Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Sound of an Unplanned-for History Lesson

One morning as the whole family was coming to life in the kitchen, for some reason I began singing songs from different musicals. I love to belt out "The hills are alive with the sound of music." Shockingly, Jake and I discovered that our children had never watched The Sound of Music. So, after dinner he surprised me by offering a walk (together) to the video store (together) for the three-fer deal. This is the deal where every Tuesday you can rent three movies for three days for three dollars. We even held hands.

That evening as we collected together in our various spots in the living room, my husband announced that we would be viewing the Sound of Music. Morgan, who is five, immediately fell to the ground and broke down, crying. Jake patiently sent him upstairs and began the show.

The movie begins with music playing while photos of Austria are shown on the screen. Back when this movie was made they would would show the credits first. So, a name would appear and it would stay there for long enough that you could read it and have time to discuss with your neighbor who you think that is and why they were chosen for the part and whether or not they are still alive or why their parents would give such a name to their child. Rylee, who is nine, recognizes that this is not how movies are done nowadays and says, "I don't like how they did movies in the old days."

When the credits are finally exhausted and we, the parents, can finally exhale, the opening scene is Maria, by herself, singing on a huge grass hill. While most of us aren't really thinking all that much, Porter, who is six, asks, "Mom, why is she there and why is she singing?" That was a great question which I didn't get to answer because the next thing we knew some bells started ringing and Maria took off running. I'd like to interject here that I couldn't remember a single thing about this movie except for the music. In fact, some of the songs they sung I thought were from different movies. You know, cause Julie Andrews was also in Mary Poppins which is also a singing movie which is also about taking care of children.

I was just as surprised as the children were when we figured out that Maria was a nun. And I was just as glad when we got to the part where the actors were using dialogue. But of course, being a musical, pretty soon the nuns were singing and even doing some synchronized dancing. Porter asked why they kept "stopping talking" to sing. Being new to musicals, maybe Porter wondered if this is what Nuns do. As the pattern of normal acting and singing, may I say, dragged on, Rylee took up the very traditional act of whining: "Not the singing again." The funny thing about this is that ever since then they've all been singing whatever lines they can remember ("You are sixteen, going on seventeen...") and causing me to cringe whenever they butcher the timing of "Me, a name, I call myself...".

This movie led to a lot of new info for my children. One of which is the act of playing pranks. They could not understand why the children in the movie would put that frog into Maria's dress. And then when her kind comments at the dinner table brought out such strong guilt that the children all started crying, my children were completely puzzled which I found hilarious. The war content of the movie even led to a personal talk with Anthony, who is 14, about whether or not a people can be convinced to pursue such an atrocious cause
and not feel the evil in it.

As the plot thickened the questions were flying. Why is that girl out in the rain with that boy? Why don't they go inside? Why are they looking at each other like that? And, again, when Maria and Mr. Von Trapp fell in love: Why are they looking at each other like that?

All in all, it was fun sharing this movie from ye olden days (i.e. my childhood) with our own children. I think movies are a great tool for giving someone a stronger idea of life during time periods past. They are exposed to the unfamiliar in a safe environment which excavates discussions led by their own curiosities. And this can snowball into reading books at their level pertaining to the subject matter; or creating a reference to a lesson given later on. The Sound of Music covers history, music, politics, relationships, personal agency, fashion, dance, and even the Catholic religion.

I told my family that we should learn these songs really well so that we, too, can all break out in song together. I have exactly enough children for everyone to have a part. Some were all for it. Some said, "Pshaw" and "Yeah, right." and "You have fun with that."

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