THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT
The Christmases Jane Smith Hodge experienced as a child will most likely seem familiar to many. Jane was born in Munford, Tennessee, a small rural community, in 1939. Her father was a farmer; her mother, a stay-at-home mom. Mid-way her second grade, Jane’s family moved to Charleston, Mississippi where her father again farmed until he found employment as a machinist in a local factory. Jane was the oldest of four other girls in the family; two brothers serving as “bookends”. With so many children, Christmas was always a great occasion. This is how Jane describes her early Christmases:
“We did not grow up with the elaborate Christmases that children have today and with six kids in the family, we ‘made do’ with what we had. Like in the story books, we went to the woods and cut down a tree that would fit on a table. Then, we would string popcorn and holly berries to decorate the tree. The star on top of the tree was made by Mother and covered in foil. Then, we covered the tree with icicles we purchased. While we were gone to find the tree, Mother stayed home to help Santa with the gifts. These were placed under the tree after we decorated it to wait until Christmas morning. If we were lucky and it snowed near Christmas, Mother always made ‘snow ice cream’ in a huge dishpan. Those memories are the favorites of my childhood.”
The family remained in Charleston and thrived there. Jane says, “It was a wonderful place to raise a family, with good schools, churches and plenty to do.” The only “bad” thing Jane remembers happening was the time her brother accidentally chopped off the end of her finger while she was helping him at the “choppin” block. They had no car but a neighbor transported her to the doctor and the finger was successfully reattached. While in high school, Jane was on the basketball team which won the Delta Valley Championship. She also received awards including “Class Favorite”.
Following graduation from high school in 1957, Jane worked a year to save money for college. She then enrolled in a one year secretarial course at Northwest Junior College. Because no jobs were available in Charleston, Jane moved to Memphis. She briefly worked for the American Red Cross but was soon employed by Bridgestone/Firestone.
Shortly after coming to Memphis, Jane was introduced to Lee Hodge by a friend. They fell in love and were married in 1961. Lee was a brick mason and designed a beautiful herringbone pattern for the fireplace in one of their homes. She and Lee became the parents of three daughters and today there are nine grandchildren and eleven greats! Sadly, Lee passed away with dementia in 1998.
While the children were small, Jane was a stay-at-home mom and served as PTA President of their school. Even so, Jane had twenty five years with Firestone, ten in Memphis and fifteen in a Chicago suburb. While there, she became Transportation Manager for a ten state area.
In 2003, following her retirement, Jane moved back to Collierville to be close to her family. She became a member of a grief group sponsored by First Evangelical Church which is also involved with the Orange Mound District Youth Foundation. She remains an active member of Ridgeway Baptist Church and their Golden Agers Group.
Jane says she “fell in love” with Kirby Pines after attending one of the Marketing luncheons. The continual care concept as well as the promise to take care of her in the event of financial problems, sold her. She moved to Kirby Pines in 2020. Jane says this about Kirby Pines: “I love it here. The grounds’ staff keep everything looking lovely. Plus, I feel very safe here and I especially enjoy my balcony. I never have to worry about cooking dinner or fixing anything in my apartment. The thing that I enjoy most is playing games with my friends.”
Although she has had a busy life, Jane has managed to travel extensively, visiting all seven continents and forty-seven countries, some twice. Several of these trips have been made since moving to Kirby Pines.
According to Jane, “Christmases now are a contrast to the ones of my earlier life. Actually, I have three Christmases. The first is my immediate family celebration on the night of December 23rd. We have dinner and open gifts. With three daughters, and their families, we have a large group, although not everyone is able to come every year because we are so scattered. The second Christmas is called ‘The Sisters’ Christmas Birthday’. With five sisters, we celebrate our birthdays in this manner: we go out to dinner, return and open gifts to each other. The third and final Christmas celebration is when the entire clan comes together on Christmas Day for a ‘pot-luck’ dinner. There are usually more desserts than regular food, but we always have the traditional turkey and ham. After the delicious meal, we play a game called ‘Dirty Santa’. Everyone brings a gift worth $20. The gift you pick may be taken away from you by someone else. All in good fun!”
Jane wishes to thank all the people at Kirby Pines who have made her feel welcomed. She along with this writer wishes you a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Wrtten by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines