Growing up, I had certain ideas of what love should be – and a lot of these ideas came from Disney movies. Yes, I know, I act so cynical, but deep inside I wanted romance, to be swept off my feet by a handsome knight, and to have my own Ever After. Whatever that meant – the movie usually ended at that point.
I was twelve when the Little Mermaid came out in theaters, starting the Disney Renaissance of “princess movies” that I would watch with a guy friend I hoped I’d end up with eventually since we both were good artists, and liked musicals and Disney movies and singing together, and dressing up for prom, and . . . I probably should have seen some of the signs earlier. But at the time, I thought it must be me, and that I must be some reject who would never find real love cause here I’d finished high school, and most of college, and had never had a real boyfriend.
If you want to know what I thought a romance should be like, you can just watch the movie Enchanted, specifically this scene. It makes fun of Disney tropes, but Amy Adams is so adorable you have to love her or you’ll die or something.
Then I had a whirlwind romance at what was basically a Renaissance Fair, which didn’t play directly into my fantasies at all, and he was pretty, and he thought I was pretty, and this was surely going to be Ever After. But I happened to be on vacation at the time, and so it was a long distance relationship, and we didn’t have texting but long distance phone calls. So it was on one of those when I asked him once if I was worth it. And he didn’t respond.
I was 21. And as the relationship crashed and burned over the fall of 1997, I figured I would never find love again, and boy was I angry I was cheated. Then in the spring of 1998, a friend, who was about twice my age and really as much a mentor as a friend, took me to church. I didn’t care much for it since women were told to be quiet occasionally and respect their husbands and also you had to get up way too early. Then she told me there was was this guy who asked about me, and yeah I was just that easy to convert, so sue me.
My friend happened to invite us both over to her house and set us up, and I said to heck with convention and asked him to exchange phone numbers. And I called him first, because I wanted to tell him all about my birthday. We saw Mulan on our first official date, and I talked about how much I loved it that a Disney princess finally got to kick butt like a man! Much later, when I asked him if it was okay that I was not the good church wife Susie homemaker type, he reminded me of that first date.
It finally occurred to me why I had so many first dates in conservative Texas.
He didn’t seem like a knight except for all that rusted metal he liked to play with, but he wrote me poetry (not great poetry, but poetry staring me – he has not done this since we dated), and he was kind, and a good guy, and we had fun together on our dates. Since he went to church much of the week, I knew he wasn’t out drinking and partying. He too had given up on love at the ripe age of 25, and bought his own house. In his neighborhood, all these little boys would follow us as we rode our bikes around the block. So kids loved him too.
I thought that was enough for an Ever After, but I really had no clue at the time. It wasn’t until we had years together and had experienced so much and gotten through it, that I understood just what love was, and what made a real, steadfast knight. I have depression and anxiety, which is not easy to live with- I know as I have relatives with it as well. But he has stayed through it all, and I have stayed with him and his quirks (our yard is filled with rusted car parts for one) as he yelled and I cried and we made up again and again.
Now it’s been TWENTY YEARS today, and I can answer the question “How do you know he loves you?” It’s not matching his clothes to your eyes either, sorry Amy. It is:
Repeatedly rescuing you from yourself without getting angry, like when you get lost in a city you’ve lived in or near all of your life, or you lock your keys in your car with it running in the rain in a city fifteen minutes from his work.
Reminding you why you should wait for babies, then upon finding out you are pregnant after nine months of marriage, staying calm and saying “Well, we’re having a baby” while your wife runs in circles, screaming and shouting.
And four years later, doing this all again.
Holding your hair back when you throw up from morning sickness.
Yelling about money, or how much time you do or don’t spend together, or any number of other heated arguments, storming out of the house – and coming back.
Taking the baby out with him alone, and not just because she got him “More attention than a dog!”
Going out after a long day of work and picking up your many prescriptions, and sanitary products, and even extra yeast control medication because “it was on sale”. Okay, the last part’s a little weird.
Confronting a doctor when he’s really an introvert because the doctor missed a strep throat diagnosis on your little girl.
Listening to you cry over nothing, letting you lay your head in his lap, and though he has no words or understanding of what is going on with you, just being there. And when he can’t be, encouraging a daughter to actually stay home from church to “Keep Mommy company.” I never knew he did that till later.
Giving indirect compliments to someone else like: “You should see her draw with chalk on the sidewalk like it’s pen on paper! She makes these girls with all this flowing hair and it’s amazing!”
