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Finding Maria

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From Finding Maria,  Marechal Media Inc. (2010)

 The familiar purr of Aunt Georgie’s car snaps me out of my perpetual daydream. Evening already.

 “Well, look what the cat dragged in,” I let Aunt Georgie hug me, lobbing the barb over her head toward my two sisters, both married now but still gabbing and bickering like they were teenagers.

 “Speaking of cats, looks like you had an interesting night,” Carmel smirks at me, and try as I might, I feel my cheeks start to burn.

 “We’ll have one tonight, too,” Aunt Georgie gives my mother a knowing look, then hooks my arm. “Ready to go?”

 “You’re my plans?” My eyes widen, drifting from aunt to sister to sister and back to my mother, sitting calmly as if she didn’t orchestrate the entire thing. I turn back to Aunt Georgie. “You wouldn’t marry me, but you’ll take me out on a Saturday night?”

 “Can’t think of anything I’d rather do. Now we better get a move on if we’re to get in to this movie. I hear the lineup last night stretched completely around the parking lot.”

 “A movie,” I sigh. With my aunt and sisters. Can’t possibly get any better than this. “Can I sit in the front?” I brighten.

 Aunt Georgie grins. “Of course you can. Just no more proposals, okay? I may not have the strength to say no next time.”

 I have to admit, sitting in the front seat of Aunt Georgie’s shiny new Fairlane, hearing the girl chatter behind me feels nice, like poring over family albums on a rainy day. “Did you see the beautiful vase Tommy sent Mom?” I lean toward the back seat. “He must be doing okay in his antiques business.”

 “Yeah, I saw it.” Bea rolls her eyes. “Tommy sent a note to me, telling me to find the cheque he had hidden inside it and put it in the bank for Mom.”

 “Money laundering, Bea?” Never knew you had it in you.” I chuckle at the image of my prim older sister slipping her hand in Mom’s vase while Carmel played lookout.

 “It’s the only way he can send money home. The first few cheques he sent, Mom sent them back,” Bea laughs. “Mom always said Tommy would be first to make the family fortune. He’s got three antique stores in Milwaukee now, working on a fourth in Chicago. Who knew such old junk could be so valuable.” Bea’s expression hardens as she stares out the window. “At least it’s not groceries,” she whispers.

 “I don’t know. Freddie’s doing pretty good in the grocery line,” Carmel says. “He’s got his own car with the money he’s made as a carry-out boy. Tips, no less. Better than the double time he makes working the night shift.”

 “If you can call that a car,” Bea rolls her eyes.

 “It gets him around. And he never has a shortage of company,” Carmel retorts. “Think we should have given that talk of ours to Freddie first, eh, Jack? Jack, are you still up there?”

 Their conversation has lulled me to a dreamy state of blissful calm, where there are no callings, no choices, only simple events of everyday life that seem to come so easily to everyone, except me. I sit up with a start, but before I can answer, the theatre looms into view.

 “What is meant to be, will be,” Aunt Georgie says, pulling neatly into a prime parking spot, “and it seems we are meant to see this movie.”

 We troop to the end of the rapidly swelling line, snaking its way from the ticket counter to the side of the theatre. “What is this movie again?” I squint against the setting sun at the marquis.

 “The Sound of Music,” Aunt Georgie pushes down on my arm holding my wallet. “Oh no, you don’t young man. This is on me.”

 The plush velvet seat rises up to surround me in soft warmth, contrasting to the cool confines of the room. I always loved this theatre. Its carved woodwork and thick velvet curtain and dark shields on the walls reminded me of a castle; as a kid I used to pretend I rode my steed here and was about to vanquish the dragon that cowered behind the screen.

 Then the screen springs to life and I gasp. My puzzle, the one Aunt Georgie had given us, the one I had put together as my parents separated, the one I could never reassemble, appears on the screen in a montage of breathtaking images: soaring mountain peaks, mist-covered meadows, sparkling blue sky. And a voice, like a bell pealing across the green velvet hills, a voice of sheer joy at the beauty of the present blended with the agony of longing for what lies ahead. Such beautiful music, and such a beautiful girl. I watch, mesmerized, as Maria survives a broken childhood, is challenged by her calling to the convent, is sent against her will to the outside world and struggles to make sense of the outrageous task she has been given in the care of seven children not her own. I glance sideways at Aunt Georgie, who is smiling as the children slip a frog into the apron of their new governess. Of course she could relate, after her years finding bugs and snakes in our pants pockets when she did the laundry.

 I turn back to the screen, transfixed by the Captain, so obviously a man of discipline, but so obviously in great pain, just like the girl. And when they come together as one, they become strong as no other: neither loneliness nor Nazis are any match for the family when the Captain finds Maria, and she finds him. Then the music swells as they lead their family to safety. Climb Ev’ry Mountain. All fear, all danger gone in the face of faith and pure love.

 My life as it could be, as I want it to be, on the screen, in living colour and speaking to me in full stereophonic sound. There is no better place for a beacon than atop a mountain.

 But every beacon needs a light, a source for its energy. I must find her. I must find my Maria.

Excerpted from Finding Maria, Marechal Media Inc. 2010, ISBN 978-0-9867576-0-0

www.FindingMaria.com

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