Quick show of hands. How many of you marked the passage of the 1970s by which Trapp child you’d be cast as when they inevitably remade the 1965 Academy Award winning movie, The Sound of Music, and came to your house to offer you a role? For example: from 1974-75 I would have been Gretl, 1976-77 were the Marta years, and in 1978 I would have been perfect for Brigitta because I was a bookworm just like her.
Anyone? Anyone else?
Oh. Well, there you have it. I was a Sound of Music nerd, listening to the soundtrack on my orange record player and studying the album cover so closely that it fell apart in my hands and had to be repaired with cellophane tape that, over time, removed patches of the Alps from the cover art. I listened to the music so many times that thirty years later I can still anticipate the tiny interruptions as the children inhale and exhale during “So Long, Farewell.” I was so ready for my closeup. But time passed and one day I was too old to play even Rolfe, who may have been 17 going on 18 but still had a faulty moral compass.
Still, I found other ways to stay connected. I don’t want to say that TSoM was the reason I studied German in school, but it wasn’t a deterrent.
When I landed in Austria for a semester abroad, one of the first places I visited was the Trapp hometown of Salzburg, staying at a youth hostel that catered to Australians, sold Gösser beer for $0.25 a bottle, and played The Sound of Music on a loop in the common room. Later, when I lived in Munich, I’d take out of town visitors on the easy-peasy 90 minute train ride to Salzburg and drag them around saying, “Here’s where Marta dropped the tomato in the market! Here’s where they marched in lines and sang ‘Doe a Deer!’ Here’s the Villa Von Trapp!”
So earlier this year when we were looking for an offbeat Vermont location to spend a few vacation days with the family at the end of June, I booked the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe faster than you can say Lonely Goatherd. This is the Austrian style hotel that Maria, the Captain, and their children built in the 1950s, first as a family farm and later as one of the first cross country ski resorts in the country.
My mother and dad drove up to Rochester to meet us and my mother kept threatening to sew us matching dresses out of drapes so we could run through a field together singing, “The Hills Are Alive.” It would be a double whammy of mom/grammy embarrassment for my kids, because I was totally game.
From the minute we pulled onto the resort property I was a little short of breath with nostalgia for my Austrian sojourn. “See the front of the building? That’s what buildings look like in Salzburg. See how it says ‘Tagessuppe’ on the menu? That means ‘Day’s Soup.’ See how it’s pouring outside nonstop? It also rains in Vienna!”
Reinforcing the full-immersion experience were hallways that were alive with framed movie posters and paraphernalia from all over the world.
You can bet that my mom and I were among the first people to arrive at the “The Real Family History” tour given by…Samuel Von Trapp. He’s a strapping, friendly guy, grandson of Maria and the Captain, and he looks perfectly capable of climbing over some Alps to escape the Nazis.
Only: it didn’t really happen that way. As we learned in the talk, there were quite a few discrepancies between the real story and the Hollywood version, like the fact that the Trapp family actually boarded a train bound for Italy rather than hiking over the Alps (which would have landed them in Germany,) and that they had ten kids not seven (Samuel’s dad was the baby, born once they got to the U.S.), and that the Captain was not the cold curmudgeon depicted by Christopher Plummer but rather a warm and loving dad.
On the other hand, every drag queen’s favorite character, the Baroness, was real, and so was the broken engagement. (Side note: my husband, upon viewing the movie in the lodge hall for the first time in decades, shook his head and said, “Man. He really should have gone with the baroness. Money AND good looks.”) Maria really did make a lousy nun. And the family harmonizing was real, so real that the family was scheduled to sing for Hitler and that’s what finally compelled them to leave. Mom and I both got a bit choked up in the family cemetary where Maria and the Captain share a plot, surrounded by the graves of six of their children.
After we said goodbye to the Lodge and headed down the road for Cali, me wearing a new silver ring cast from a tiny piece of Vermont birch bark to remind me of the time a childhood dream came full circle, I had a sudden revelation:
I think I’m still young enough to play the Mother Abbess.
Here’s a favorite daughter of the Green Mountain State – they even named a chocolate bar after her: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals with The Lion, The Beast, The Beat. This song rocks as hard as Vermont granite.