I have always found Mary Poppins to be a tragic character. My friends laugh at me for this (I can hear their mockery now), but it seems unavoidably true to me. Mary Poppins, that poor soul, gives her life to these children, comes to care for them deeply, and at the very moment when their connection is the strongest, she must leave them to start the whole process over again. Sure, the magical nanny leaves happy families in her wake–the children adore their parents, the parents dote on their children. But who takes care of Mary? Not Bert, I can tell you that. He’s too busy tap-dancing across the London skyline, scouring sooty flues with his mates. And that talking parrot umbrella cannot be much in the way of company. No, Mary is carried along the lonely winds of chance to her next destination, where she will (despite her determined resolution to stay aloof) fall in love with yet another family in which she cannot remain a member. Now if that isn’t a tear-jerker, I don’t know what is. Take the following conversation for example:
Parrot Umbrella: That’s gratitude for you. Didn’t even say goodbye!
Mary Poppins: No, they didn’t.
Parrot Umbrella: Look at them! You know, they think more of their father than they do of you!
Mary Poppins: That’s as it should be.
Parrot Umbrella: Well? Don’t you care?
Mary Poppins: Practically perfect people never permit sentiment to muddle their thinking.
Parrot Umbrella: Is that so? Well, I’ll tell you one thing, Mary Poppins: you don’t fool me a bit!
Mary Poppins: Oh, really?
Parrot Umbrella: Yes, really. I know exactly how you feel about these children, and if you think I’m going to keep my mouth shut any longer, I-…
[she clamps his mouth shut]
Mary Poppins: That will be quite enough of that, thank you.
And today, I had a horrible realization. I’m signing myself up for a career of a Poppins-esque nature. I was thinking about graduation and saying goodbye to all of my wonderful professors (Okay, I am returning next year for grad school, but this is still the end of an era. Work with me.) and how hard it will be. Then I thought about how they go through this EVERY YEAR. For four years, they pour into a certain group of students. They give their effort every day to teach, encourage, and challenge. And the good professors, the kind of professor I’d like to be, actually love their students and are grieved to see them go, even as they know it’s for the best.
IT IS TRAGIC. I am walking around an academy full of Mary Poppinses. Sure, it’s beautiful too. But, oh, the heartache of an endless stream of people to love and let go. Sometimes I wonder if I’m up for that. Saying goodbye has never been easy for me, though it has gotten easier as I grow up (and I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing). But how do you do it, year in and year out? That is not a rhetorical question. I need my professors to answer *cough*Housholder*cough*.
Whenever I find myself sniffling through the end of Mary Poppins, my bemused friends always tell me to think of all the good that Mary does for people. It’s a happy movie, they say, because she’s happy helping others (even though she must always be alone at the end of the day). Maybe so, but I think Bert gets it right when he feels the winds of change a’blowin: “Winds in the east, mist coming in, like somethin’ is brewin’ and bout to begin. Can’t put me finger on what lies in store, but I fear what’s to happen all happened before.”