Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Captain Von Trapp and Maria

I think I first saw The Sound of Music when I was about eight years old.  I remember my grandparents cramming into the car with our family of five to make the Sunday afternoon sojourn into Vancouver for a matinee performance.  Understanding that my parents are of German/Mennonite extraction and they, too, had to vacate their homeland during World War II due to their religious convictions and pacifism, this was a particularly poignant cinematic experience for the grandparents and parents alike.


For me, on the other hand, it was akin to an awakening of religious proportions.  In one fell swoop, that movie answered all my questions about what I would do with my life and how I would do it. I was destined to be a nun (in spite of not being Catholic), meet an ornery yet dashing sea captain (it's good to have a little challenge and I felt sure (and still do) he would be mightily effective in the romance department ), and give up my religious fervor and serenity for a family of seven difficult children and the riches of the von Trapp fortune.  Surely I could reinact this scenario in my own life!

The funny thing is: I know I am not alone.  What is it about the charming Maria with her pitch-perfect voice, pixie hair and waist the size of a pin? Who wouldn't want to wear a dirndl and run through the Alps lugging a guitar?  Honestly, even now, I still find attraction in that lifestyle and that ectomorph frame of Maria's.

The closest I've come to a dirndl: at my sis' wedding!

Over the years, I have had many close encounters with the cloistered life.  During my early university years in Vancouver and then much later during my post graduate studies in Minnesota, I would find myself in nunneries or monastaries for weekends at a time, using it not so much as a time of meditation, but a time to cram, to write, to focus without distraction.  I found that the hours I spent in my simple rooms, eating in silence with other guests in echoing dining chambers, were not only my most productive times, but some of the most peaceful times I have experienced in my life.  There was nothing to do but what was in front of me so I did it.  (And when I didn't want to do it, I slept.  A lot.)  I always came home refreshed, accomplished and full of zest and energy.

I'm sure Maria must have felt that way too, and that was why she had to run around in the Alps so much, missing her chapel time (though never her meal time) and, why, ultimately, she had to leave the abbey.  Her abundant energy was more than those sisters could handle and so off she went, straight into the arms of the dashing Captain von Trapp.


And what titillating guilt she must have gone through as she fell in love with this stern man!  Who WOULDN'T want that kind of guilt on their hands? Oh, Maria, to have to choose between man or God when the man is a god-of-a-man...

Of course, after the marriage in the cathedral, the Nazis coming to get them, and the trek over the alps to freedom, the gild was off the rose somewhat, but the build-up, the waltzing, the do-re-me-ing was so enticing that one felt ready to take on those Nazis what with the new clothes made out of curtains, the blush of first lust, and the clarion voices of the family singing Edelweiss rising in crescendo as Rolph and his crew plotted the family's capture.  Who wouldn't be willing to scale the Alps in nothing but an Austrian dirndl and some sturdy shoes in the name of love?


So, yes, I have on occasions in my life pined for both the cloistered life and the unseemly unraveling of it as well, and I have had a wee bit of success on both counts.  I'm no Maria (though it is my middle name), but her story has certainly influenced my own life plot in quite a few ways.

My girls are still a bit frightened by the movie itself, but they're suckers for the soundtrack.  One of our favourite things to do on the way to or from school is to blast the songs from the car stereo and sing them at full pitch.  Charlotte wants to drink her first champagne before she goes to bed many nights and Emily is six(teen) going on seven(teen) and already the fellows are falling in line...


Honestly, I'm pretty darn happy being Leah Marie, but my new start might need to involve dirndls and calling my sweetheart captain on occasion.  Or maybe we just need five more children to round it out to an even seven.  I don't think I'm cut out to be a nun (the habit would hide all my best assets), but a bit more of a contemplative life could be calling me.  A trip to Vienna wouldn't hurt, either.


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