Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Coup de Grace

When I was about eight years old, or nine at the most, they built (O joy of joys!) a library at the end of my street. It was less than half a mile away, so I could walk there whenever I liked. Since it was a small library with a limited number of books, we were only allowed to check out four books at a time, so I made the trip frequently. Being the kind of child who preferred curling up with a book to playing outside, reading four books didn't take me long at all. 

Neither did it take me long to get to know the children's department very well indeed. In fact, I can still remember exactly where to find the Andrew Lang Fairy Books, and the All of Kind Family series, and the Edward Eager books about four children having magical adventures. I pretty much read my way through the children's department and almost surely there was a time when my very favorite series was the one about P. L. Travers's Mary Poppins. 

I really need a new camera, but I can't get one because I have new dishes and a new Kindle.
I loved Mary Poppins and the books were great fun to read, so when I heard there was going to be a movie about Mary, even though I was 13 and thought I'd outgrown the books by that time, I looked forward to seeing it. This was because I was young and had not yet learned what usually happens to your favorite books when then make movies out of them. When I saw the movie, I was very disappointed because that, my friends, was definitely not Mary Poppins.

Mary Poppins comes when she is needed and she does what needs to be done. She can be counted on to take you to strange and fascinating destinations and get you involved in endless adventures, and give you lovely things to eat, but she doesn't, dance or sing or even smile at you. She's not nice to you. You might even think much of the time that she actively dislikes you, but she never bores you. When she corrects you, she doesn't have a nice little twinkle in her eye that lets you know everything is really all right, in fact, she has small, rather peering eyes.

So, when I heard an interview on NPR with someone involved in the making of Savings Mr. Banks, the new Disney movie about P. L. Travers and the making of Mary Poppins, and when I heard that Mrs. Travers hated the movie and about the conflict between her and Walt Disney and the movie's writers, I was interested. I knew that there was going to be a definite slant in favor of Disney, of course, and I knew that they would make things turn out nicely, but I thought there might be some truth in the movie, so we went.

I found the movie to be entertaining, although pretty sappy in parts. Emma Thompson was very good as P. L. Travers, and I could occasionally catch glimpses of the Walt Disney that I grew up with in his portrayal by Tom Hanks, although I also caught that Tom Hanks Nora Ephron movie character peeking through. From what I've read, the background material on Mrs. Travers was fairly accurate, and the relationship with the writers and Disney has some basis in fact.

A couple of days later, though I started thinking more about the movie, about how Disney changed the character of Mary Poppins. In fact, it was more like they created the character they wanted, and dressed her up as Mary Poppins. They had no respect for the character herself. And then it occurred to me that not only had Disney done this with Mrs. Travers's character, they had done the same with Travers. They created the character they wanted, and dressed her up as P. L. Travers. Game, point, and match for Disney Studios.


Friday, December 27, 2013

What More Could You Ask?

I don't know about y'all, but when I choose a dentist, there are certain things I look for--you know, like gift cards--or maybe a free iPad. Well, if you're as choosy as I am, this might be the dentist for you!

Not only that, but his/her giveaways are seasonal. In October, you could get free Halloween costumes. In November, where else would you go for your Thanksgiving turkey? (I have to admit that the Turkey offer somehow reminded me of WKRP in Cincinnati.) It almost makes you want to get a new cavity every month so that you can take full advantage this dental cornucopia. I'm thinking this dentist could teach the president a few tricks.

I can't wait to see what he/she has in store for the long dreary days of January. 


Thursday, December 26, 2013


In which I learn that it's a mistake to take oneself too seriously.

I had this all planned. I was going to go to Mass on Christmas Eve and make an act of renunciation, and then on Christmas morning, I was going to throw a stone in the river as a symbolic act to seal this renunciation.  So, I did go to Mass, but I don't really remember much about it except that I kept getting sicker and sicker by the minute. I don't even remember if I even prayed about this thing I'm renouncing.

Then, when Christmas morning came, I would not have been able to propel a stone into a body of water to save my life, even if it meant dropping a piece of pea gravel into the toilet. So, I sat in the corner while Christmas went on around me and waited. 

This afternoon I was feeling a bit better and it was warm enough to go outside, so I figured the time was right. I went outside and found a stone I liked, and even brought it inside to take a picture. Here it is.

And off I went to throw it in the river.

As I was driving down the highway that crosses over the Coldwater River to the place where I planned to throw the stone in, I noticed something troubling. The river wasn't there. The bed of the river was there revealed in all its glory, and there was one deep channel where people were fishing, but it was narrow, and just wasn't what I was looking for, and besides, I was afraid I'd hit one of the fishermen. So, I drove on to the site I had chosen, but no luck--barely any water. I was stymied for the moment.

Finally, I decided to go down the highway to place where we liked to walk before the highway was actually open. I have some pictures of it someplace on the blog, but the search engine doesn't seem to be working. This is the way it looked a few months ago.

Strangely enough with the river so low, the water here is deeper now, and all the flowers are gone, so I decided this would have to do. I stood near the top of the bank in a place you can't see in the picture and threw the stone as hard as I could. I heard a soft thud. I don't know where the stone went, but it didn't even reach the water. I climbed back up a bit, selected another stone. Walked down. Threw it. Thwack! It hit that plastic barrier you see there. Another try. Still no luck. By this time I had remembered a few things about myself: 1) I've never had any strength in my arms, 2) I'm missing one of the bones in my right elbow, and 3) I throw like a girl. I was also conscious of the people driving by wondering what the heck that crazy woman was doing. I was really afraid somebody would stop.

For the fourth try, I moved closer to the barrier. It's pretty soft down there, so I was worried about going too far down. I managed to get the stone in the water, but just barely. So, up I went again to get another stone. By this time I didn't care if the stone was round or square, beautiful or ugly, I was just trying to figure out whether a big or small stone would work best. Then I bent over and saw a white, heart-shaped stone. It wasn't a "use your imagination and close one eye and hold it in just the right way and you can see it's shaped like a heart" heart-shaped stone. Anybody would have recognized it as heart-shaped. So, I picked it up and walked all the way down to the barrier and flung it in. I have to admit that it didn't go a great distance, but it did go far enough, and it was the best I could do.

On the way to river, I had had this sort of tragic, romantic image of myself standing by the river and gracefully slinging this stone way out into the water--a saint, really--sort of like Joan of Arc walking up to the stake to be consumed in flames for the love of God. By the time I finally managed to do the deed, I was laughing at myself so hard that I couldn't even dredge up a little bit of self pity. The more I think about this entire experience, the more I see that it's an even better metaphor for what has been going on in my life than I thought. But that's a story for another day--and you won't see it here.