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The first time I saw “The Sound of Music,” the beautiful music in the opening scenes with the nuns must have had a profound effect on my impressionable toddler self.
For weeks afterward, I walked around the house with a baby blanket on my head, hands clasped in prayer. That is, until my bemused parents reminded me that Jewish girls can’t become nuns.
My next memory of the movie came when I was school-age. I was enchanted by the first half of the movie, the part where the Von Trapp children escape the tight reins of their naval captain father and learn to play again with Maria, their new governess/former postulant.
That’s why last year, when I was flipping through the channels on Christmas Eve, I was thrilled to see we had only missed the first 15 minutes of “The Sound of Music,” and I reassured my two kids that they would love it.
I put the movie on ‘Pause’ so I could get them up to speed and told them it’s about a woman who becomes a governess to a family with seven kids. Then I had to explain what a governess is — “Like a nanny,” I said — to which my 7-year-old asked, “Like on ‘Jessie’?” — referring to a severely obnoxious Disney Channel show — to which I replied, “Not in the slightest.”
The 7-year-old looked at the running time at the bottom of the screen and asked, “Does this movie REALLY end at 12 a.m.?” I nodded and then she asked with a skeptical tone, “What does that mean? Is 12 a.m. lunchtime?” “No,” I replied, “12 a.m. means midnight.”
Then, as if this were some sort of 2nd-grade playground challenge, she assured me that she could easily stay up to watch the whole movie, and my husband and I — knowing better — encouraged her to try. After all, if she and her 4-year-old brother stayed up late, maybe they would ALSO sleep in the next morning. (Hey, it’s always worth a shot.)
So, like many “Sound of Music” fans worldwide, my children also fell in love with the Von Trapp kids, especially Gretel, or “the cute little one” as my 4-year-old called her. And they recognized the songs, “My Favorite Things” and “Do-Re-Mi,” because I tend to hum show tunes while I bake.
Watching this movie with my family brought forth all sorts of memories from the depths of my subconscious. I had a flashback to 2nd grade, when Acme No. 1 had just moved from Wallhaven (where Sherwin-Williams is now) down the street to its current location.
[CUE ‘80S MUSIC HERE, PREFERABLY DURAN DURAN]
In the olden days, parents didn’t have to worry about their kids being snatched away in public places, and at Christmas time, Acme would show “The Sound of Music” on a big-screen TV (and I mean, huge — at least 17 inches) at the front of the store.
Back then, TVs used to be big and heavy and not flat against the wall. Outside your house, TVs had to be moved around on tall metal carts that had fluorescent-orange stickers on them warning that if you weren’t careful, the cart would tip over and the TV would squish you to death. Stop snickering and ask your Grandma.
Anyway, I remember plunking down on the lobby floor next to Acme’s Mayor Roy L. Ray replica canal boat and watching “The Sound of Music” until my mom was done shopping.
[FLASH FORWARD HERE]
During the scene in the movie where Maria makes play clothes for all the children using fabric from old drapes [“She’s recycling,” I explained], I told my kids about the time their grandma got a REALLY good deal on fabric and made matching pajamas for our entire family, and that’s why we always called them our ‘Sound of Music PJs.’
And when the song, “Edelweiss” came on, another childhood memory reminded me of the painted bell our neighbors gave us one year that had white edelweiss flowers on it.
By 10 o’clock, my daughter was asleep, my son’s attention span had dwindled, and my mind wandered back to being 15 years old, finally able to stay awake to see the end of the movie. I remember feeling a connection to the film’s teenage character, Liesl, who’s in love with Rolf, the telegram delivery boy, and I also remember how heartbreaking it was to realize that [SPOILER ALERT] Rolf is a Nazi sympathizer. This movie, my teenage self finally understood, was MUCH more than a couple of catchy show tunes.
When the clock struck midnight, the words “The End” appeared on the TV screen with an aerial view of the Von Trapp family [SPOILER ALERT] escaping Nazi-occupied Austria and hiking toward the snow-covered mountains, “the cute little one” clinging to her daddy’s back.
I looked at my two peaceful, sleeping children and thought about the movie again — this time, in a new light. “How on earth,” I thought, “did those parents get seven kids through the Austrian Alps and safely into Switzerland?”
And that, I decided, is where the REAL story began.
/ Managing editor Abby Cymerman also has fond memories of the enthusiastic Salvation Army bell-ringer at Acme No. 1, who sang carols with karaoke-machine accompaniment.