From the age of 8 to whenever VHS players became unpopular, I had a strict Sunday afternoon routine. After church, while eating lunch, I’d watch Mary Poppins, the Disney movie about a magical nanny from the early 1900s. Played by a pre-hill singing Julie Andrews, Miss Poppins was “practically perfect in every way,” and she had the tape measure to prove it. In contrast, Jane and Michael, her babysit-ees, were “rather inclined to giggle; doesn’t put things away” and “extremely stubborn and suspicious,” respectively. I was old enough to know these types of personality/height links didn’t exist, but that didn’t stop me from wishing for a tape measure that insulted with extreme accuracy. I also longed for flavor-changing medicine, a carpet bag, the ability to slide up a handrail, to travel via umbrella, and to laugh impolitely at a ceiling parties. Watching the movie’s characters float from uncontrollable laughter during tea time may or may not have affected my future love for drinking tea.
My parents, unwilling to hear “Let’s go fly a kite” for the hundred-teenth time, requested for these viewings take place in the sound-suppressing basement. (Don’t worry, it was finished; I wasn’t quarantined to a cement- and spider-infested space.) Each seventh day, after Sunday school and its following church service, I’d collect my blanket, and arrange it for an upcoming nap. Then I’d lunch, generally with my siblings, and tuck in for chalk parks and animals that spoke with an accent. It was a glorious and comfortable routine, one that I somehow never tired of.
Next, my brother would head off to pretend that the shower was an elevator (complete with buttons), or to rig the washing machine so it would function with an open lid; he liked watching things get clean.* As for my sister, usually she’d join me, but the girl who watched Arthur and Barney as a daily routine would even take breaks. She first started watching every week, then cut back to every other, and finally her visits began decreasing by the month, like I was a doctor curing her of night terrors.
My Pop-session, however, remained steady – I began quoting the film in real-life situations that reminded me of mischief Jane and Michael had gotten into. If my brother would sneeze, I’d point out wearing a proper overcoat would have kept him well. When my parents went off to work, I reminded them to take a pocket watch, lest they be late by Big Ben’s standards. And when walking down the block, I queried why we didn’t have a captain that measured wind knots from atop his roof. Didn’t everyone have one of those?
To remedy my own fandom, I requested the book box set of which the movie was based. The original and printed nanny, to my horror, was much meaner than Andrews’ version, causing me to once again seek refuge in the film. My next step was to rent The Gnome Mobile, a film featuring the child actors from Mary Poppins. In a perfect train wreck of events, the future stars discover the existence of forest-living gnomes, rescue them from a freak circus, and then help marry one off, but only after a suds-soaked chase from eligible bachelorettes. I very much liked this movie as well, but in the same way that one likes watching Funniest Home Videos or 90s sitcoms. To say their next co-staring roles were an upgrade would be like saying prime rib is a step up from a 2008 McDonalds lab-stored hamburger.
At some point, after years playing in the same timeslot, my VHS copy would wear out. It was an event that forced me to purchase the film in DVD form, eliminating time spent fast forwarding through Pollyana and Herbie the Love Bug previews.
Several ranting paragraphs later, you can imagine how giddy I was to see my favorite character featured in the Olympics’ opening ceremonies. I was even more excited to see her (and what must be a pack of clones) not only fight Voldemort,** but to kick his forbidden-curse-throwing-horcrux-making-Harry-Potter-hating-wouldn’t-know-a-true-Griffindor-if-it-expelliarmus-him butt. Good job, Poppins. I’m glad you’re finally getting the recognition you deserve.
*The ladies at the salon let him do laundry whenever my mother got her haircut. Their towels have never since been cleaner.
**Which, BTW is THE BEST idea ever; why didn’t I think of this? Throw in Charlie Brown, Roald Dahl illustrations, and Alice’s wonderland and I might hyperventilate with excitement.