Return of the Frog Queen

“And every time you cry I’ll cry for you
Then all these fields will turn into mud”

This story should be saved for a Christmas post. After all, the story will celebrate its 20th anniversary later this year — but who knows if I’ll still be on a blogging kick come December. Instead, the spring sun is poking out from behind some clouds as I type this, and I’m reminded of a smile amidst an otherwise gloomy winter day. So, I’m writing it now.

To set the stage, I will need to explain aforementioned gloom. The one or two of you who might be reading this will already know about my tumultuous family history, but just in case a hapless stranger has wandered in to to overhear… I have a tumultuous family history. This story takes place not long after my mother’s divorce from her second husband, my enemy (AKA: adopted father). I, with great reluctance, agreed to spend the holidays at his house to bring a modicum of comfort to my younger siblings –it was their first Christmas after the family broke apart.

It was awful. He was awful. I spent as much time sequestered in the spare room as I could, headphones on.

I love presents. I love to give them; I love to receive them. But, there were several years in my life when I hated gifts because they were tied up with my baggage from having this man in my life. His gifts came at a cost, an obligation. They tended to be showy items that he himself would like — items he understood and could easily show off to people. The presents had nothing to do with the recipients, their needs, or their taste. Gifts made me uncomfortable. This Christmas, as was to be expected, I received a cumbersome and useless (and expensive) gift from him.

I do not remember how many days I was there. In fact, other than the overall feeling of revulsion, I remember very little about that time, having shunted most of those memories into some hidden space where I’m sure they will be unearthed by a therapist some day. But, I do remember a small parcel arriving in the mail and landing in my hands. I remember rushing into the spare room,  hands shaking as I opened it. Inside I found a copy of Jeremy Enigk’s Return of the Frog Queen.

Sunny Day Real Estate was a frequent feature in my heavy rotation in those days, particularly their album Diary. I had been wanting to get my hands on Enigk’s solo album for some time, but had never run across it in a local music store (surprise). No, instead, the music of this Seattle artist came to me by way of Arizona, courtesy of a friend.

I recall Craig good-naturedly shrugging off the gift as no big deal. He had simply found a copy in a bin, knew I’d wanted it, and tossed it into the mail for me. There was no great expense, no strings attached, nothing but a friend sending a smile to another friend. Meanwhile, I was in tears. There was jumping of feet and pounding of heart. New CD excitement aside, there is nothing in the world quite like feeling known, understood, and loved.

And then there was the music.  The album title calls tales of the faery-kind to mind, and it’s as magical as that suggests. I’m not talking sparkles and Disney-princess-pop, though. This is a wilder magic: mythical, otherworldly, frayed at the edges, and a bit off-kilter. It’s not safe, and I love it.

If you haven’t, I encourage you to brew a pot of tea (or pour something stronger) and give the album a listen or ten. Let it wash over you in all its peculiar, orchestral glory.

There’s also this video. Last year, Enigk appeared live on KEXP. I mean, I was excited about this… but then I realized what he was playing and, well… I had been expecting new music but instead received a different sort of gift. There were tears.