James Madison University
Shenandoah Valley Oral History Project
Oral History Interview With: Kristopher Maul
Interviewer: Joanna Lee
Place: South River Elementary School
Date: March 28, 2006
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General topic of interview: This interview addresses the issue of how the incarceration of a parent impact the life of his or her child.
NARRATOR: Kris Maul
DATE: March 28, 2006
INTERVIEWER: Joanna Lee
PLACE: South River Elementary
Occupation: 2nd grade student
Kris is an eight-year-old child who is repeating the second grade. His father, whom he had limited contact with, was arrested about two years ago in a fairly high profile robbery rink. Kris’s mother had not been with his father since Kris was about two. For a long time, Kris idolized his father and blamed everyone else for his incarceration. He has since come to realize that his father is responsible for his own actions. Kris is a very kind, sweet child.
Joanna: Today is Friday, March 24, 2006. I, Joanna Lee, am the interviewer and Kris, an eight year old student, is the narrator. This interview is taking place at South River Elementary School, whe – where Kris attends second grade. Kris, do I have your permission to tape you during this conversation?
Joanna: Okay. Can you tell me a little bit about your, um, background like where you were born, where you have lived.
Kris: Ummm, I was born in the city.
Joanna: Mm hmm, in Harrisonburg?
Joanna: Yeah. Have you lived here all your life?
Joanna: Yeah. Who do you live with right now?
Kris: I live with my mom.
Joanna: Mm-hmm. Have you had contact with your father in a while?
Kris: Um, no. We usually – it’s only when I go over to my Grandma Christine’s.
Joanna: Okay. How often – so you don’t see your father that often?
Kris: I never see him.
Joanna: You never see him? When was the last time you saw your dad? Do you remember?
Kris: When he was at my Grandma Christine’s [voice cracks].
Joanna: Do you know how long ago that was?
Kris: Um, no, but it was a really long time ago.
Joanna: It was really long time ago? Okay. Um, do you have any brothers or sisters?
Kris: A half brother, named Andrew.
Joanna: How old is he?
Joanna: Two? Okay. No other brothers or sisters?
Kris: [shakes head ‘no’].
Joanna: Okay. Do you remember any, um, holidays or vacations that you went on with the family that you remember that was important to you or something that had special meaning?
Kris: [whispers] No. Mm-mm, not much.
Joanna: Do you celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving…?
Kris: Um, on Christmas, sometimes, Santa Claus will come to my house or [giggle] Grandma Christine’s house and my Ma-ma’s house.
Joanna: Okay, cool. So, you get to spend time with your family on those days?
Joanna: Is it special to you?
Joanna: To be with family?
Joanna: Okay, um, alright, um, do you remember – I’ve been told about your father. He went to prison for a little bit. Um, can you tell me a little bit more about that? How much do you know?
Kris: Um, I don’t know a lot. The only thing I really know about what he did was that he stole a lot-a [of] money that didn’t belong to him.
Joanna: Okay, who told you about this?
Kris: My mom.
Joanna: Your mom found out. She just sat you down and just told you what happened? Is that what happened?
Kris: [nods] Mm-hmm.
Joanna: Okay. How did you react when you found out?
Kris: I cried a whole bunch.
Joanna: You cried? Yeah.
Kris: It felt like an hour.
Joanna: Awww. [pause] Do you remember seeing your father go to prison? Did you have experience with that?
Kris: Mmm… [shakes head]. Mm-mm.
Joanna: No, so you didn’t see any of that… um, do any of your classmates know about your father? His background – that he went to prison?
Kris: Not a lot of ’em.
Joanna: Not a lot of them? Okay. The ones that do know, are they supportive? Or, do they give you a hard time?
Kris: Um, they’ve done forgot by now [laughs].
Joanna: They’ve forgotten about it? Or… is that what you said?
Joanna: Okay, um, do you, um, so you didn’t see him? Okay. Were you able to be in contact with your father when he was in prison?
Joanna: Is he out now?
Joanna: Or, is he still in prison?
