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Monologue by Cris F. Hill

Hill, Cris F.
Brady, Donna
Date of Interview: 
Overcoming obstacles; Relationships wth people and places; Stories and storytellers; Tolerance and respect
Cris Hill talks about moving down south and about her family.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Donna Brady interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
CH (Cris Hill): 2003. Hello, I'm Cris and I spent my first 12 years of life living in Western Pennsylvania. The next 12, I spent living in Ohio. In '74, while visiting my father in Charlotte, North Carolina, my car died. So I found employment with the World Football League and Belk department stores in uptown Charlotte. It was a time when Montaldo's still had a shop in downtown Charlotte and a doorman that helped people out of their cars. There were talks of referencing downtown as uptown. And Belk's and Ivey's were downtown, or uptown, cornerstones. The giant disk was in place at the corner of Trade and Tryon. And as public art does, it caused controversial discussions. Over the last 29 years, my "hi" has turned to "hey." And I very rarely refer to a group that includes females as "you guys." I've grown accustomed to being called "darling" or "hon" by perfect strangers and dropping the last consonant of many of my words in span. Never was the transformation made more apparent than by a visit from some relatives who grew up in Pittsburgh and still live there to this day. When they talked, it was with crisp enunciations of each word and syllable and a much sterner tone to relaxed span, qualities that were never apparent before when I lived near them, at least not to my ear. But 20 plus years of Southern ease had not only crept into my language patterns, but had changed my ear for listening. At the time of the visit, my daughter, who has been born and raised in North Carolina thought that my aunt and cousins were angry all the time and a bit formidable because of their tone. I have sisters in Colorado and Texas, and though our language patterns have been affected by the area we settled into as adults, we still sound like each other on the phone, and members of the larger family have trouble deciphering which sister is which and who exactly did call [pause]. I'm going to read a letter that I wrote to my aunt, ah, I guess it's been about two years ago. September. "Dear Aunt Ruth. Hello. Where has the summer gone? Ours has been unusually busy to my way of thinking. Ragan moved into a house across the street from the University of North Carolina Greensboro's campus in May. Roger and I, Roger and I went up one Saturday, and I cleaned while Ragan and her dad went to Home Depot to pick up some things. Then Roger painted while Ragan and I cleaned the furniture she was bringing into the house. What fun. She and Roger have developed a good rapport. She fusses and he comes back with his hard line stuff, and she just brushes it off and goes on. She refuses to let him not be involved. I should take lessons. Whereas Richard never confronts his dad, partly due to my training and partly due to his personality. If you wait, dad calms down and you can usually do what you wanted to in the first place. Fortunately, both are pretty good kids. Ragan took classes first summer session, but not second so that she could travel with me and be part of the Gilton trip. Richard, however, took a course second session too, as well as keeping his job in the computer lab. He did manage to get permission for a two-day leave during the week that we were scheduled to be in Gilton. I was pleased. As you know, dad passed away in February of 2000. Well he had commissioned Heidi Cooper to make sure his ashes were sprinkled into Pine Creek in Gilton. It took until summer to get it coordinated. In July, Hollis Ann and her daughter Samantha Jo, as well as Jessie Lee, Carson's son, and Carson flew into Charlotte and stayed with me, yeah. In, on Sunday, July 22, we loaded up two big vans and headed North. We had two cabins reserved at the ( ) lodge where you and Curt's family had vacationed. In fact, Curt was the one who suggested the place. It was great. Right on the creek, or crick, as the folks up there were quick to tell us. We visited with uncle Dick and he came down to the cabin and helped us identify people in old pictures that Darlene had found and sent with Carson. Michael and Heidi have been conversing about this event for over a year. He and Heidi spent the better part of one morning that week with a weed eater clearing the shoreline and the area, so that we could park and get to the creek or crick with little effort. The ceremony was held at Blackbridge. I think that was what it was called. All that is left now is one of the rock supports. Mike has a small camping trailer set up at uncle Dick's place. He and his relatively new bride, Brenda, and her four and his two children were spending the week there just for this event. Dick and Sue and Pat and Jessica arrived on Tuesday with lots of baked goodies and stayed for the ceremony on Wednesday. Then Stan and Donna, Danielle and Sheena drove up on Thursday for a visit. It was a delight seeing everyone. They are constantly commenting on being amazed that we still all like each other and get along, as it seems that they don't talk much to some members of their family. I tend to think that the distance between where we live helps. None of us are shrinking violets, and I'm sure if we were around each other on a daily basis, tempers would flare. But hey, I'm 50. I can think what I like [cough]. The ceremony for dad went extremely well. I'm enclosing a copy of my eulogy and Heidi's poem and some pictures. The weather was perfect. Heidi had some music playing and Dad's ashes had been wrapped in Pittsburgh Steelers do-rags ever since Carson transferred the ashes to Heidi. Yes, there is a story there. And I will share it the next time I come to visit. After I said my eulogy, and each sister spoke in turn, we each waded into the water with our family members and sprinkled ashes into the water just above a small set of rapids. Mike and Brenda had gathered some brown-eyed Susans and I handed them out to all present to throw into the water at the end. We wanted it to be a positive event, and it was, though moist eyes were to be seen all around. Afterwards, we all went back to uncle Dick's place and sat around talking and watching old movies. Most of the kids stayed outside and rode the four-wheeler up to the mountain to see where uncle Dick and Mac Grant plant corn for the bears and critters to eat in the wintertime. Richard flew into the airport at Elmyra, New York on Tuesday. Carson, Jesse, Ragan and I drove up through the fog to get him. The ceremony was held Wednesday, and then on Thursday, late afternoon, the same car loaded, climbed into the excursion and then