Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Sound of Music

Sera got me the 40th Anniversary edition of The Sound of Music for Xmas. That was the only gift I said I REALLY wanted. Most people don't believe me when I tell them it's one of my favorite films. "The Graduate," "Taxi Driver," "Midnight Cowboy," "The Sound of Music." The first 3 deal with loneliness--the last just doesn't seem to fit.

I was sitting in my apartment in Hoboken many years ago when the movie was on TV for Xmas. I had seen it many times before(it was not yet a fav) but watched it again anyway. The scene where all the kids sing and dance for the dinner guests really moved me. That's what I wanted: a large family of Aryan children that would happily sing and dance for my friends at dinner. Well, the Aryan part would never happen as there's no blonde in my family and it's not a dominant gene. But the rest would be nice.

Perhaps this scene moved me so because I come from a very dysfunctional family. I never spend the holidays with them. Holidays were the worst time of year for me growing up. A large group of relatives telling me I looked like a pretty little girl with my long hair; that I'm wasting my life (I was only 19!); and then ignoring me during the rest of dinner. My mother always forgot to include me when making dinner preparations and I'd get stuck in a tiny folding chair at the corner of the table drinking diet soda("it all tastes the same," she would yell at me, "just drink the damn thing!"). I'd sit quietly and stare at the clock on the wall and think, "I can't wait 'till I'm older and move out. I'll never have to deal with these people again."

It's the closeness of the Von Trapp family in the movie that gets me. All the kids get along with one another. They love their father who eventually warms up. Maria is just the best mom. Of course it's all very unrealistic. I read a book about the real Von Trapps. Half the kids in the film didn't even exist. The father wasn't nearly as cold as depicted. Maria became a dominating matriarch who refused to let the kids grow up and leave the family. The eldest daughter escaped one night and disappeared for a period of time. The last I heard the kids were suing one another over their Vermont ski lodge.

The Sound of Music has become a traditional Xmas movie for me. Sera and I make sure to watch it every year. Sometimes I get a tear in my eye just watching the kids romp all over beautiful Salzburg. I love Salzburg. I was fortunate enough to visit the town on one of my backpacking trips. I rode an all-night train from southern France to Salzburg, arriving on a Saturday afternoon. I met a guy from Florida on the train and we got beds at a hostel.
"Hey," he said, "they have a Sound of Music tour today. We should go."
I wasn't so into the film as yet and just wanted some sleep. It's not a good sleep on those all night trains.
"Not today. I just want to go to sleep."
"They won't have another tour until Monday," he said. We'll be gone by then."
This was true. We both planned on leaving the next day, Sunday. Salzburg is that small.
We went on the tour and had a good time, though I mostly enjoyed sleeping on the tour van.
"Wake up, we're at the church where they got married!"
I'd stumble out half asleep, snap a couple of pics, then get back on the bus and sleep. I am glad I went on the tour, though. I did enjoy it.

But the following morning, Sunday, I got up early and took a stroll around Salzburg. It was a beautiful blue sky summer morning. An outdoor church service was being held in the town square. I sat in a chair in the back and breathed in all the alpine scenery. Salzburg looked exactly as it did when the Sound of Music was filmed in the 1960s, which is how it must have looked during the time period of the story, the late 1930s. When the service ended I meandered along the town's cobblestone alleys imagining life here during the Angschluss, during Mozart's life(he was born here). You can easily do that in Europe--where they usually know enough to not mess with perfection.

And so when I watch The Sound of Music I recognize the square where I sat for the church service; the wall I sat on while I studied the alpine fortress; the church steeples; the many film locations we visited on the tour. And it floods my heart with the desire to return. But really to return to a much simpler time in my life. That time many years ago when I was much younger and more carefree. When I could just aimlessly wander through the ancient streets of a historical city, and then hop on a train to another.

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