Joanna: Oh, so he’s still in prison?
Kris: No, he’s probably – my dad… last time I went over to my Grandma Christine’s house he called, um, [sigh], and he said … I asked him [gets teary-eyed], “Do you know when you might get out?” He said, “Probably two or three more years.”
Joanna: Okay, yeah. Um, do you get to speak to him a lot – do you talk to him on the phone a lot?
Kris: Uh-uh [no].
Joanna: No… you’ve never gone to visit him?
Kris: Mm-mm [no]. [Mumbles]
Joanna: Mm, hmm. you have once?
Kris: No, not even once.
Joanna: No, not even once… Ohhhh. So, do your parents – does your mom not allow it, or is it your choice that you don’t want to go see him?
Kris: Um, he actually didn’t invite my mom.
Joanna: He didn’t invite your mom. Did he invite you?
Joanna: Would you like to go see him at some point?
Joanna: Yeah… what do you think, um, it would feel like if you went to go see him?
Kris: [pause]. Really good [teary-eyed].
Joanna: Really good? Yeah. Do you remember your father?
Kris: [voice cracks] I never got to see him a lot.
Joanna: You didn’t…. um, so, he went to prison when you were really, really young, so… is that true?
Kris: Mmm, actually, about when I was six.
Joanna: When you were six? Okay. So, you still remember your father – just a little bit?
Joanna: Do you, like, have a picture of him in your mind?
Kris: Um, I actually have two pictures of him in my room.
Joanna: Oh, you do?
Kris: Yeah… one is of him in a car and one… he’s in the hospital holding me – as a baby.
Joanna: Oh, if you were to go to, um, the prison where your father’s at… what do you think, um, what do you think the environment might be like – do you think it will be friendly? Do you think the guards will be nice to you? Or, do you think you might be treated… badly? How would you feel?
Kris: Um, people would probably be nice.
Joanna: Mm-hmm, you think they’d be nice to you?
Joanna: Yeah, that’s good. Um, let’s see… have you ever had contact with the police – have they been to your house at all?
Kris: [shakes head].
Joanna: No, okay. So, did you get to, um, was your dad taken away in front of you?
Kris: Mm-mm [no].
Joanna: You just came home one day and he wasn’t there?
Kris: Um, actually. he didn’t live with us.
Joanna: Oh, he didn’t live with you guys? Okay. So, are your parents divorced?
Joanna: He just doesn’t live with you guys? Okay, um, how long has your dad not lived with you?
Kris: Um, about three years.
Joanna: Three years. Okay. Um, do you know why your father stole the money?
Joanna: Do you have any guesses?
Joanna: No, not at all?
Kris: No, I do know this… he spent all of it! [spreads his arms wide to show how much, while rolling his eyes and smiling].
Joanna: He spent all of it?
Kris: He has to repay all of it now.
Joanna: So, it’s a lot of money, I’m guessing?
Kris: He’s on house arrest.
Joanna: Okay. How did you find out the term, ‘house arrest’? Who told you about that?
Kris: My mom.
Joanna: Your mom… so, what is ‘house arrest’? Can you explain it to me in your own words?
Kris: Um, police are at your door, but you’re inside, but you’re still arrest…ted.
Kris: And if, say, if your boss ask…es ya ta, um, work overtime [sigh] ya have to call the police [puts hand to his face as a demonstration of calling] and tell ’em.
Joanna: Okay, that’s a good definition. Um, so do you like having – um, I don’t know if that’s a weird question. Um, so, I’m guessing that your mom has custody over you full time?
Joanna: And you told me about your grandparents… your Grandma Christine… is that right?
Joanna: Yeah. Does she live with you guys too?
Joanna: Does she live far away? Or close by?
Kris: Um, about in Staunton.
Joanna: In Staunton? Okay, that’s not far. Um, so do you get to see your other family members a lot?
Kris: Yeah. ‘Cuz my grandma and my Uncle Er— [couldn’t catch his name] usually take me to karate.
Joanna: Okay, um, do other family members know about your father being in prison?
