Channeling Billie Holiday

For the last three days, I’ve been in roofer hell. Starting at 6:00 AM, here comes the relentless hammering. But, because our roof is 22 years old and leaking like a sieve, it was time. So bad was the leaking that two of our bathroom ceilings are destroyed. Rune has had to pierce one of them with a really big screwdriver just to let the water drain into buckets. Now we have to just bite the bullet and remodel them. It’s time for that, too because both of the bathrooms scream the early 90s. Remodeling hell to be announced. Enough griping. Enjoy Ms. Billie Holiday.

Me: Erik, can you get Billie Holiday? She’s next on our list, and I just loved her music!

Jamie: Oh, that’s a her?

Me: Oh, yeah. She’s a famous black singer. Or he can get another singer if her wants.

Jamie: He’s already gone.

Me: Okay.

Jamie: I thought Billie Holiday was a guy. Who am I thinking of?

Me: Oh, Buddy Holly maybe?

Jamie: Buddy Holly! That’s right.

Me: We already interviewed him.

Billie Holiday enters the room with Erik.

Jamie: Wow, she is fabulous, this woman.

Me: Really?

Jamie (to Billie) Hi! (to me) She’s elegant.

Me: Hello, Ms. Holiday.

Jamie: The hair, the earrings, the makeup—just so elegant.

Me: You know, I think she influenced Whitney Houston a lot. I’m sure they’ve already met.

Billie: I’ve already welcomed her over. We’re all trying to make her feel comfortable. She just needs time with her family.

Me: Oh, yes, she does. I suppose you know why you’re here.

Billie: Yes, ma’am.

Me: Thank you so much. It’s such an honor to meet you.

Billie: Thank you for having me.

Me: My first question is what was your spiritual mission while you were here on the earthly plane?

Jamie: Her posture, the way she’s sitting, just everything is so—

Me: Elegant?

Jamie: Yes! She’s a fine woman.

Me: She has quite the presence.

Jamie: I said in my head, “When I grow up I’d like to be like you,” and Erik said, “You’re never growing up, Jamie.”

Jamie and I laugh.

Billie: I would like to think my spiritual journey on Earth was more related to music than anything else. I made a family out of my music.


Me: Were you here to learn or teach anything?

Billie: I had a difficult childhood. Nothing in my life was every seated—

Jamie: She has a little bit of an accent. I don’t know what it is though.

Billie: Nothing in my life was really every seated with consistency. There was a lot of jumping up and around.

Me: Did she move around a lot? Is that what she’s saying?

Billie: Yes, I moved around a lot, but it wasn’t always with the family.

Jamie: She wasn’t orphaned, but there was some sort of consent around the family for her to move from one family member to the next maybe. A lot of it had to do with money.

Me: So she was passed along from one family member to the next depending on the money situation?

Billie: Yes, and I chose to work my life the best I knew how, which wasn’t always the best choices. It was through those experiences that gave me enough power to sing about it. It was my hope that, in my music and in my fame, I created a vicarious way for others to watch how it was to be a black woman in that age and time.

Jamie: She’s saying she didn’t (to Billie) Okay was it because you were older, or was it because you passed away? (pause) She didn’t, she only had a short part in her life where she was able to celebrate the African American freedom.

Me: Oh, okay.

Billie (giggling: People don’t see me as being that old.

Me: So she wasn’t around to celebrate the civil rights movement?

Billie: Only for a short time.

Me: Do you think you accomplished most of what you set out to do, spiritually speaking?

Jamie: She smiles really wide. I mean, she’s got a wide smile.

Billie: I had no other choice.

Me: So you did.

Billie: I did everything I knew how to do. I don’t have any regrets.

Me: That’s good. Not everybody can say that, Billie! That’s wonderful.

Billie: I’m not saying I’m proud of everything I’ve done, but I am saying I own up to it, so I don’t have a regret for doing it.

Jamie: The way she talks—you know how you talk to a political person?

Me: Mm hm.

Jamie: To really share the economy of the time, the community movement or lifestyle. When she talks, it’s not just about her, it’s about the influence of how people viewed her or how her town was set up or what she wasn’t given and how she had to go around it. She’s really aware emotionally of these elements. She’s a really well-rounded speaker. I don’t think I’m doing her justice.

Me: Mm. Interesting. So, what insights did you gain after you passed over, Billie?

Billie: After I passed over, I didn’t realize how hard I was working.

Me: Yes, considering the times and the hardships that African Americans had, yeah. You probably had to work three or four times harder than the Caucasian singers.

Billie: Everybody was trying to tell me I was wrong or that—

Jamie (giggling to Billie): What? (to me) Okay, so apparently she was, um, she’s explaining to me that there were a few times in her career where she got into some legal trouble, and even though she remained a lady all the way through it doesn’t mean she didn’t have to steal a little bit to make things livable. So, she has this righteousness and this idea that everybody needs to be fair.

Me: But yet…

Jamie: Oh, yeah. Sorry. She’s not very good at sticking to the question, is she?

I laugh.

Jamie: What was the question?

Me: No, I think she answered it adequately. Billie, can you share another life that influence your life as Ms. Holiday?

Billie: I was a slave, a female slave. I was born into it, separated from my mother. So, when I was old enough, I was sold to another family. I was pretty enough to work inside a house, but it was so difficult because I would watch my friends that I’d grown to know out in the fields hurting and dying and suffering.

Jamie: She’s showing me images of this double galley kitchen. The ceilings are tall. It looks like a cooking kitchen, maybe like a maid’s kitchen.

Billie: I would sneak the food before I made the big serving plates, hiding the food so I could have something to eat later and give to the people in the fields.

Jamie: So she does have this Robinhood thing to her.

Billie: All I wanted was to take the music that I grew to love to keep me grounded. I wanted to take it public; I wanted to have that opportunity to sing loud and have everybody listen to me, and I got just that. I got what I wanted.

Jamie: It sounds like she kept a lot of her characteristics like stealing just a little.

Me: Yeah. Any messages or advice for humanity?

Billie: Looks do go far, but it’s what’s in the heart that matters.

Me: So true. How about you, Erik? Do you have any questions for Ms. Holiday?

Jamie: Erik was teasing her. He said, “So what, you have to look good so you can get deep into the heart and punch it?”

I’m not sure what he means but I chuckle anyway.

Billie (laughing): He full o’ sass, that boy!

Me: He is full of sass; that’ true! Any other questions, Erik? I don’t know if that one really counts.

Jamie: She says to you that your son can play guitar.

Me: Yeah, that’s right!

Billie: His skills are continuing to grow.

Me: Oh, good. He’s practicing. Maybe y’all can jam together. He used to love the blues. Maybe he still does.

Erik: Yeah, I do.

Billie: Yes, I would love that. You should pick up a mandolin, Erik.

Me: Oh, I love the mandolin. Beautiful instrument. Okay, Ms. Holiday. Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Billie: No ma’am. I hope that what I have said has helped you with your efforts. I really don’t think anything that I’ve said was very important.

Me: Oh of course it was and is! And your music was very important then and still is today. Thank you so much, Ms. Holiday.

Billie: Thank you.

Jamie: She has a dress on. It’s fitted around the waist, and it kind of bells out like an A frame below the knee, but she has these—I would call them gloves but they have no fingers to them! It covers more than the wrist. I think it covers the top of the hand but there’s absolutely no fingers to them.

Me: Interesting.



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Elisa Medhus

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