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Tor Amos' tour hits the Sydney Opera House, and I treat Mr Wiggins to some tickets for his birthday. It was exactly what we needed.
The Queen Bee Gets Some Honey
I first heard a Tori Amos song when I was fifteen or sixteen. I was riding in our pastor's wife's car, with a bunch of kids from Youth Group, and the pastor's daughter Laura had popped a mix tape into the stereo. Somewhere in the jumble of tracks came:
And If I die today
I'll be the HAPPY Phantom
And I'll go chasin'
the nuns out in the yard
And I'll run naked
through the streets without my mask on
And I will never need
umbrellas in the rain
I'll wake up in
strawberry fields every day
And the atrocities of school
I can forgive
The HAPPY phantom
has no right to bitch
"That," I thought, far away from the giggles and baffling social complexities of the other kids in the car, "is a really cool song."
I didn't know who sang it, but it stuck in the back of my mind, outside the pigeonholes of early nineties crap pop and the faded charm of my parents' singer-songwriter seventies favourites. Here was music that hit home: melodic in a dramatic way that sang to the little girl who put herself to sleep with Tchaikovsky and dreamt of playing the piano— with lyrics that were in turns poetic and funny, strange, raw, real, joyful, angry, and sad. It nestled like a seed and faded for a while under the layers of worries and angst and the preoccupations of an eleventh grade girl.
Then in English class we had an assignment to share a piece of music that was personally important and explain its significance to the class. I didn't pick "Happy Phantom"; it was another song by the Indigo Girls. I borrowed another mix tape from Laura that had "Hammer and a Nail" on it. The song after that was "Winter" and as I cued up the tape before class started, I was talking to my friend Logan about this other song and how much I liked it.
"I think that's Tori Amos," she said. "She's cool."
Some time later I found Under the Pink and bought it. Later, Little Earthquakes, where I rediscovered my affection for those first two songs and all their album siblings.
Sunday the 8th was Mother's Day for most people, but for us it was more significantly celebrated as Mr Wiggins' birthday present, even though his birthday itself was a month ago. After an emotionally exhausting and disappointing Mother's Day fiasco, we made our way home, showered, changed, grabbed some gourmet burgers and took a taxi to the Opera House.
In the Convert Hall, a Bösendorfer piano and an organ sat side by side. We cheered and clapped for the supporting act and the lights went dim. A woman stepped out on stage in a gown designed to immediately call to mind the word "diaphanous." She had vivid red hair and she played the piano indiscreetly. "Voodoo Boy was right," Mr Wiggins whispered to me. "I feel like a voyeur."
Her voice sounded exactly like the one that sang out to me from my CD collection all those years. When she sang "Winter" I started to cry.
I had forgotten what it was like, for a while, to be that sixteen year old, and as much as I'd never want to go through it again, I was glad to remember her. It was a good concert. A needed thing. A pollinating thing.