Joanna: Yeah, they do. How did they react? Do you remember?
Kris: Umm, [mumbles and looks down].
Joanna: You don’t remember?
Joanna: Okay. Um, do they talk about it ever?
Joanna: When your family’s together?
Kris: [shakes head].
Joanna: No, okay… has your school work been affected by…
Kris: [shakes head].
Joanna: No, not at all. You’re still a trooper – you’re still in second grade.
Kris: [smiles and nods].
Joanna: Okay, good. Um, is there anyone you can talk to about your feelings if you’re ever sad, or…?
Kris: Um, my moooom, some family members, Ms. Martin-Finks – the school counselor.
Joanna: Yeah, are they always available for you?
Joanna: That’s good. Um, what do you do when you miss your dad?
Kris: Um, I usually [pause]… go like this [puts head down] … usually, I put my hand on my head… ‘n wait a lil’ bit… [sigh].
Joanna: Do you ever draw, or, write letters, or anything?
Kris: Um, nah, I ne’er usually have time ta write letters.
Joanna: Mm-hmm, if you were to draw something – if I gave you paper right now – could you draw me something about how you’re feeling, in general, about this whole situation about your father… could you draw me a picture… for me?
Joanna: Okay [gets papers]… here’s some markers [hands him a bucket of markers].
Kris: Now, what do you want me to basically do?
Joanna: I want you to… draw me one picture about, um, how you felt when you found out that your father – when your mother told you – sat you down and told you – that your father was in prison.
Joanna: And you can talk while you’re drawing too.
Kris: [Begins to draw]. I messed up [crosses out the picture and turns it over… proceeds to draw… sighs].
Joanna: Is that a sad face?
Kris: Mmmm… [Begins to sound out the words phonetically and then continues to draw]. Your dad is in jail, Kristopher [points to the word as he reads it].
Joanna: Okay, can you tell me a little bit, um, about the faces? Is this you?
Kris: This is my mom [points]… this is me [points]. [pause]. My mom is saying, “Your dad is in jail, Kristopher.”
Joanna: Okay, and can you tell me about your reaction? What did you draw?
Kris: Um, I was – I drew me crying.
Joanna: Yeah, okay, thank you.
Kris: [puts away markers].
Joanna: Okay, so… um, how is your school, here, at school… um, and your teachers helping you with this situation?
Kris: Um, actually, I haven’t brought it up any.
Joanna: Um, do you feel like they should be doing something more, that they’re not doing right now?
Joanna: Would you like them to do anything special, or anything differently?
Joanna: Nope? Okay. Are you glad that – how are you feeling, um, towards… you said that your classmates knew but they probably forgot about it by now, but how did you first feel when they all knew?
Joanna: You were fine with it?
Joanna: Yeah. Were you able to talk about it with your class members?
Joanna: No? Okay. Are you able to do anything special for holidays with your dad – do you hope to do anything special like, maybe for the 4th of July you could go see him… or has that not crossed your mind?
Joanna: …since what?
Kris: It’s been a long time since that’s happened.
Joanna: Is there anything unfair that’s been going on in your life?
Kris: Um, nope.
Joanna: No? Are there any fears that you have after your father left?
Kris: Um, nope.
Joanna: Has your relationship with your dad changed?
Joanna: Were you close to him before?
Kris: Um [sighs] not a lot.
Joanna: If your father was here, right now, what would you tell him?
Kris: I miss you.
Joanna: How do you think he would act if he saw you?
Kris: Really glad.
[fire alarm… paused the tape]
Kris: There is this one thing, but I don’t want to talk about it.
Joanna: You don’t want to talk about it?
Joanna: Do you want to tell me after we turn this off?
Joanna: Or are you just not comfortable talking about it?
Kris: Um, no. I just don’t want to talk about it.
Joanna: Okay. Um, will you tell me about that conversation you had with your dad, on the phone, when you were at your grandma’s house?
Joanna: Did any of your other family members talk to him – did your mom talk to him…?
