Chapter 1 Some Other Spring Mom and Pop were just a couple of kids when they got married. He was eighteen, she was sixteen, and I was three. Mom was working as a maid with a white family. When they found out she was going to have a baby they just threw her out. Pop's family just about had a fit, too, when they heard about it. They were real society folks and they never heard of things like that going on in their part of East Baltimore. But both kids were poor. And when you're poor, you grow up fast. It's a wonder my mother didn't end up in the workhouse and me as a foundling. But Sadie Fagan loved me from the time I was just a swift kick in the ribs while she scrubbed floors. She went to the hospital and made a deal with the head woman there. She told them she'd scrub floors and wait on the other bitches laying up there to have their kids so she could pay her way and mine. And she did. Mom was thirteen that Wednesday, April 7, 1915, in Baltimore when I was born. By the time she worked her way out of hock in the hospital and took me home to her folks, I was so big and smart I could sit up in a carriage. Pop was doing what all the boys did then--peddling papers, running errands, going to school. One day he came along by my carriage, picked me up and started playing with me. His mother saw him and came hollering. She dragged at him and said, "Clarence, stop playing with that baby. Everybody is going to think it's yours." "But, Mother, itismine," he'd tell her. When he talked back to his mother like this she would really have a fit. He was still only fifteen and in short pants. He wanted to be a musician and used to take lessons on the trumpet. It was almost three years before he got long pants for the wedding. After they were married awhile we moved into a little old house on Durham Street in Baltimore. Mom had worked as a maid up North in New York and Philly. She'd seen all the rich people with their gas and electric lights and she decided she had to have them too. So she saved her wages for the day. And when we moved in we were the first family in the neighborhood to have gas and electricity. It made the neighbors mad, Mom putting in the gas. They said putting pipes in the ground would bring the rats out. It was true. Baltimore is famous for rats. Pop always wanted to blow the trumpet but he never got the chance. Before we got one to blow, the Army grabbed him and shipped him overseas. It was just his luck to be one of the ones to get it from poison gas over there. It ruined his lungs. I suppose if he'd played piano he'd probably have got shot in the hand. Getting gassed was the end of his hopes for the trumpet but the beginning of a successful career on the guitar. He started to learn it when he was in Paris. And it was a good thing he did. Because it kept him from going to pieces when he got back to Baltimore. He justhadto be a musician. He worked like hell when he got back and eventually got a job with McKinney's Cotton Pickers. But when he went on the road with that band it was the beginning of the end of our life as a family. Baltimore got to be just another one-night stand. While Pop was overseas in the war, Mom had worked in a factory making Army overalls and uniforms. When Pop hit the road, the war jobs were finished and Mom figured she could do better going off up North as a maid. She had to leave me with my grandparents, who lived in a poor little old house with my cousin Ida, her two small children, Henry and Elsie, and my great-grandmother. All of us were crowded in that little house like fishes. I had to sleep in the same bed with Henry and Elsie, and Henry used to wet it every night. It made me mad and sometimes I'd get up and sit in a chair until morning. Then my cousin Ida would come in in the morning, see the bed, accuse me of wetting it, and start beating me. When she was upset sHoliday, Billie is the author of 'Lady Sings the Blues ', published 2006 under ISBN 9780767923866 and ISBN 0767923863.