There are few figures in pop culture that are perpetually in the foreground of childhood. No matter the generation or country, Julie Andrews is recognizable. Whether it be for her many children’s books or her classic roles, Sound of Music and The Princess Diaries, Andrew’s face and voice will live on for generations to come.
Being so recognizable, her history is less well-known. For instance, I had no idea that when she was a kid during WWII, she sat on the roof of a shed to listen for planes nearing her town. As they neared, she scurried off to warn her neighbors. I had no idea that she lost her famous soprano voice to nodules and surgery. Nor did I know about Andrew’s first marriage or expansive family.
Looking into the life of someone that played such a large role in our lives feels like the balancing act of life: I learn something about you and you learn something about me. She taught kids everywhere about the balance of fun and work, of what’s important and what’s expendable, and after reading her two autobiographies, one can sense that the lessons she taught were themes she struggled with. As the breadwinner for her family for most of her life, starting out pretty young in the theatre and dropping out of school, being shipped away to different performances, and constantly sending what money she had home, even as a kid, she was never truly a child. Perhaps that’s why she loved childhood so much, making up for lost time.
Her remembrance of her first marriage, her first husband, of her first nuclear family was also treated with such empathy and nostalgia in her writing, it’s not often we see such respect with failed relationships anymore. Perhaps its the influence of her father, for he was more respectful of love and people than most would be, or perhaps it was a result of the failings of her mother with her relationships that taught Andrews how to love and respect others, either way, reading of such is a breath of fresh air. Lost love is not a loss of person or respect, yet they seem to be wrapped in one for all failed relationships.
In these trying times of misinformation, or unseen worries and fears, it’s a relief to time warp back to the communities that came together during the London blitz. To remember the art and people that got one another through the time, to learn more about some else or something else, there is no better time for an educational distraction.