Kris: Um, no, she went with me. My Grandma Christine and my cousin, Renee, and my Grandpa Warren were there. My Grandma Christine and Cousin Renee talked to him, and I did too.
Joanna: Did you see their reactions? Were they happy, were they sad?
Kris: Renee asked him when he was gettin’ out, too… actually.
Joanna: What else did you talk about when you were on the phone with him?
Kris: Um, not a lot.
Joanna: Not a lot? Yeah. Were you glad to hear his voice?
Joanna: Yeah. Would you like to speak – talk to him on the phone more often?
Joanna: Do you think your mom would let you?
Kris: Yeah. [intercom interruption]
Joanna: Yeah, you would? Would your mom let you talk to him?
Joanna: Yeah, she would. Would you rather, um, actually go see him in prison? Or do you think that would –
Kris: See him in prison.
Joanna: You would like to see him in prison?
Joanna: Yeah. Is there anything else that happened before, during, or after your father went to prison that you remember?
Kris: I do – I do remember this one thing that my mom told me.
Joanna: Yeah, what’s that?
Kris: When I was a baby, it happened. Um, my dad says that he didn’t throw her college ring into the ocean, at the time, ’cause he was in the Marines. And my mom says he did.
Joanna: He said that –
Kris: He didn’t.
Joanna: What was it, um, that he threw in the ocean supposedly?
Kris: My mom’s college ring.
Joanna: What’s that?
Kris: Um, it’s a class ring –
Joanna: Oh, a college ring. Oh okay.
Kris: Yeah, it costs like a hundred dollars.
Joanna: Yeah, wow. Did she ever find it?
Kris: No, it’s still in the ocean out there somewhere.
Joanna: Um, was there anything else before your father went to prison that, um, might have led to him being charged – was there anything that he did… Did he do any small things, like, um, did he steal money before?
Joanna: Did he commit a crime before?
Joanna: It was – do you think it was just out of the blue?
Kris: [nods] I don’t really know.
Joanna: If you were to ask your dad why he, uh, did it –
Kris: I’ve actually asked him before… but he didn’t – wouldn’t talk to me… about it.
Joanna: Would he – would you like him to tell you a reason why he did it – is it important to you?
Kris: Um, not a lot.
Joanna: If you’re – when your dad does get out of prison, um, how do you think your life will be like? Do you think it will be changed? Do you think you’d do something differently?
Kris: Um, no.
Joanna: Would you like to have a closer relationship with your dad?
Joanna: Yeah. Did you ever play sports with him or, anything like that?
Kris: Um, [sigh] no.
Joanna: Okay, let’s see… [pause] um, could you do me a favor and draw me another picture, for me? Like, um, about – because you said you wanted to go see your father at some point, you wanted to talk to him more often. um, could you draw me a picture of what you think it would be like, if, when you see your dad?
Joanna: After all these years – could you do that for me?
Kris: Okay. [Begins to draw]
Kris: With my glasses on, I look a lot like my dad – my mom says.
Kris: If I didn’t have my hair spiked, I would.
Kris: [continues to draw]. He had… [mumbles].
Joanna: He what?
Kris: He had a lot of remote control stuff.
Kris: [continues to draw].
Joanna: Is that a picture of your dad’s house?
Kris: Yeah… okay.
Joanna: Can you tell me about your picture?
Kris: Um, it’s me huggin’ my dad. He actually has a dog. It’s not a Weiner Dog, but that’s what I’m best at drawin’.
Joanna: [laughs] Is it a small dog – the one that your dad has?
Kris: Well, actually, I’m not sure that he has it anymore.
Kris: Okay. Put his tail there. Okay, there we go.
Joanna: Okay, so can you tell me about this picture?
Kris: Um, it’s my dad – I think my dad still has, um, his dog. But, I’m not sure. Um, but he used to have one… not sure if he does anymore. And, I drew him huggin’ me.
Joanna: Yeah, and that’s your dad’s house?
Joanna: Thank you. Um, you said you have a half brother, um –
Kris: I’m also a little bit German.