Voting for the opposite political party but not caring about politics to the point that you smile and say “That’s one happy Democrat” after she comes home from a Bill Clinton speech. Then putting up with the same liberal politics from two daughters.
Living with three hormonal women.
Working hard for years for a low salary that slowly builds up until finally your annoying bosses that never want to work leave and you get to be the boss of annoying kids that never want to work. And never quitting.
Being proud of your wife’s many academic degrees even if they seem to do little for the family money-wise.
Staying calm and loving with each job your wife loses, because “Your most important job is being a mom, and you’re such a good mom to those girls.”
Putting up with your Disney doll collection even if they are all over the house. I mean everywhere. At least they aren’t clowns?
Taking lots of time off work to take you six hours to get expensive ECT treatment for depression, for weeks at a time, in the hope that maybe you will finally get better. Keeping you from falling out of shuttles after you have anesthesia from that treatment and are sure you can walk just fine.
So many more things I didn’t name and finally . .
Still loving her after all these years, and willing to do so for more years to come.
I love you, Mr. Alice. Here’s to another twenty years.
Once again, WordPress, I do not want to learn about your new editor, and you can’t make me. Not until you take away the old one, like when the librarians took away the physical card catalog and I had to use the computer one.
Yes, there were physical card catalogs, shut up.
So I sort of missed telling anyone about what to buy for Christmas, and I’m super sorry because I know you were all bereft without my helpful shopping lists. I like the word “bereft”. I also missed Christmas day, but then I have had other Christmas specials if you want to check them out. Come on, you have nothing better to do but work and I know you’re on WordPress right now.
My best gift this Christmas was Tramadol. I contracted another sinus infection (I can get them from pure air I think) and my head was going to explode and I told the doctor that regular Tylenol and Ibuprofen had not helped so could he give me a shot of the good pain stuff? The doctor asked why I didn’t just take regular pain meds? Yeah, he did. Then he looked at ME like I was your average druggie. I am not average, you jerk. He gave me the shot. I felt so much better. Thanks, Tramadol!
I even missed Boxing Day! It’s a real holiday for the UK and Canada and I’m not sure who else. Maybe UPS. I was just thinking about boxing day because my highly cultured 14-year-old brought it up, since she is in debate and thus reads way too much about politics, other cultures, and critical thinking skills. She once wore a shirt with a UK flag to a 4th of July celebration, and no one noticed. Question: Do you guys celebrate independence from us Yanks?
Also I found a snotty article in the New York Times about what Boxing Day is in America – hint: she’s snotty about how dumb we Americans are. I mean sure, we are, but like I need this chick to say it. I’m pretty sure she’s not British cause I didn’t see any extra “u’s in there or anything. She said in the UK you guys give out canned goods and stuff to people right after Christmas (like how much charity to you NEED, sheesh), but that we Americans just stare glassy-eyed at our empty Christmas-present boxes. My family did NOT, Ms. New York Times, we stared at our our still full Christmas bags. They are festive and much easier than all that wrapping crap that my aunt insists on continuing to do, with ribbon so tight you have to saw it off with a knife.
The bags are still full because we haven’t figured out where to put the stuff away yet. I know, first world problems right? Where to put that pregnant mermaid ornament (an earlier gift from the same aunt)? As far as cardboard boxes, I do have a lot of those because I shopped from Amazon this Christmas. It is my hope that my small contribution will help them take over the world of merchandise, if Disney does not get there first. I should also point out I shopped too much from the Disney store so . . . healthy competition, guys.
I did get a new computer since the one I’ve had for many years, which was a gift from a friend who had it for years before that, was conserving its last breaths of life by repeatedly turning itself off at random times. My husband bought my new-to-me (refurbished!) computer with money from his extra job guarding the media gate (with his mere presence!) during the first half of the fall football games. I think I’ll keep him, especially since in two days we will have been married for twenty years. It seems just yesterday I was the 22-year-old clueless, glassy-eyed newlywed staring into the camera with no idea what I was doing. I mean, I still don’t, but I’ve gotten better at hiding it.
Anyway, a new computer meant that I had to remember my old passwords which are usually saved on my computer because I can’t remember them. I kept mashing the same words in, since I really thought I knew them this time, only to realize that I was trying to get into wordpress.org instead of wordpress.com. I didn’t know there was a difference. Once I got on the right one, wallah, I did get into my own blog and there I found a list of blogs to read, and one of those was anupturned soul’s, and guess what she was talking about? Boxing day! And she’s like certified British!
