I’ve gotten several questions about something that has been playing peekaboo in a few of the pictures I have posted recently on my social media. Between the, “Is that real?” comments and the, “Did you get a tattoo?” texts I thought I would share the story behind my tattoo.
I would first off like to say, I know some people don’t like tattoos but I look at them as not only a form of expression, but a way to pay tribute to people and milestones in your life.
My nickname growing up was HillJohn (it’s my Dad’s name backwards). My great Uncle Charles use to call me that when I stayed with him and my great Aunt Katherine. I don’t know how, why, or even when he started calling me that but I do know I absolutely HATED it. "Little HillJohn would you bring me that thing over there?”, “I’ll be done watching the news in a minute then the TV is all yours, little HillJohn”, and lastly the one I got asked the most, “What are you up to, HillJohn?” (that was the most asked because I was all the time getting into some kind of trouble haha). I’d always huff and tell him to stop calling me that. It was a boys name and I’m a girl. When I was around 7 I finally gave up and let him call me that. He thought it was so funny; needless to say the nickname stuck.
I spent a lot of time with my Uncle Charles. He kept me up until I went to Pre-K. We had a routine. Mom would drop me off early in the morning. Uncle Charles would be out working in his garden so I would play with their dogs Toto and Quincy. Sometime in the morning he would come in to watch the news then I’d beg him to let me watch a movie. Every once in a while I’d get to ride with him in his red pickup truck that smelled like wintergreen tobacco. To this day that is one of my favorite smells. The whole time he called me little HillJohn.
In 2007, when I was almost 10 years old, my Uncle Charles died of colon cancer. That was the first time I had ever lost someone who had a big impact on my life. I remember telling my Mom and Dad, “Who’s going to call me HillJohn now?” Uncle Charles’ son, Mike, started calling me HillJohn to carry on the tradition because he knew it meant so much to me.
Mike also had a really big impact on my life. When I started playing guitar he was one of the first people to cheer me on. He’d tell me to bring my guitar to family get togethers and he even downloaded the audio to one of my first youtube videos and put it on a cd to listen to on the way to work. He would come to all of my shows when I first started playing out. Even though I was embarrassed and shy he always made a big deal about my music and made me feel really good about myself. All the time calling me HillJohn.
In 2013 we lost Mike to cancer as well. It was truly heartbreaking to have lost another man in my family that made me feel so special and loved. But I did have some great memories of going to the drag race, hanging out with him and Dad, and playing music with him sitting right there listening.
This year in April, we celebrated my Dad’s 50th Birthday. I wanted to do something in honor of him. My Dad was always really close with Mike and said he was like a brother to him. It’s also coming up on 10 years since my Uncle Charles passed away. I knew that getting HillJohn tattoo’d on my ribcage would be a great way to honor all three of them. To make it even more special, with my Moms help, I stole the H and J from my Dad’s signature and surprised him with it.
It was an experience that meant so much to me.
I did it at a really cool tattoo parlor in Nashville right before I came home for Easter. When I got home I wore a shirt that showed it off perfectly. I was able to wear it around the house, go to town with Dad, and fish for about 30 minutes before he noticed it. My Mom and I were laughing the whole time because it was so obvious and he just wasn’t noticing it. When he did finally see it I saw the look on his face. “That’s not real right? That’s fake. You’re joking right?” It was hilarious to see his reaction. I think he ended up liking it a lot though.
So that’s the story behind my HillJohn tattoo. It’s close to my heart and I am so glad I got it to honor Uncle Charles, Mike, and my Dad.
Now the HillJohn nickname can last forever.
P.s. More posts are coming soon!
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