Joanna: Oh, you are a bit German?
Joanna: Okay, that’s cool. Um, if – when your brother grows older, do you think – what would you tell him about your dad… if he ever questioned?
Kris: Um, [pause], not a lot… I wouldn’t want him to get sad.
Joanna: Do you think he has a right to know – if he asked?
Joanna: So, if he asks where his dad was, what would you tell him?
Kris: Uh, he’s still in jail…but he’s not anymore. He’s changed a lot since he’s in jail.
Joanna: Okay, good.
Kris: … That I know of.
Kris: That I know of [laughs].
Joanna: [laughs], yeah. Do you – you hope that your dad’s changed so that you can hang out with him more and spend time with him more?
Kris: Yeah, maybe shoot my bee-bee gun some with him.
Joanna: Did you do that before he went to prison too?
Kris: No, because then I didn’t have it.
Joanna: Oh, when did you get your bee-bee gun?
Kris: Um, for Christmas.
Joanna: Who’s it from?
Kris: My mom’s boyfriend, Joseph Hintslee.
Joanna: Okay, that’s pretty nifty.
Kris: He even got me a lil’ pack of bee-bees last summer when I was over at my Grandma Christine’s… I fired up all those bee-bees almost [laughs].
Joanna: Where you —
Kris: At first there were 2,400 bee-bees in there. Now, there’s only like 100.
Joanna: Oh, wow. Did you shoot anything in particular?
Kris: Um… water bottles with water in it… cans.
Joanna: Is it a new ha – hobby you’ve picked up?
Joanna: What else do you like to do?
Kris: Um, let’s see… I like to play with my Uncle Joe’s dog, but he’s – she’s mean. Tries to bite your hand off! Sometimes, but she’s still a puppy. She dunno better – she’s only like this big.
Joanna: Aw, that’s a small one.
Kris: A Ski Shepherd.
Joanna: You like dogs, don’t you? You know all about them!
Joanna: What about school? What do you like to do at school?
Kris: Um, math, science, history… that kinda stuff.
Joanna: If, um…
Kris: Art too.
Joanna: Yeah, really. Uh, when you guys have, uh, field trips, or you go places, or for holidays… do um, does the school allow parents to come in and visit? Like eat lunch with you, maybe?
Kris: Yes, the school will allow parents to come and eat lunch with their child, whenever they want. They just have to get a name tag and tell the teacher when they’re comin’.
Kris: If they’re comin’, actually.
Joanna: Yeah. Has your mom ever come in yet?
Kris: Um, only once last year.
Joanna: Oh, okay.
Kris: She hardly ever has time.
Joanna: What does your mom do?
Kris: She’s a doctor.
Joanna: Okay.. so she works in the hospital —
Kris: A nurse.
Joanna: A nurse? She’s a nurse?
Kris: Yeah, she don’t work at the hospital though.
Joanna: Okay, just at an office?
Joanna: Have you seen her at work? Have you gone in to visit her?
Kris: No… it’s where pregnant people go.
Joanna: Ah, okay. Does your mom have long hours? Do you get to see your mom often?
Kris: Usually, when I get home from karate.
Joanna: Oh, so you like doing karate —
Kris: Well, unless she has to work late. Or sometimes, she’ll just come to karate and watch me… as a gold belt.
Joanna: That’s cool. Um, who takes care of your half-brother?
Kris: Um, Melissa…
Joanna: Who’s she – who’s Melissa?
Kris: Um, my dad and her actually already broke up.
Joanna: So, she was. your dad’s girlfriend?
Joanna: Was she still with him during – when he went to prison? Or did they break up when he went there.
Kris: They actually broke up when they both went there. Him, her, and her brother actually did the crime.
Joanna: Okay, what else do you know about what happened?
Kris: She actually got out earlier because she had her baby. She actually had to have it in prison.
Joanna: Oh, wow. Okay, so they released her right when she gave birth?
Kris: Um, no.
Kris: Her parents kept the child for like five weeks – or nine. Or, actually, about nineteen [laughs].
