The other day I was reading my morning newspaper (yes, I still read the print version) and came across a review for the new “Mary Poppins Returns,” film. I have been eagerly awaiting this film and I haven’t been able to figure out why. But the review triggered something, a memory, and now I know. Towards the end of the review, which was mostly good, it mentioned the nostalgia factor. Although no one can replace the original Poppins film, this one captures the spirit of it. Unexpectedly, I began to cry.
I haven’t had a good cry in a while. For the most part my life has been going pretty well and I’ve been focusing on gratitude and perspective in the face of a fraught world. But reading about the film made me remember the first time I saw it. I was maybe six or seven and my dad took my sister and me out for a matinee while my mom was at home with my little brother. I remember sitting in the theater with my dad and my sister. When Bert, the chimney sweep, came on screen I was struck by how much he looked like my dad. I’ve actually always thought Dick Van Dyke looks like my dad. Same long, narrow face. Same twinkle in the eye and impish smile.
My dad has been gone 18 years, now, and my mom almost 17. I used to think they were like Mary Poppins and Bert, “practically perfect in every way.” But as the years pass and I get older, I have a different perspective. My mom used to tell me being perfect leaves nothing to work towards in life. For her, the whole point in living was the experience of living. And while things could be complicated, messy and difficult, dealing with the mess was the work of living. And in the midst of that process is the real magic. She ran towards life with enthusiasm and excitement. My dad, in contrast, fought hard with life. He wrestled each day to the end. He did not seek perfection, either, he sought peace.
As for me, I don’t seek perfection. Like my mom, I try to embrace life with enthusiasm and like my dad, I often fight hard with it. I look for the magic in the mess but I also work to find peace at the end of the day. And mostly, I just miss them. I miss hearing their voices. I miss my dad’s jokes and sarcasm. I miss my mom’s sunny disposition. I miss her cooking. I miss their support. I miss seeing them holding hands. I miss being someone’s child.
So here’s to my parents, here’s to Mary Poppins and Bert, here’s to a lifetime of working through the mess and finding the magic.
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