Last week I recounted a conversation I had with my sister in which we were trying to figure out what would possibly induce anyone to scale a mountain if they weren’t, say, fleeing from Nazis. It later occurred to me that The Sound of Music reference might not be as immediately obvious to everyone as it was to my sister, who, like me, grew up immersed in the world of the von Trapp family.
Our fluency in popular culture was severely hampered by the fact that our mother got rid of our TV in a rather dramatic fashion. Even before this incident, we were only allowed to watch a select few shows. That limited, but weirdly eclectic selection included: Saturday cartoons, The Waltons, the Charlie Brown specials, the Miss Universe pageant, The Wizard of Oz, and last, but certainly not least: The Sound of Music. This movie, which we watched only once a year, played a disproportionately influential role in our lives.
The Sound of Music was always one of my mother’s “favorite things.” She would get starry-eyed whenever she watched it. When she was in a particularly good mood, we might hear her humming Edelweiss in her rich, melodious voice. Drunk on the unabashed sentimentality of The Sound of Music, she loved to indulge the fantasy that her own children would one day hit the road as The von Kim Family Singers. The closest the von Kims ever got to performing in public, however, was the occasional church service. My mother would try to recreate the movie’s magic by having my sisters and me sing a hymn in three part harmony. Somehow the effect was never right. There was always some important element missing, but she could never quite put her finger on it.
One day it hit her like a bolt of lightning. She had always been particularly fascinated by the scene in which Julie Andrews fashions play clothes out of curtains for the von Trapp children. Inspired by this brilliant example of ingenuity and frugality, my mother one-upped Maria herself. She laid her hands on some stiff maroon crushed velvet upholstery fabric from which she made each of us matching pantsuit ensembles…
We wore these. In public. And not just to church, but to school as well. This would be around the same time that we were stealing food from squirrels.
Fortunately, there is no photographic evidence of us sporting these outfits, but my sister has lovingly recreated them for you: