A Very Large Location of Something
Maria-Centric Character Piece
For mammothluv <3 <3
She is born on a train. While speeding through the mountains toward Vienna, from the backwoods village of Tyrol, her mother presses out her screaming form.
It is a good pious name, but in the Hebrew it means bitter. Later she discovers that it is also the plural of the English word mare, a word that means, essentially, the rather large location of something. Maria feels from a very early age, before she knows the other meaning of her name, that she is, in fact, the very large location of something.
She’s just not entirely sure what yet. She knows it is not bitterness.
There are times throughout her childhood when she imagines herself taking off and flying away. Like a lark, or a sable raven, or a strong browed Teutonic eagle, whipping its wings upward over the Alps.
Her parents die before her 7th birthday.
There is an uncle in Vienna with a daughter slightly her senior. Her things are packed up by an over-eager neighbor, and still in mourning blacks she is placed back on the very same train from Tyrol that she was born on.
The glass is cold against her cheek, and the seats are plush beneath her bottom. There is a war on, but she has no idea. The uncle she has never met has paid for her journey: a final favor to her father, whom he hadn’t seen in years. A kind porter offers her a piece of kuchen, which she wraps into a flowered handkerchief and stuffs deep into her pocket.
She is nervous. She doesn’t remember being nervous before. Her parents lived deep in the country, the grass and trees and sheep made her nursery. There was nothing in the world that was unknown except her dreams.
When the train chugs into Wien Westbahnhof she is asleep.
The call rings out, “Steh auf!” But Maria dreams on. The same kuchen-offering porter collects her and passes her sleeping form off to the uncle, who tucks her into his carriage and takes her home. When she awakes, she is in the loveliest bedroom she has ever seen.
Her uncle, it turns out, is a merchant. He sells fabrics and employs many young women who sew incredible dresses for the ladies of Vienna. Her slightly older cousin, it turns out, is an insurmountable brat who gives everyone the evil eye and kicks over bedpans when she’s angry.
Her name is Gerde and Maria hates her, hates her, hates her.
It is in Vienna that Maria learns to cause trouble. She dodges pushcarts, collects stray dogs, and talks to everyone. She sneaks in to practice halls at the conservatory, steals sheet music, and at 15 manages to steal an amorous young composer’s heart.
Later, they will say that he stole hers. But she knows exactly what they mean by that.
Maria’s uncle is a benign presence. He is quiet and kind and that’s why, Maria realizes, Gerde is such a terror. There is no one to discipline her and she has no mother, and that must be hard. Maria, on the other hand, has no mother and no father, but she grew up with mountains and sheep and that was really enough in the end.
After the composer comes and goes Maria is stricken. She takes to bed for days. The girls at Gymnasium whisper that she’s soiled. Maria has no time for idle gossip, but they hurt her feelings a little, if she’s being honest. Her uncle gets her sewing lessons with one of the women at his factory. Maria learns to make trachten, and busies herself with new clothing and preparations for teacher’s college.
She will be a teacher. With her love of song, and her practical wisdom, and her undoubtedly winsome attitude about life, she knows she will make a good one.
Things do not go as planned.
The lessons are long, and grueling and although she is interested and cares, cares so much, she finds that she is bored. It is not like school in Vienna, and it is not like the mountains of Tyrol. The hours are long and she must sit still, and there is not enough time for singing or sewing or seeing the world. Plus, her fellow students are so stern.
She graduates in 1923. She is 18. She is a teacher. Her uncle dies, and everything, even Maria’s much-loved sewing machine goes to Gerde.
Nonnberg Abbey saves her life. She will tell Georg that later.
(“Ich hatte nichts,” she will whisper into his shoulder, when they are still in hiding from the Nazis.
“Jetzt haben wir einander,” he will whisper back. Now we have each other.)
Nonnberg is outside of Salzburg, also in the mountains. Its serenity reminds her of Tyrol. It is a beautiful, simple place. The Abbey is a safe-haven, but she knows that’s the wrong way to think about a marriage to God.
The other nuns know that she has run away. They can tell that this was a last resort to her, but they also know that she has found a home here. The mother superior suspects that Maria could find a home anywhere. Which is true, as long as there’s music.
The Abbey is full of music. Maria’s soul is awash in God’s love and his music, and this community of women who feel as she does. Although she knows in heart that this is just a stopover on her journey, she does not want to leave.
She moves stutteringly towards sisterhood.
The Von Trapp family changes everything.
There are mountains, and there is music, and she finds a family. Captain Von Trapp is a wonder. He is more than the mountains. He is a force.
He pulls Maria into his world and she is enraptured. There is nothing like Georg. There is nothing like the intensity of emotion that she feels when he finally sweeps her into his arms, collects her body against his and presses his lips to her mouth.
Maria has never been bitter, but she is the very large location of intense desire. She and Georg move like musical notes on the page, across lines and spaces and with a tempo she never knew could exist. The second war of Maria’s short life crashes down upon them, but Maria feels a sense of certainty in the world for the first time. She is not nervous. She is looking life straight on.
(Ich hatte nichts.
Jetzt haben wir einander.)