Follow every rainbow
… til you find your dream.
Last night, in Hollywood, I sat in a cardboard box beside one of the people I love most in the world singing those words with tears pouring down my face. No Clare hadn’t thrown us out onto the street, though why she doesn’t is beyond me. Far from being down and out in Beverly Hills, we were out on the town.
Clare organised for a trusted and very wonderful couple of friends to babysit Hope, and she took me to the Hollywood Bowl to “Sing-a-long to the Sound of Music”.
We had to go in costume (or so we thought, lots of people wimped out), and we spent a happy evening with large margaritas and oodles of guacamole dip trying to decide what to wear. We went through every song looking for interesting ideas. Clare suggested my hairy legs would do for ‘Whiskers on kittens” but I rejected that idea! We decided everyone would be nuns or Von Trapps or Maria, and so we looked for something a little more obscure.
The song, “These are a few of my favourite things”, gave us the idea.
I spent time hunting down cardboard boxes, a friend gave us paper and a big ball of string, Clare printed off labels and stamps (authentic from Austria in the late 1930s) and we glued, stuck and folded before putting our hair up in bunches, donning our newly decorated boxes and leaving the house as “brown paper packages tied up with string”.
Nothing if not original …
I know Los Angeles well but had never been to the Hollywood Bowl … being a very overexcitable person who attaches huge significance to doing things in the ‘right place’ in the ‘right way’ being in LA and going to the Bowl was so so exhilarating. The spotlights were making an arc in the sky above the familiar arch over the stage, the lights in the houses up in the Hollywood Hills were sparkling and the 18,000 people were all buzzing with anticipation… and as far as I could see when we got there we were the only packages (baggages!!) there.
We made our way round to the side of the stage to be a part of the Pre Show Parade … all the small Marias, goatherds, Von Trapps being ushered along by their parents, grown up bearded nuns and their storm trooper partners … and us two boxed up packages. Sadly we didn’t make it onto the famous stage as the compere was being a bit too waffly interviewing the children and they ran out of time So, we missed our moment standing centre stage dressed up in brown paper and string and being cheered by the crowd … of course we would have won first prize (or so many of the people that stopped us to take our pictures told us) … but it was not to be. Another year perhaps!!
We purchased another of our favourite things (a bottle of chilled white wine) and headed up the stairs to our seats being cheered on every step of the way but audience members who spontaneously burst into song when we went by.
We found our seats and sat rather uncomfortably (but warmly) in our boxes and opened the wine … it’s hard to drink when you’re sitting in a box. The familiar music started up and I held tight to Clare’s hand … we must have looked absurd .. two grow’d up girls with hair in pony tails dressed up in cardboard boxes sitting holding hands, one (me) with tears dripping down onto the top of her brown paper attire both beaming as we sang along, “How do you solve a problem like Maria?”
I was extremely happy. Somehow this seemed the pinnacle of a long standing friendship between two incredibly different people. Clare knows how to describe fashion, always looks elegant and coiffed, she flies high in her career and she is structured, organised but has a marvellous mischievous streak, I never look elegant, may have once been coiffed for about 30 seconds, am happy being self employed and uncorporate, am fairly disorganised, very spontaneous and occasionally have a sensible streak but not very often… but we two are friends and she is someone I’d utterly trust with my daughter’s life were anything were to happen to me. She really is Hope’s fairy godmother and not just my very dear friend. There she was beside me looking (obviously) far more elegant than I even in a box (although we did both look like complete wassocks), but she was happy to sit there modeling cardboard and ponytails tied up with string, because it was my idea and, bonkers though she thinks I am, she trusts me and loves me and she knows how to take a good idea and turn it into a great one with her eye for detail and Austrian stamps.!
Needless to say I spent most of the show (the film was projected onto a huge screen with the lyrics like subtitles scrolling beneath) smiling at my friend, slurping glasses of wine and from time to time missing my daughter. Someone just infront of us had a 16 month old with them … I could have taken Hope, but she was being taken good care of and learning to speak with an American accent, and I did enjoy just being with Clare and not having to worry about anyone else … just for a few hours.
It got darker, the lights of the cars on the hills wove and twinkled their way down the canyon roads as the noise of the crowd swelled … when we all sang Edelweiss hundreds of people waved their cell phone lights in the air (it used to be lighters but nobody smokes anymore) it was so sparkly and lovely. When Rolf was facing down the Captain in the nunnery cemetery people fired little party poppers up into the air, during the frantic search for the family people had torches pointing at the stage. It was huge huge fun and all very silly. I can’t quite believe that it sells out faster than the concerts at the Bowl every year, and so many men and women are prepared to pay high ticket costs to sit outdoors watching a film they’ve seen hundreds of times before and dress in ridiculous costumes … it would restore anyone’s faith in humanity!!!
I’m so blessed in having a friend like Hope’s Godmother, and so many other incredible people in my world. I have a very small family, so my friendships matter enormously to me and shared experiences are for me a vital part of life. Even more so with a little person, she will have other people around her who know me, who know my silliness, my joy, my passions and my delight in the absurd.
The Sound of Music, is I guess something that is a part of so many of our childhoods and that was what bonded 18,000 joyful fools together. I remember singing the Goatherd song with my brother, I remember delighting in wondering how marvelous it would be to one day be “Sixteen going on Seventeen” and I also remember drunkly falling off a sofa when I was jumping around furniture at a friend’s house party when I was at university pretending that I was Liesl singing that about being totally unprepared to face a world of men. The film symbolised life, love, potential and hope for me and seeing it sitting beside someone I adore in one of the most famous venues in the world has to be one of the happiest nights out I’ve ever spent.
I felt really sad when we had to take our boxes off to get into the car to drive the hour long journey back south, and as I sat in the back looking out at the freeway lights, my inner sixteen going on seventeen year old Ellie was running barefoot across an Austrian hill following her dream.
The real me was going home, not following the rainbow, but to her dream come true; Hope, my little girl … the one I sing Edelweiss to at night to get her to sleep and the one who will be, I’m a hundred percent sure, far more of a problem than Maria ever was.