Posted by: Noni | October 27, 2013

I whistle when I am afraid…

the-king-and-iWhen I was a child I was plagued by recurring ear infections. Unfortunately, I suffered excruciating pain from the fluid that accumulated behind my eardrums. Occasionally, when it got really bad, my mother would take me to an ear, nose and throat specialist who would remove the fluid by piercing my eardrum with a syringe. It was a gruesome process in which my head was rendered immobile by a barbaric clamp-like device.

The reward for having endured this terrifying and agonizing procedure was that I was permitted to stay up late and watch a movie on TV with my mother. I look back now at the times that my mom let me sneak out of bed to snuggle beside her on the couch, my head pressed firmly against a pillow to soothe the earache, and watch movies on our outdated yet functional black and white television. My grandfather was a TV repairman and he had handed down the refurbished set, salvaged from his shop.

I watched many films with my mother, not always because of my ears, but occasionally because she wanted the company. I was a sensitive and quiet child who recognized that my adult-like behavior was a mitigating factor in affording me the chance to stay up late with mom.

My brothers never knew of the secret pact between us. I often wondered if she invited them to watch TV late into the night but preferred to think I was the sole accompanist of her viewing parties. I will always remember the first time I saw the film The King and I. I was 7 years old.  The impact of the images ingrained in my memory; the costumes, the sets, the singing, the dancing, the music, the children (so many of them) and such exotic lands in far away places.

Who was this woman with the curly-headed boy who travelled to a distant land? I marvelled at the story and characters and compared them to my seemingly uneventful life. My father had died when I was a baby just like the boy in the story. His mother was beautiful, as was mine, and they lived in fear of the future with limited resources but endeavoured put their best foot forward. Much like we did.

I got swept away in with each song, each line and each lingering glance of longing and desire.

It was at such an early age that I started to develop an attachment to cinema and the ability to identify with the characters and immerse myself into the conflicts, goals and obstacles. I daydreamed about my future in similar situations.

Back then our television was only black and white, but my memories are Technicolor! Over the years I have revisited that port in Siam where Anna first set foot in a land she was destined to find true love which each viewing as fresh and impactful as the first.

One of my all-time favorite lines as quoted by Yul Brenner, Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I watched the movie some 40+ years later with my 7-year-old granddaughter. I was initially worried that she’d be bored with the story since it was a period piece set in a time she wasn’t familiar with. Then I realized that it was the same as when I had watched it. She was just as enthralled by the song and dance as I was. I mean really….? How can you doubt Rogers and Hammerstein?

Emma, my granddaughter, was incredibly impressed when I joined in whistling and singing the song, I Whistle a Happy Tune. If I remember correctly, that song was the reason that I learned to whistle. I wanted to be able to master the same skills as my beloved heroine.


  1. Great post and wonderful memories! I can relate to this — I also had really bad ear infections that would reach a crisis point almost overnight and, later, painful braces (for far too long, thanks to military healthcare and lots of moving around) and mouth surgeries, and my mother and I would spend a lot of time bonding over our favorite movies while I rested. She introduced me to classic horror flicks like The Changeling and would sit through Star Wars for the nth time after bringing through a fresh batch of hot compresses for the area just behind my ears. But being pianists and singers, we also loved those lush musicals… My Fair Lady, West Side Story, even some of the Disney movies with songs were great to take away the pain for a little while. I’m glad she brought you up on the good stuff! 🙂


  2. Awesome memories honey, glad you shared!!!


  3. The boys were never invited. They wouldn’t have enjoyed the musicals. Plus they wouldn’t sit still if you remember.
    I now watch all the oldies on TCM. Still love them.


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