers, the tireless efforts they make for their families and offer thanks for all they do. One local woman has plans to celebrate this special day with her husband and four children which, in her words, “is the best way.”

On a recent spring afternoon, I pulled into the parking area of a local playground and stepped out of my car. Glancing across the street, I noticed a man pushing a child’s scooter, holding a young boy by the hand, look both ways and cross the street. As the boy reached the sidewalk and ran for the slide, the boy’s mother followed close behind with a girl of about ten. As the kids joined their siblings and other children already on the playground, their parents walked over and introduced themselves as Melissa and Adam Putnam. Adam, the Commissioner of Agriculture for the State of Florida, is firmly committed to his responsibilities to both his family and to Florida; but is quick to share that his wife, Melissa, has the more challenging role in their close-knit family.

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Growing up, Melissa’s family was constantly on the move. Her father was in the Air Force and stationed overseas, living in places such as Russia, Guam and Germany in her younger years with her parents and siblings. When it came time for college, her parents suggested she head to Florida. Family was always important, and her grandparents were retiring to the west coast of the state. She decided to attend the University of Florida where she would ultimately meet Adam. The fellow Gators began dating after graduation. “Our first date in Polk County (where Adam was born and raised), was at Andy’s Igloo in Winter Haven,” Melissa told us. The couple married in 1998 in Ft. Meade. Over the coming years, they would have four children.

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Though Melissa’s family was one of constant change, Adam’s was one set more in tradition. “Adam always had more of a routine than I,” said Melissa. “His family is deeply rooted in Bartow, and our children are 6th generation Floridians. We complement each other, and our children are each very special.” Abbie, 11, is described as the free spirit. Libby, 10, is known as the doter who’s driven to care for others. Emma, 9, is very independent for her age. Six-year-old Hughes, the Putnam’s only son, “is all boy,” said Melissa.

When the kids are in school during the week, this supermom is busy running the household; planning her family’s schedule and, like many moms, dreaming of a moment or two for herself. “Sundays are our day to plan out the week,” Melissa said. “We check the calendar, see where everyone is supposed to be and when, and coordinate our daily activities in advance.”

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While her husband is working from his Tallahassee office, traveling around the state as needed and commuting home as often as he can, Melissa has the full-time role of being the rock of stability on which her growing family depends. Melissa is involved in the school system as President of the PTA, volunteering with several school initiatives, and is an active fundraiser. With the kids involved with everything from dance and sports to church and 4-H, they have learned that flexibility within their busy family is key.

“The children get their adaptability from Melissa,” Adam shared. “It’s always been important that the kids learn that from an early age,” Melissa agreed. “Things come up all the time and you have to be flexible.”

Early on, the Putnams realized that Adam’s career would force them to make some choices about the kind of life they wanted for their children. “Bartow has always been Adam’s home,” said Melissa. “When Adam was in Congress, we saw other members relocate to the D.C. area, but we decided that the kids would be better to remain in Bartow and attend school here. We have made a conscious effort for ours to be a normal life. His work has never dictated the life we have chosen in Polk County.”

“We’ve tried to root them here with family and friends in Bartow. They have the great stability that Melissa provides so they don’t feel any different from their friends,” Adam said. “We wanted to raise our children in a real hometown with real roots.”

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It helps that other members of the Putnam family live nearby. “Our kids are the youngest of the grandchildren,” Melissa said. “The family is a great help to us and it’s so nice to have them nearby.”

When Melissa gets a moment to herself, she enjoys a good read. “I just finished rereading ‘The Great Gatsby’,” Melissa revealed. “And I’m working on ‘Bonfire of the Vanities.’ I always have a couple of books going.” The mother of four also enjoys working out frequently, and cooking. “Adam always appreciates a home-cooked meal,” Melissa shared. “I love to try some gourmet recipes, but I do have a Crock-Pot.”

When asked about plans for this coming Mother’s Day, Melissa thinks there may be a breakfast created by the kids on the horizon. “Last year, Adam and the kids took me shopping for some running shoes,” Melissa smiles as she recalls.

Mother’s Day by design gives us the opportunity to acknowledge the hard work, sacrifice and dedication moms have for their children and families. For Melissa Putnam, being the mom with a cooler car than Dad (let’s face it; she who has the DVD player is going to win that battle on a road trip to Tallahassee), and having the willingness to sit in a tree stand at dark-thirty to spend some quality time with you r family, seems to mean she’s doing it right.

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