I think we may be Time Life books connected sisters, anupturned soul (can I call you soul? Up? Got a nickname?) because I also like Dr. Who, or I did before this latest one and I totally got your reference to Amy Pond. I think she is one of the best companions and I felt very sad when her baby melted. For those who don’t watch, you had to be there. Thank you for your childhood definition of Boxing Day “. . . a day when everyone put on boxing gloves and punched each other openly, freely, without legal repercussions.” I can get behind this holiday. Like the Purge, only friendlier and not quite as bloody.
I do still plan on finishing my review of Mary Poppins. I am currently reading her second book, Mary Poppins Returns (also a new movie go watch now says Disney counting their money bwahahaha!) and the kids are still going on adventures and Mary Poppins is still being a jerk, so business as usual. I haven’t seen Mary Poppins Returns yet, but I did watch Saving Mr. Banks, a movie about the author of Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers, and Walt Disney, who tried to get the rights to those blasted books for about as long as I’ve been married. Also I saw Before the Mouse, a movie about Walt Disney’s early years and struggles to get started with animation. Say what you will about him, but Walt Disney was freaking determined. He also made his fortune without a “small loan of a million (or 600 million give or take) dollars”.
So now that you’re all caught up with me, what’s up with you guys? Guys?
Note: I realize Mary Poppins is not a fairy tale, but it is Disney (sort of) so it fits with my “Behind the Fairy Tale” series. For more Disney-fied tales, see the Disney tab up top.
Mary Poppins. I know I saw the movie when I was a kid, but before all this anniversary stuff, the only thing I really remembered were the songs that never leave your brain (SPOON FULL OF SUGAR SING ITTTTT!!!!) and, of course, those animated penguins. They were the first things I mentioned when my Things informed me that their high school would be doing a production of the Mary Poppins Broadway musical. I asked if they would be playing penguins. I continued to ask this long after they repeatedly informed me that there were no penguins in the musical.
And that’s in spite of this being based on the Disney movie, which was based on the book by P.L. Travers. If you didn’t realize Mary Poppins was a book, you aren’t alone. I didn’t either, and I am an English major and worked in libraries for years. Once I figured this out, though, it led to a rabbit hole of research since before the musical there was a movie and before that there was a book and before that there was a grumpy old lady that Walt Disney pestered for, I’m not kidding, twenty years before finally allowing him to make a movie. I used to get paid for this sort of research, but then they told me what to research and I didn’t even get to choose what my exhibits were called. Or take credit. So get ready cause this is gonna be a doozy.
The original book was based upon the early 1900s and written in 1934, the Disney movie was released in 1964, and the Disney theatrical musical created in 2006. In honor of the anniversary of Mary Poppins, Disney has released a bunch of merchandise as well as a sequel, Mary Poppins Returns, due for release on December 19th. Believe it or not, Disney didn’t just pull this sequel out of their . . . mouse hats, there is actually a series of these books. I’m a bit confused as to what anniversary we’re celebrating here, though, since neither the book or movie has an even-numbered anniversary, according to the dates I’ve found. No matter – nothing dampers Disney’s spirit. I mean NOTHING.
I figured I would start with the musical, as it was the latest one released. My beautiful daughters naturally got starring roles. Thing One was a doll, and Thing Two a table. Well, to be technical, Thing Two worked as crew, and got to animate the table as she was the only one small enough to fit inside of it. She sat under that table on stage for thirteen minutes while waiting for her chance to make it collapse, then magically straighten on cue. I heard this took a few tries since according to Thing Two, actors are really clueless about how to do their jobs. Like not get seen until they are supposed to be seen (if you can see the audience, they can see you). As for crew, they are never supposed to be seen, yet accomplish so much detail. The special effects were very impressive, and included that table repairing itself and dishes flipping back to their spots (usually) on Mary’s command, a flying kite, music and lights on cue, smoke that sort of worked, and much more.
So I got a look at both backstage and on stage this time, as Thing One performed her swan song performance as a high school senior (I have no idea how this happened, or how her sister got to be a freshman. I guess I slept a lot.) Unlike the years she played a part in the chorus (you probably remember her as the famous spoon in Beauty and the Beast), she didn’t have to rehearse nearly as much, and yet got her name in the main cast as a china doll that Mary Poppins brings to life, along with some other toys, in order to scare the living crap out of the children who don’t treat their toys well. Between this musical and Toy Story, I’m starting to wonder if I should keep my doll collection.
