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Sunday, December 4, 2011


The longest week of the year, for me, is always the one after Thanksgiving. Having previously worked a three day week, this week seemed to go on and on, despite the constant wishing away of time by the commercials, which tell me in days, hours, minutes and seconds, how much time I have left to buy gifts for people I do not know. The temperature dipped and rose, and the leaves on the trees determined that Austin is in Autumn, heading rapidly towards a Texas winter, and our complex has been illuminated with the most un-festive lights that one could imagine. Our orange bags with yellow bulbs have become the laughing stock of the community, but we are a proud group, and my neighbour followed instructions and used a roll of masking tape to stick the plastic ornaments up the stairway.

I went into work on Monday, having cleared my desk on Friday, to find a new stack awaiting my attention. Dana had been to the office over the weekend, and was rather surprised that the postman had not been treated for a hernia, seeing how much mail had been squeezed through our letterbox. After the initial sigh, I remembered the spirit of the previous week, and was indeed thankful that we had plenty of work to keep us occupied. 
During the morning, Dana announced that tickets had gone on sale for the new year's programme at the Concert Hall, and would I be interested in going to see Mary Poppins. Would I? Surely that was a rhetorical question. With no pun intended, it was, indeed, musical to my ears and deciding it was probably time for a break, I went to my computer, and started to check out the coming event. Of course, my heroine, the one and only Julie Andrews, would not be the star, but I could live with the replacement. I would attempt not to judge! On reading further, I noticed the composers, and was rather confused, as they seemed very young. Mary Poppins was brought to the big screen in 1964, and unless these gentlemen were child geniuses, there had to be some mistake. Then, horror of horrors, I saw the words, 'new songs'. 'STOP!', I shrieked at Dana, who was rather shocked, to say the least. 'Please tell me you have not booked!'. He had not booked. He was, however, rather baffled at my outburst. Regaining a modicum of composure, I explained that Mary Poppins could not possibly be the same, with 'new songs'. 
Despite my previous reservations regarding the rapid advancement of technology, I am not one for standing still, and do think that modernisation, in moderation, is a good thing. However, there are some things that just should not be changed. The recipe for twiglets, Daleks being Dr. Who's number one enemy, and the songs to classic musicals. Bringing the musical to the stage obviously has its limitations, but new songs; Heck no! 

My obsession with 'all things Julie Andrews' has not actually shaped my life, and her latter roles were not as inspiring to me as the former, but as a child both Mary, and Maria, were all I ever wanted to be. Perhaps it was the ability to break into song at the drop of a hat, without anyone batting an eyelid. We had so much in common. I too, would never have made a very good nun, despite black being 'my colour'. I knew every word to every song in both Mary Poppins and the Sound of Music. For the years that I was a school secretary, the knowledge of those lyrics, and scripts came in rather handy! 
I am put in mind of a time when a young girl was sent to the school office, as she would not stop crying. She had been with her class to the local swimming pool, lost her balance, and slipped underwater for a very short period. She had become very upset, and then completely overwhelmed. This eight year old was not English, and did not speak the language particularly well. I sat next to the sobbing youngster, and attempted to comfort her, but she was so distraught, nothing seemed to work. It would not have been prudent to carry out the 'hollywood' method for treating shock, as a slap around the face would probably have landed me in quite a lot of trouble, no matter how successful it may be. (It probably would also have decidedly harmed my claim to being the tooth fairy, which was a great secret among the five year olds!) I decided upon another form of shock treatment. Talking twenty-four to the dozen seemed to start the process, as the howling died down to uncontrollable weeping, and then, Julie took over. 'What are your favourite things?', I asked. Not waiting for an answer, I continued. 'I have some favourite things. One of my favourite things is Julie Andrews'. Taking a deep breath I explained that she was my heroine, and at times like this, she had an answer for everything. 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' did, for once, not work. The biggest word you've ever heard, surprisingly enough, was not the solution. Perhaps Mary could not work her magic in this situation.   I would have to hand it over to Maria.  I continued. 'When I get sad, I think of my favourite things.....Raindrops on Roses, Whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles.......'. The sobbing reduced to whimpers, and I became bolder.   'When the dog barks, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad', brought the whimpering to no more than a few short sharp intakes of breath, and seeing there was no one else around, I rounded off, by singing, 'I simply remember my favourite things, and then I don't feel, toooooooo bad!'   On asking if she felt any better, the young girl nodded, enthusiastically. 'Would you like to go back to class?' was enough to have her jump up from the seat, and almost sprint back to her friends. Her teacher later came to see me, and asked what I had said, as she now had a most attentive and, agreeable pupil. The mere mention of my name appeared to put fear into her beautiful dark eyes.

It was years later that I received the ultimate compliment, when a friend of a friend introduced me to his seven year old daughter. Her eyes lit up, and she whispered loudly to her father, 'She is just like Maria!' I am not quite sure how I would have managed with a Captain and seven step children; I would like to think I have done fairly well with a retired Sergeant with one grown daughter (as long as I promise never to sing to them).

I am sure that to the initiated, the show that I refuse to see will be a delight, and I have no doubt as to the talent of the cast, but I will not be attending. Spoons full of sugar may tempt doh and ray, but not me! (Ouch!) 
The rest of my week was rather less eventful. The only additional mention of Mary was when Harry Belefonte sang.  We continued to work, and December came crashing through with the usual force, on Thursday, when Jack o'lanterns and cobwebs gave way to coloured lights and fake snow (although our condo lights still resemble the former).   Julie Andrews will no doubt appear in one or two movies over the next few weeks, and I shall be glued to the television. I have started my countdown to 'last orders', for my trip home. That will be ......another story.

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