The hours after breakfast and before Skyler’s nap are the hardest. The appropriate TV programs like Jojo and Bob the Builder and Doodlebops have run their course. I don’t want to use my playground card this early in the day. And Skyler doesn’t really understand the concept of arts and crafts. Not enough anyway, not to annoy the hell out of her sister. Plus I have to worry about noticing 15 minutes too late that she’s been chewing on her crayons or worse, a stick of glue.

And so, with a hefty heave of dread and resignation, I climb into the teeny play pen with the two of them, hoping against all odds, that it will hold for one more day.

And miraculously, it does.

Usually, we sing and dance and play silly games with solemn instruction from Raeven the Conductor/Leader/Master of the universe, who makes up the stuff as we go along. Today, as we sang the usual children’s songs (and some of Rae’s own creations, namely The Golden Bear/Koala/Ruby Bear/Kookabura medley), it suddenly hit me how long it’d been since I’d watched a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. Or sang one of their songs.

Believe it or not, I was a HUGE fan of musicals, and not just R&H ones, but all the musicals of the time, such as My Fair Lady, South Pacific, West Side Story etc.

When we were mere kids, my parents used to take my sis and I on a lot of road trips. From Ipoh, which was where we lived, we’d visit with great frequency my mom’s hometown of Batu Gajah; Penang, where my dad and mom met while attending teacher’s college; and Taiping because it had this pretty little park that the town was famous for (isn’t it odd, that a town be famous for a park?).

Anyway, there were no highways back then. As such, travelling would usually be a day-long affair (except for Batu Gajah, of course, which used to be 45 minutes away. Now it’s just 15-20). We’d get packed in our rickety old Honda Civic which could barely fit our luggage. Mom would remember to make ready some plastic bags in case anyone should need to throw up.

And our old Civic didn’t have a player. My parents are firm believers of function over fancy stuff. So, instead, we would sometimes lug this HUGE cassette player my dad had, you know those boom boxes they used to make in the 80s, and we’d play that in the car until the batteries ran out.

And when that happened, to the chagrin of both our parents, my sis and I would provide the entertainment, by belting out every Rodgers and Hammerstein song we knew, word for word.

And boy, did we know them in and out.

Our favourites were The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady and The King and I. In fact, we loved them so much we’d recorded every musical that was aired back then, and proceeded to waste many an hour and effort, pausing and playing each show over and over again, writing down the lyrics in our “song book”, this colourful thing I still remember that I’d clothed with much love and care, in Christmas gift wrap and cellophane. And with that in my hand, in the sweltering mid day heat with the windows down and the wind whipping sharply at our faces, Eunice and I would sing and sing until we exhausted every song or our voices. Or until our parents shut us up.

Sadly, I don’t remember all the words to all the songs in all the musicals anymore. Of course, some songs you don’t ever forget. “I Whistle a Happy Tune” (The King and I). Getting to Know You (The King and I). Wouldn’t it be Loverly? (My Fair Lady).

To relive those carefree times when singing in public wasn’t a violation of copyright, I sang a few of them to the girls today. While Raeven in all indignation preferred her own ‘music’, Skyler sort of just stared at me as I crooned “My Favourite Things”. Now I know my voice isn’t the most melodious, but there she stood, transfixed, as though I was Julie Andrews herself. And when I was done, she simply smiled, and sat down in front of me, this little wonder of a girl.

And she waited for more.

The magic of musicals. They sure don’t make ’em like they used to.