I never liked The Sound of Music. Not exactly sure why. But the opening scene with Maria singing about live hills & twirling around in a dress certainly didn't help any. What sort of dramatic action was that? Now, if Evel Knievel was jumping across some of those hills on a motorcycle, especially if there were some school buses set ablaze to add suspense (in lieu of an errant bonnet that needed retrieving), that might have been worth watching! Also, I couldn't see its connection to Christmas despite the fact that every year TV networks reran this never-ending movie during time-precious school holidays. There was nothing sacred about it. After all, it wasn't the Peanuts' Christmas special. Probably the crux of it was simple resentment. No doubt it was preempting a favorite primetime show which I counted on for continuity and moral guidance. Like, for instance, The Dukes of Hazzard.
Sorry to say, but when Maria sang, froid was what it left me.
But then I gave birth. To two girls. And, apparently, to a previously undisclosed yet infinite capacity for schmaltz, as well. In the early years, I rebuffed Chris' annual suggestion that we enjoy this "Greatest All-Time Family Film" with our little ones (for their sake, ya know, to avoid recurring night mères). Eventually, however, I agreed. For the purpose of exposing the kids to cultural literacy, thereby satisfying that core academic component for the homeschooling year. I figured 15 minutes tops would suffice. We settled down. And 2 hours + 54 minutes later, we got up.
To clear more floor space for M&K. Who were singing. And twirling. And Austrian folk dancing. Well, after first sprinting to the bedroom to change into their most billowy dresses, thereby enhancing those mandatory fru fru effects.
What a ridiculous movie! How contrived! Quite blatantly, unapologetically hokey! Why, it's a veritable medley of mush. My Favorite Things: Corny. Edelweiss: Patriotic propaganda. The Puppet Show: Herd it got your goat. And what about the cute, chubby-cheeked five year old scooting up the stairs while bidding us So Long, Farewell: Say Goodnight, Gretl! You've got to be kidding, who would succumb to that von Trapp?
Yep, it became our family's new, all-time favorite movie! As I dabbed my weepy eyes for the twentieth or so time that evening, Chris & I watched our spinning daughters in a revelry of perfectly goofy contentment. And only had the heart to declare it bedtime when Katrianna, imitating a leaping Liesl, came up a little short on her 16th going on 17th jump from the couch to the arm chair to the dining table....
The next morning found her still keyed up, kneeling at a mini electric piano playing the Do-Re-Mi-Me-Me scales by ear. M&K then spent the next several weeks in dual yodeling-guitar lessons with Dad, checking out every How To Waltz video from the library and performing elaborate puppet shows with several stuffed animals & one marionette that they'd previously ignored.
Compared to all that, our actual visit to Salzburg was pretty uneventful. In fact, I began to wonder if skipping the authentic Austrian Sound of Music guided tour, led & narrated by affable Australian expatriates, was a mistake. I'd seen the promotional videos, I knew what we were missing: It wasn't just the opportunity to enjoy an 8 hour bus ride in air-conditioned comfort. Nor the tourism superiority afforded by a tinted-glass advantage point 15 feet above the supposedly Smart cars. Neither was it the chance to chuckle at the Aussie's gentle comedic gibes aimed at tickling Midwestern American sensibilities. Fun! But what we were really missing most was the campy camaraderie of the sing-alongs. Where every single one of the fifty passengers broke into rounds of Climb Ev'ry Mountain, inhibitions be dammed, as they forded ev'ry stream to follow Maria's dream. (Not to be irReverent, but, oh Mother, that one really is irredeemable.)
We did our best to improvise on our own. Experiencing each sequential Sound of Musical setting elicited impromptu performances of How Do You Solve a Problem Like [Insert Choice of Family Member Name Here]? And, perhaps it's divulging too much, but Chris and I got a bit swoony beside Leopoldskroner Weiher, staring deeply into each other's eyes as we crooned, "And somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something wrong." Finally, when we longed to pay tribute to Dad by dedicating The Leder of the
Band Hosen to him, accompanied by a suitable souvenir purchase on the Getreidegasse, he considered breaking up The Sarkar Family Singers in pursuit of a solo career.... It took an appeal to his greater sense of Schtoompah (Richard Scarry's "Funny Austrian") to suspender his indignant oompah. Will he never learn Das ist Jacke wie Lederhosen?
Outside, as we wandered around the grounds trying to identify more Sound of Music-significant details, we found the gates open, the cloistered welcome mat seemingly beckoning us onwards. We were merely looking for the refectory, not being refractory. But just try telling that to the Head Nun, who rushed out to chastise us and replace the ORDAINED PERSONNEL ONLY sign to its rightful front & center order (it had been pushed aside... Nope, not by us - couldn't divine its meaning anyhow).
Yet what intrigued us most was that she'd been on the phone when we inadvertently glanced into her office. Surprisingly, it wasn't a cell phone, as one might expect at an abbey. But, a rotary dial, clunky receiver, crimson telephone with those lit up buttons. Similar to the Cold War red one at the White House -- and, rumor has it, at the Batcave? -- with its singular, blinking push-of-a-button omnipotence.
And then it occurred to me, who could she be talking to?
Whoa, did she have a direct connection, or what? But before I could ask for a turn, just to say a quick hello (can you imagine those long distance charges? then again, she must have the unlimited calling plan... think that includes free texting?), she sensibly shooed the barbarians back outside the gate (making short Stift of us). Truly, we hadn't meant to in-nun-date or upset her. And it really wasn't our fault, it's just a bad habit we'd gotten into.
So, anybody up for another showing of The Sound of Music? Albeit, I still contend it's not really a Christmas movie. Now that we have the dvd, we tend to watch it on Thanksgiving & Easter, too.
And just in case you're not one of the original 13.5 million world viewers, here's Belgium's take on The Sound of Music. Of course, we Americans aren't expected to have any discriminating taste... But what's their excuse?