The Sound of Music was my mother’s favourite film.
In those days cinemas would periodically show classics on re-release as well as the latest films, and this would come round now and again. She took me to see it five times. Five. We also had intervals back then so you could buy an ice cream. The intermission came at the same time, always, just as Maria runs away at the suggestive manipulative behest of the nasty conniving baroness.
I can sing all the songs. I know all the words. At work I sometimes spontaneously burst into Climb Every Mountain with next to no provocation and I am quite sure that somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.
We only ever went on one foreign holiday. To Austria. A package deal to a resort near Innsbruck, but the whole point was the day spent cramped on a coach to Salzburg at the other end of the country. This is the house where they filmed. This is the cathedral where Maria got married. My mother was practically frothing with delight.
Oh and we had the record too. It got played a lot. The house was full of The Sound of Bloody Music. I have Julie Andrews imprinted in my head forever.
But I have absolutely no idea why she liked it so much.
Was it the scenery? Was it the triumph of true love? The songs? Did she have a secret fantasy to marry an ex-navy Captain? Did she yearn to put me and my two brothers on a stage wearing Lederhosen, and weep at our beautiful rendition of Edelweiss? Or did she just wish she had been a singing nun?
One of the local theatres here periodically puts on a Sing-along-a-Sound -of-Music event. I am always tempted to dress up as a black-stockinged nun and go along, just for catharsis, to get it out of my bloodstream. Fat chance.
I never asked her why she liked it so much. And now I can’t. She rarely speaks and when she does, thinks my name is Eric. Or John. Or maybe I’m her uncle that died in the war. She was a vegetarian for 30 years (she also insisted her dog became vegetarian with her) but now eats only ham, surreptitiously slipped from the middle of sandwiches when she thinks no-one is looking.
She encased the toilet cistern in a cardboard box and painted it white. Glued on pictures of ducks cut from a magazine. Don’t know why she did that, either.
It’s too late to ask questions.
It’s too late to ask why they never told me I had a sister, stillborn a few years before me. Too late to ask why that was the only day my father ever wept openly. Too late to ask if it was true she never got over that.
Now there is just ham. Some silence. And a long wait.