If you have seen the musical, “Sound of Music”, you will have some distinct impressions. Uplifting? Possibly. Schmarmy? Oh yeah. Catchy tunes? Dang it! Yes. Now substitute the main character in the movie for my mom, Mary S., and you can say the same things. Well, actually, there were a few distinct differences. For starters, to my knowledge, my mom was not a nun that got kicked out of a convent to find her way into independence in Austria. However, she did have 7 children, 1 stubborn man, and a large amount of home to tame. How did she do it? The same way Julie Andrews character did. By talking, or singing about her favorite things. Noooo?… really. I used to think that Frau Maria stole my mom’s song about raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. I didn’t know why bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens would be so great for my mom, but seeing as how she was up every day at 5, in the kitchen, singing happily, i just assumed she was a little off her nut. Did i mention there were 7 of us????
The general philosophy was the whole kill-us-with-kindness-thing. mmmm maybe not KILL us, per se, but kindness was the only acceptable way of torture. If i was fighting with my brother, did we get to finish it? ohhhh no! WE had to hug! and tell each other SORRY, and we LOVED each other. ( I’m pretty sure there wasn’t an MGM movie song that went along with that scenario, but i would have enjoyed seeing it. 2 kids in lederhosen, hugging it up while singing and trying to stab each other in the back…. or something like that. It bears looking into.) You know, that’s some seriously creepy stuff to do to kids….
It used to make me very angry that she would NOT change with the fads, the times, the decades, or the crowd. Her home, her standards, her rules, her very space was non-negotiable. GRRRRR! No matter how i argued, yelled, or bombarded her with reasonable requests, she stood firm.For instance, ME: “Mom, I’m just friends with him. We are just going for a walk, then we will hang out at the park.” MARY S.:”I understand, i still want to meet him, and have him come here to hang out. in public rooms. with doors open. around other people. But THANK YOU for talking to me first, and would you like a cookie?” See? Completely non-negotiable. hmmmmmm Another one. ME: “Why do i need to be out late? Wee-eelll, because me and Gemmie and Lee-Ann are…blah blah blah, excuse excuse excuse….see through see through see through….sweat beading on my brow… wiping it away…blah blah blah…..very sincere expression….triumphant look as i explain why it makes sense” and MARY S.: “Thank you, Sharon, for explaining such a well thought out plan, however, you will need to be home by curfew, as explained before. Would you like to make doughnuts with me?” SEEE???? No way to sway her, move her at all!!!! And complaining to my friends would do nothing at all, because they would say things like, “um, yeah, your mom is so nice! she always has doughnuts for us. She never yells, what’s wrong with you?” I never could figure out what was wrong with me that my friends saw her as so nice, and yet there was something….some way that i knew she was tricking me into doing what i didn’t want to do, and yet being so polite! How could i be mad at her politeness???? A stroke of genius, that play.
She sang all the time, too. When waking us up, she would sing smarmy songs. When cooking, getting us ready, breaking up arguments, getting us ready for bed, breaking up arguments, at dinner, going to break up arguments on the way to church/school/or other dreaded tasks…. always singing. I think it was her defense mechanism. We would be hypnotized. “What is she singing?” we would wonder. “Why am i singing it in my head?” “Dang it! Now i’ll be singing it all day long!” And we would stop our reasonable argument about why the shirt i had on was first come first serve, no matter who’s it belonged to. I could tell this was also Julie Andrew’s strategy in the movie. Those kids looked up at her with the strange, puzzled look on their face that i thought at first was adoration but now i see was hypnotized paralysis.
Well, when watching the movie “The Sound Of Music”, I never really considered the role the dad played. Honestly. Check him out. He provides the fortress. He is the harrumphing, no nonsense man that will take no horse-play. He is the CAPTAIN, for heavens sake. Just like my dad. Again, with a few exceptions. Um, Christopher Plummer had more hair, for instance. My dad has more of a Jean Luke Picard look going on. Even back in the day, just add a horseshoe of red hair, and you would have my dad. Another difference is that my dad would want to be stern. OH how he would want to be stern. And we would so not take him seriously. There is a dinner scene in the movie that captures this difference so well.
Christopher Plummer demands that his children are there at the table, on time, dressed well, and ready to eat. No nonsense. As did my dad. The difference was that we didn’t have 22 takes to get it right, so someone always needed to go to the bathroom right before the prayer, the phone rang right after he started asking how our day was, and 4 kids would dive over the table to get it, or inevitably, SOMEONE KNOCKED OVER A GLASS OF LIQUID. Now, we knew my dad would yell, would have that one vein on the temple of his shiny forehead that would pump harder and harder, and my mom would put a restraining hand on his his hand, saying, “Now honey…” We knew it, and knew that we had gone over the line. It happened at night, at dinnertime and yet it was like we would forget every day until this magic moment. But then, someone would snort. I’m going to say it was Don. He was able to time the unthinkable just right. Sometimes a pea, a bean, or some liquid would shoot out the nose at the same time as the snort and make it even more effective. ( I usually blamed him for things whether he did it or not anyway.) This would get all of us going, and …..the spell was broken. No more mean, stern father figure. Dad would mumble something about “HOOLIGANS”, and eat silently for a bit while mom smoothed things back into order. Man i love that guy.
The last thing i will say about my life being like the movie was the pranks, and the kids entertaining each other. Now i do not remember at all rowing a boat in a lake together, or escaping from one country to another with military chasing us, but i do remember performing songs around the piano and at church together. Wow, that was …. something. Mom and dad all proud of the kids getting along for 5 minutes so people would think we looked and smelled nice. We could keep a pitch, my oldest brother could play piano,close enough to pinch us if we didn’t sing, and the rest of us didn’t know that turning down a sacrament meeting performance was an option. But the playing music and singing stuck and we still love to sing together now. For the record, I do still pinch my brothers in a song at every chance i get. We would also play together. When we weren’t fighting, we were play fighting. Logan’s run, to be precise. Rubber band guns, forts, and yelling we all ok at my moms house, but we couldn’t say “Shut up”. So we learned really quickly that we could prank each other, we just had to do it POLITELY 🙂 If there was no evidence, and we looked innocent, we obviously were. Again, something that was picked up from the movie. When Maria is walking up the stairs and feels a frog in her pocket from the little angels smiling up at her, i recognize the same look on those kids faces as the ones on my older sisters faces when they lock the boys in the rooms and run downstairs, knowing that when the boys go out the window, down the roof and in through the front door, they can just blame us younger kids. No harm no foul…. We all break into a big song, the lights go down, and the neighbors clap as they call my parents, again, to let them know they are a leetle bit worried that things may be out of hand while the grown ups are away at the Stake Center….