So over the weekend Hannah and I did a little dance because Hannah wanted to dance in her new birthday bathrobe, this during an intermission of The Sound of Music, the first time all five of us sat down to watch it together.
Maybe Hannah danced too because we’re still basking in the glow, that after fostering Hannah for, as Ugandan law stipulates, three years, then waiting for another inexplicable 500+ days, the Ugandan court finally approved Hannah’s adoption on Friday, on, of all days, Hannah’s 8th birthday.
This means eventual Canadian citizenship. And Hannah’s card will include her full name, which, for the record, is Hannah Laura (Mirembe, which means Peace) Froese.
When she was aged 3, she came to us with the ‘Hannah’ part. We provided the rest.
So Hannah and I danced and it was all a bit surreal because this particular movie does have some significance.
Like it was with the von Trapp kids, there was no mother on the scene when I was a young boy. There was, though, Dad Froese, a rather handsome and austere German widower who ran a large estate house in a certain way that we saw as not unlike Christopher Plummer.
And when I was a young boy, there was also a Julie Andrews of sorts, a “Maria” figure, a nurse-nanny, a beautiful and gentle spirit who worked at the house, and who would, in fact, sit me on her knee and sing Edelweiss, sometimes even while I wore lederhosen.
In those years, after Dad Froese arrived with both of us, for the first time together, in Canada, from Germany, my sister (aptly named Heidi) and I had always hoped that our father would marry that Maria-Julie Andrews-nurse-nanny who liked to sing Edelweiss and who, as it turned, had many years earlier, in a very unusual twist, been friends with my late mother while they were both nursing students.
We loved her as only children could and she loved us back.
But that marriage never happened; my father remained a widower for many years, our “Maria” moved away – to Hamilton – and then Dad Froese eventually married someone else who is now also loved in the family as Oma.
Movies and real life, after all, can only walk together so far.
But that “Maria” and I did keep in touch. And before she passed on a few years ago, she would get on a city bus – she lived in Hamilton for many years – to come and visit my own children in Ancaster, including Hannah, during summers when we were home from Africa.
She would join us around our table for a meal. And even though she was a shadow of her younger self, it was like the sound of her music never stopped. For the children, I would pull out the Edelweiss music box that she had once given me.
I also once happened to study in Salzburg, in the castle where the Sound of Music was filmed. What are known as the Salzburg Seminars have been held there at Schloss Leopoldskron for decades, and in what was sort of surreal for me, I took part in one a few years ago and wrote about it for the Spectator here
But nothing compares to the mystery of how Hannah, that is Hannah Laura, came into our family’s life.
Because when I noted previously that my wife and I had once prayed for a Ugandan girl to adopt, so that we could name her Hannah, the reason for that choice of name is because Hannelore (pronounced Hannah Laura) is my late mother’s name.
And so we danced, Hannah and I did, during a break in The Sound of Music. That is Hannah Laura, this little Ugandan girl who was named Hannah by someone else, that is Someone else, before she found us as much as we found her.
She danced in her new bath robe, and then we all watched the rest of the movie, and then the night ended, and teeth were brushed and backs were rubbed and bedtime prayers were spoken. And now it’s just another day of school and other mundane things.
But sometimes, yes, some days, there is a mystery in life, a mystery that goes far beyond human explanation. You just need to keep our eyes peeled to it.
On other days, you don’t even need to look. If you miss it, you’re just blind.