The first great, unrequited love of my life involved a nun, specifically Julie Andrews as Sister Maria in The Sound of Music. I was nine years old, and the only nuns I had encountered up to that point all taught at my elementary school and wore black and white robes and strange, towering headdresses that gave them a shape that somewhat resembled a hulking linebacker. So Julie Andrews on the big movie screen at the new Northland Mall was quite a revelation.
But there was Julie, all sweetness and goodness and something achingly indefinable that already made my nine-year-old body tingle, throwing her arms wide and belting out “I go to the hills when my heart is lonely,” and I was quite prepared to succor her in her loneliness, plead my case as a worthy suitor, and help her make the big break from the convent.
She could play the guitar and sing, too, which made her all the more attractive. A couple years before The Sound of Music a cultural phenomenon known as The Singing Nun had invaded America in general and Catholic America specifically. The Singing Nun’s big hit, called “Dominique,” was de rigueur listening in every Catholic home, including mine. And so I spent night after night of my early childhood listening to a nun in full linebacker regalia sing in French and strum her acoustic guitar. It was nice, but Julie opened up a whole new world.
Julie, in fact, could sing the most mind-numbing drivel and melt the hearts of little children. “Doe, a deer, a female deer,” she sang, “Ray, a drop of golden sun,” and little Franz and Rolfe gawked like they were sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to the master drop pearls of eternal wisdom. Far be it from me to complain. Never had the C major scale sounded so daringly playful and provocative. Julie had the entire wholesome Catholic package. She was sweet, she was lovely, she wore a modified veil that made her look demure but which didn’t obscure that cute little English bob haircut, and she was just rebellious enough to tweak the Mother Superior and make every Catholic boy think unholy thoughts.
So sixteen years went by and I married a woman who looked like Julie Andrews. Sort of. Okay, Kate is taller. And she had dark brown hair instead of light brown hair. And she couldn’t fake an English accent worth a damn, even though I coached her and encouraged to her say words like "Edelweiss" in that charming Julie Andrews way. But she had the Julie bob when I met her, and that wholesome, apple-cheeked Julie goodness about her, and she was so darn cute that I could hardly stand it, and was ready to break out into a duet with her at a moment's notice.
“Would you like to sing “The Lonely Goatherd?” I asked her early in our dating relationship. “Maybe yodel for a bit?”
She thought I was kidding. But I would have done it, and it would have been a gloriously transcendent moment.
Julie turned seventy a few months back. She’s mostly out of the entertainment industry now, preferring to spend her time writing children’s books and working for a variety of charitable causes. But she continues to cast her magic spell. Joshua Neds-Fox recounts the tale of how his two-year-old son is now enamored with The Sound of Music. Watch out, kid. It’s insidious. And delightful. And good. Who knows what might come of this?