The Road to There

Mary Martin and kids in the original 1959 Broadway production of The Sound of Music.

A midsize car, the open road, two kids, hundreds of miles to go. What’s so fearsome about that?

For my family of four, we’ve found the key to great road trips in the car together.

No, it’s not screens mounted into headrests. No, it’s not leaving at bedtime and letting the kids sleep the whole way (although this was an effective tactic some years ago when our daughter was little). No, the secret is not Dimetapp or any other “cough suppressant” sleeping aide (this was actually recommended to me by a college friend who shall remain unnamed).

The secret for us is the soundtrack of the 1959 Broadway production of “The Sound of Music.”

“Can we listen to Sound of Music music,” my daughter asks any time she notices a musical stoppage. “I say ‘Sound of Music music’ because it’s the music from ‘The Sound of Music.’”

But to better understand how we got here, let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start).

A MUSICAL FAMILY

As a family, we’ve been listening to and watching musicals together for a long time. In a way, it started with “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” which my daughter first saw around the time she turned two. At the time, she’d always ask for “Barley Bay-own.” When she was staying with my parents that Christmas, she kept asking and asking my mom for “Barley Bay-own” and mom just didn’t understand. “Darling, do you want to watch Charlie Brown,” my mom finally asked. “Yes!!!” she exclaimed and collapsed in frustration and relief.

The first musical we watched together as a family was “White Christmas,” starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney. But that’s more of a seasonal pastime.

The uncontested, year round favorite of all is “The Sound of Music.” We’ve watched it a couple times as a dinner-and-a-movie. Our son knows the songs. His version of the “Goatherd” song is hilarious. Our daughter knows all the words to every song. We whistle it, we do parodies, we sing parts, we put the baby to bed early and have movie nights (don’t tell him, please).

Don’t get me wrong: At home, my daughter clamors for cartoons at times. Our playlist includes the venerable Dinosaur Train (which my granddad introduced us to), SuperWhy, The Cat in the Hat and a few others. And when we’re at either of our parents’ houses, our daughter loves to “watch a kid show” and sit in someone’s lap.

But the clear winner whether at home, away or en route is “The Sound of Music.” And that’s for all of us.

Leaving the flat, deltaic wetlands of South Louisiana, we ascend the rolling Mississippi and Alabama hills. In the day, we fill those hills with the sound of music, and we sing through the night like a lark who is learning to pray.

And when hunger or road fatigue leaves us out of focus and bemused, we hit play again on the soundtrack and start the musical journey once more.
In the course of following every byway, every path you know, if you hear yodeling and think it may be a lonely goatherd, fear not. You’re probably just hearing us singing along our merry way.

And after our stay with family or at the hotel comes to an end, when my wife and I regretfully tell but firmly compel the kids to climb in the car so we can head home, those familiar tunes await us to quicken the drive. Before we exit the driveway, “Can we listen to Sound of Music music?” beckons from the backseat.

And some hours later as we arrive at home with sleeping children in the back and drowsy parents in the front, we carry to bed our little blossoms of snow, where they will lay peacefully until the morning when they will greet us anew.

So next time you take to the highways with kid in tow, before you fire up the DVD player or pass out the headphones, take heart. Think instead of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens.

These indeed are a few of our favorite things.