Anyway, she got a lot more noticed this time (her doll zombie act was unparalleled, unless you count that incredible table), and she got to play another small role as a banker. The father in the story is a banker named, wait for it, Mr. Banks and he sings a lot about order and precision as well as constipation, judging from his attitude for much of the play. He also has a wife with the awesome responsibility of finding a nanny so she can host dinner parties, and two fairly awful children. They can’t seem to keep a nanny long, so Mary Poppins flies in on her umbrella to help them straighten up their crap.
I realize I am biased here, but all the students did an amazing job of carrying out this production. The many musical numbers have unbelievably complicated choreography, including a ton of lyric memorization, hand motions, tap dancing, singing, jumping around, and generally encouraging heart attacks in the very young (and old just watching them). You probably remember these songs (“Spoon Full of Sugar”, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, “Chim Chiminy Bang Bang”, etc.) but did you remember “Step in Time”? Cause that one went on for like fifteen minutes of Chimney Sweep frantic tap dancing and singing. A few times the audience thought it was the end and tried to do an ovation, since surely these kids were going to drop right on the stage, but nope, it just kept going. This is especially impressive when you consider that chimney sweeps had a high rate of lung disease.
Yet the songs never seemed pointless, and all flowed seamlessly along with the story. A spoonful of sugar helps unpleasant stuff like medicine, cleaning, and national news go down easier. Supercali- you get the idea – means you can do anything in Scrabble and win, cause creativity man. Mary Poppins and her pal Bert use these moments to teach the children how to be more human in imaginative ways. I joke about “Chim Chim Cher-ee”, but it’s actually a very moving song, sung throughout the musical both as a happy tune and a somber melody about making the most of your lot in life, even as someone stuck cleaning out chimneys, and seeing beauty through the smoke and ashes. It is also a reminder that these people exist in the shadows, helping the rest of us with what we take for granted.
My favorite song, “Feed the Birds”, is the most real, though, and sung by the old, homeless Bird Woman who comes to the steps of the cathedral everyday to sell bread crumbs to feed the birds. Don’t just walk by her! Give the woman some tuppence, you jerks! Yet we do walk by, don’t we? Mary Poppins encourages the children to see the dirty old woman and chimney sweep as real people, deserving of our attention. It was reportedly Walt’s favorite song as well, and even the original author liked it. The soft, pleading melody makes me cry every freaking time.
Mary Poppins brings the children into an imaginative world that exists right inside our own, whether they are jumping into a painting or flying up a chimney or just watching her drag coat racks and more out of her purse, just like a real mom. She teaches them kindness and morality, but not in a didactic, sickly sweet way. She is still proper and firm, and knows how to get the kids, and adults, in order. She does things just as she wants them, always in control of every situation. When the mother asks for references, she says “I make it a point never to leave references” (a line used in both the movie and the book) and her confidence just stuns the mother into silence. I’d love trying that at an interview. When the kids continue to act bratty, she even leaves for a while, letting them try it out with the father’s former nanny, whose references included gulags. The kid actors did a great job of showing absolute terror and begging for forgiveness. Mary returns, of course, and banishes the old nanny in a singing contest, as one does.
It isn’t only the kids she’s trying to reform, though, but the father. This story is rather old hat by now (think “Cats in the Cradle”), but was newer back when the movie was first produced. Even the book, while wildly different in areas I will later show, points out that time is fleeting. Children grow, imagination dwindles, life sets in, and cynicism grows. The usual work ethic encouraged in adults, especially fathers, keeps them from the joy of knowing their own families and home lives. Mr. Banks figures this out when he stands by his principals, nearly loses his job, but finds his family in the process. He even sings and dances at work, proving that Mary Poppins’s songs can warp anyone’s brain cells.
The ending is bittersweet, as Mary Poppins has to leave, having accomplished what was needed. Also, she promised to leave when the wind changed direction. As she travels by umbrella and wind, she probably has to catch it at the right time to get where she’s going next. It’s cheaper than airline fare at least.
The musical ends with one last song, “Anything Can Happen if you Let It”, and then a rousing chorus in which every kid gets a chance to come back on stage (including my doll), take a bow and once again dance like wild maniacs. Crew does not get acknowledged on stage, something that may change by senior year if my Thing Two, who is a star of Debate, has any say, though that might be difficult as they are supposed to also control the lights, etc. It was a great time for all, though, and prompted me to see what was behind this musical tale. Since I’ve gone on a long time already, stay tuned for more “Behind Mary Poppins”.