Joanna: Okay. So I’m guessing your half brother doesn’t really know much about what’s happened?
Kris: No, he’s only two [mumbles]… but he does know the “sh” word [laughs].
Joanna: The what?
Kris: The “sh” word.
Joanna: Oh no, that’s not good [nervous laugh]. Um, so Melissa’s taking care of your half brother and she was also involved with the crime, is that correct?
Joanna: So, do you know anything else about the crime besides that, like, there are three people involved that you know of?
Joanna: Yeah, okay. [pause]. Would you like to have better contact with Melissa so she could tell you more about what happened?
Joanna: Or have you not talked to her at all?
Kris: I don’t talk to her a lot… last Christmas I actually saw her.
Joanna: How was that?
Joanna: It was good?
Kris: Andrew was sleeping though.
Joanna: Andrew —
Kris: Right when me and my mom were about to leave, bang, he woke up.
Joanna: Aww, Andrew, your half brother?
Joanna: Alright, um…
Kris: Melissa tried ta get him to unwrap the present, but he said the “sh” word!!
Joanna: Oh, no. What’d she do?
Kris: She tried ta give him the present, then she took ’em away and she started to open ’em a little bit for him, then he said the “sh” word!! [puts his hands up in the air and drops them to his side].
Joanna: He’s only two years old?
Joanna: Wow… what, uh, what did Melissa do? Did she say anything after that?
Joanna: Did she stop opening the present?
Kris: Yeah, she stopped opening it.
Joanna: Okay, um, alright, what about, you said that – back to the crime – um, it was your dad, Melissa, and was it Melissa’s brother?
Joanna: Melissa’s brother. Have you met him before?
Joanna: No, okay. What did you think of Melissa when you first met her?
Kris: She was really nice.
Joanna: She was really nice? Yeah. So, you wouldn’t expect this kind of thing to have occurred, right? Was it just unexpected?
Joanna: Do you, um, how do you feel towards her? Do you feel like… any of this was anyone’s fault?
Kris: Um, no.
Joanna: No? Okay. So do you take it as, everyone is responsible for their own actions?
Joanna: Yeah, do you think that, um, your father going to prison was the right punishment for the crime? Do you think it fit?
Kris: [teary-eyed] No…
Joanna: Or was it too harsh?
Kris: Probably, a little bit too harsh.
Joanna: You think it’s too harsh? Yeah.
Kris: They might have been able to let him off with a warning ‘cuz he never done anything before.
Kris: Only got speeding tickets a little bit.
Kris: Usually, he would only speed like one inch over.
Joanna: One inch over?
Kris: Yeah, kilometer.
Joanna: Um, okay, so, you said that your father’s getting out in two years or so, right?
Kris: Two years or three.
Joanna: Two or three years… when you see him, what is going to be the first thing you guys are going to do? Or, what’s the first thing you are going to say to him?
Kris: I miss you.
Joanna: When he walks through the door… you’re going to say what?
Kris: I miss you.
Joanna: You’re going to say you miss him? What are you going to do with him? Um, are you going to – you said that you like playing with your bee-bee guns. Do you think you guys are going to go out back and…
Kris: The guuuuards probably wouldn’t let us do that.
Joanna: [laughs]. Okay, um, so when you go home, do you think that maybe you would call him today, or–?
Kris: Um, we actually, we don’t know his phone number.
Joanna: You don’t know? So it’s usually he calls you?
Kris: Yeah… well, he don’t know our phone number either.
Joanna: Oh, he doesn’t? So, then how do you guys get in contact with each other?
Kris: Um, whenever I’m over at my Grandma Christine’s house… we talk then.
Joanna: All right.
Joanna: Do you think your life has gotten better in a sense? Or do you think – since you’re missing a father figure – that, um, it’s different from other children?
Kris: Um, no.
Joanna: No? So, you’re just an average kid?
Joanna: Yup? Okay. All right, well thank you for this interview.
Joanna: Is there anything else you would like to talk about or tell me?
Joanna: Nope? Okay.
** End of interview **