drove into Chapel Hill in time for Richard to get four hours of sleep before showing up for work and class on Friday. I hated to leave, as Stan and Donna hadn't been there very long. Ragan drove us home from there as my eyes were crossing and I kept nodding off. I am so glad both kids learned to drive on the megavan, a club wagon. They drove that excursion through the night and the rain like champs. I lasted about six hours or seven hours and got us to Alexandria, Virginia. Richard took it from there to UNC and Ragan got us home. As we got close to home it dawned on me that I didn't have a house key. So we put Ragan's cell phone into operation and called Roger before he left for work [cough] and requested his leaving a door open. He graciously agreed with little ribbing. It was such a delight seeing all my sisters. Carson is still such an amazingly strong person to cope with all the challenges she is sent. Hollis is more and more the emotional one of our group. I have been more than pleased to see how she and Alan are so very involved with their children upbringing from being PTO officers to little league coaches, to be very, whoa, to teaching them how to snow and water ski and hunting fish. Alex and Sammy Jo will be very rounded individuals. They both like to push the envelope, but Hollis and Allen have found ways to channel that energy into a positive vein. Sarah is still the little red hen. She and Stewart have never had children, but his health and the challenges his attitude present have been a weight on her shoulders. Still she plods along finding joy in simple things. Brianna Jacqueline, Heidi's daughter, is a soul mate for Sarah. Somehow they are connected. It is a delight to see. Heidi is calmer, now that her mission has been accomplished successfully. She is always full of energy and laughter. Her daughter Brianna is the only dark haired, dark eyed child of the group. Tad, her husband, is dark haired. Brianna has artistic talent and an interest in all kinds of animals. Heidi and Tad tried to have more children, but it wasn't to be. Richard's classes ended on a Thursday. He moved out of the dorm and by eight AM on Sunday, he was in the Charlotte Airport heading to Sapora, Japan via Chicago and Tokyo. He has a friend, roommate who is there on the island of Akaido teaching English as a second language through the university. His friend Genferd invited Richard over. Well, Roger and I thought this was not an opportunity to be passed by, especially since Richard had another friend from high school who has studied Japanese for three years and who also wanted to go. Matt had never flown before. He did great. As expected they had a great time. They were there for two weeks. Richard arrived at home at nine PM on Sunday, August 19th, left for school at two PM on Monday. Classes and work started on Tuesday. Ah, the resilience of youth. Now, as to my turning 50, we had thought about traveling to England until Richard's opportunity arose. Then we decided to do some short trips. I had been looking into Lazik eye surgery in talk of an after-the-kids-graduated time frame. Well, Roger that if I was serious to do it. It's a lot easier talking of something happening two and three years down the road. I'm not sure what gave me the courage. But I'm blaming it on receiving my driver's license renewal card. At any rate, on August 17th at ten-thirty, I was in surgery. By noon, I was home resting my eyes. Amazing. Roger drove me back to the eye surgeon on Saturday morning and he checked me out. I could read the street signs on the way. I realized that I was giving up something, reading without my glasses to get something, mobility. I can drive, look in the mirror and see my real face, a bit daunting, roll over and read the alarm clock on my bedside table. Even take a walk and see what is coming toward me. All without glasses. Roger looks better than ever. He was a bit concerned. I noticed little things everyday, seeing the humming birds and yellow finches at the feeders. I haven't been out on the boat yet, but I can't wait, just today in the car wearing these incredible sunglasses without side panels I noticed that I now have peripheral vision. Amazing. At my one week check up, all was where it should be and I was able to get a pair of reading glasses to use until my eyes stabilized in a about a month or so. It has been strange and wonderful. Roger and I got out of dodge last weekend and spent the weekend staying in a cabin, named the Woodstock, in a fishing, hunting preserve named Primlen in Meadows of Dan, Virginia. Evidently, summer is there off-season. Our neighbors, the Caplands, introduced us to the place last year. He, Fred, fishes and hunts avidly, unlike Roger, to whom that makes no sense at all. In looking up the web site this summer, I noticed a deal on renting a cabin that looked interesting, but because it was located down in the woods and afforded no mountain view, evidently received few takers. Well, it looked like an opportunity to me. Anytime I could get Roger into Virginia he is happy. As it turns out, lightening hit the house twice a week ago during a storm. That is redundant. And blew the water pump. Consequently, we were moved to a nicer cabin with a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains for the same price. I tend to think that living right does pay off. It maybe a fantasy of mine, but hey, I'm 50 and can think what I like. Hmm, I think I'm getting an attitude. Our neighbors joined us on Saturday coming in from their cabin in Pennsylvania. These are the same folks who group up in Ohio, Cleveland and Zanesville, and both graduated from Ohio University. They're about eight years older and 10 years ahead of us, children status wise. We checked out some shops in Floyd, Virginia where Roger's dad grew up. It was a delightful weekend. The air was clean and cool and we didn't need air conditioning. I have signed up for two courses at the community college this fall, Spanish for the Working World one and Basic Investing. I'm hoping that by stimulating both sides of my brain, language and math, I might get it to start working better. What do you think? It is a little scary I think for me, but I refuse to just shut down now that the kids are gone. I've raised the kids, so they should be fine. Now, what do I do? My self-worth is at stake here. I know, silly. Well I've spent enough time writing, I hope you have the time to read. Roger worked in the garden all day, he has moved the pond and re-installed it so that it camouflages the heating units, he is always so full of ideas. He'll be a bit sore tomorrow, but he'll be out there again finishing. Amazing. Thinking of you with love and tenderness and wishing you well. P.S. Please excuse the typed letter. My writing gets worse as my thoughts move faster. I thought this would be easier to read. Love your niece, Cris."