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How Mary Poppins Saved Mr. Banks

Updated on December 13, 2016
Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran is a writer & former newspaper reporter/editor who traveled the world as a soldier's better half. Her works are on Amazon.

Can you recover from your childhood?

Someone once said (wrote an entire book about, actually) you never recover from who you were in high school.

I'd take exception to that, being an example of someone who not only survived, but thrived beyond, and probably because of, the traumas of the adolescent experience. I believe it is more perceptive to say what you never really recover from is who you were in childhood, what you experienced, and how you were treated.

Case in point: the movie, "Saving Mr. Banks."

Was there ever a more benign character than Mary Poppins? Who would have dreamed, in their wildest imaginings, that behind this nurturing mother-figure the author created, would lurk a dark history?

Well, when you stop and think about it - we all should. If anyone would understand what motivates someone to write, especially something that so profoundly resonates with so many individuals, we hubbers should. The essence of writing is this truism: happy people don't write. They are usually too busy being contented. The one who takes up the pen is more often than not motivated by some hurt we want to heal, some injustice we want to make right, some falsehood we want to go on the record with the truth to correct.

The truth for P.L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books, was that her father was remembered badly, and she loved him dearly. He had been a wonderful parent to her for all his other failings. She wanted to set the record straight even though he was guilty of a parent's greatest sin.

Deleted from "Saving Mr. Banks"

Three Fathers - Three Promises

I was taken off guard by how profoundly this movie struck me. At its conclusion, I was angry. And I didn't know why.

I've had three fathers in my life: a biological one, an legally adopted one, and an in-law by marriage. I hadn't thought of them as promise-breakers, but that is exactly what happened with each one, and it is why this movie left me angry. My father-in-law was a wonderful man who loved all his children (in-laws included) down to the ground, with no exceptions, no qualifiers, no conditions. If you were one of his, you were his. He'd call any one of us "my heart." And we were.

He broke his promise by being dead when he hit the floor of a heart attack when he was only 65. I remember my first thought when I heard the news was, "God, why did you take the good one?" It's been 22 years and I still miss him every day.

The other two couldn't hold a candle to him. My natural father was simply not able. A manic-depressive alcoholic - talk about someone who never recovered from his own childhood. The medical community and lay-people of the 1920s through 1970s had no idea what mental illness was or how to treat it. People like my father were blamed for not "pulling themselves up by their bootstraps" and overcoming their illness that wasn't seen as an illness at all. It's a wonder more of them didn't become serial killers. My father just became the definition of a dead-beat dad - promise breaker. It took me years, most of my life actually, to understand that he couldn't help it.

My step-father/legal father insisted we three children (pre-teens and teenagers) give up the name we were born with and take his because we were going to be a "real family." Then he kept our mother from coming to see us play baseball, or cheer at football games, or visit us when we went away to college, or come to our children's graduations, showers, or weddings.. He spent his more than sufficient income on the things that mattered to him, while we were always limited, not by how much money was available, but by whatever else was a priority for the only bread-winner in the house. And because the three of us weren't really his flesh and blood, those priorities usually didn't have anything to do with us. We were going to be a real family? Hardly.

Yes, it's good for young people to learn the value of a dollar. But it's not good for children to feel neglected or not valued. We had to pay our own way through college, even though when we applied for loans, we'd get turned down because our "father" could afford to send six children to college. Yes, but he wouldn't, even though he'd cut us off from the education assistance available to us through our biological father's disability benefits. Nothing wrong with a student helping to pay some of the cost of his education. But should a parent guarantee the process is just as difficult as it can possibly be for that child? Do I sound resentful? Forty years later, I guess I still am. It wasn't the money. It was the unconcern - the broken promise. At my graduation, he smiled at me and asked, "Was it really that hard?" (Little doses of poison . . . )

It wasn't until I had children of my own that I realized parents didn't treat their children this way. A parent would give their child the shirt off their own back, not wait to see just how much cold their child could tolerate before another shirt was really necessary. Limits. There were always limits for everything: money, holidays, interest, concern. That's not keeping the promises that come with being a father to children.

The author of "Mary Poppins" was driven to save the memory of her father. Some of us are just as driven to forget the memories that haunt us. A dear sister-in-law gave me a wonderful book several years ago called "The Gift of the Blessing" by Gary Smalley and John Trent. It helps a person deal with the disappointment you suffer when you don't receive the blessings from your parents that God intended each child to receive.

"We all need the knowledge that someone in this world loves and accepts us unconditionally, most importantly, our parents. When you don't receive this blessing, you often spend your life seeking it elsewhere." -Smalley and Trent

You may never recover from how you were treated in childhood, the promises that were broken, but you can learn to overcome it and ensure your own children do receive "the blessing" they need and deserve. Then you can watch a movie like "Saving Mr. Banks" without saying to yourself, "at least he loved you."

From the movie "Mary Poppins"

Saving Mr. Banks - indeed


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    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      4 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      For anyone who has a hard time on Father's Day.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      It all depends on how you choose to respond to what life brings.

      Too true. Hope to be bright as often as possible.

      I love "telling writing" as opposed to "on the nose." I think you are right about the cut scene. In the end of the movie, I think she "got it" as Disney intended the audience to, but she was too proud to admit it. What do you think?

      Your profile is fascinating. I have reading to do!

    • VJGSA profile image


      3 years ago from Texas

      That should be "script writing." Sorry, I'm typing on a smartphone during lunch at a BBQ place.

    • VJGSA profile image


      3 years ago from Texas

      Intresting....P.L.Travers had a disappointing childhood and it appears that she wanted people around her to be miserable as well (based on the movie). Walt Disney had a trying father and childhood yet he worked all his life to ensure that others had light in their lives. One was sour. One was bright. Why? It all depends on how you choose to respond to what life brings. Does it take more of an effort to be up then down? Love the Hub. One other thing...i think that the deleted scene was left out because it was too " on the nose." In script write it's "show versus tell." Was she crying at the end of the movie because she was happy or because she had sold out (in her eyes)?

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      JaneA: So true! That's the silver lining. Thanks for your thoughts and I'm glad you found this hub.

    • JaneA profile image


      4 years ago from California

      Fantastic hub. Small quibble: "Happy people don't write"? I think I know what you mean - you need to be motivated. But having written what's on your mind, you certainly feel happier after!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      4 years ago

      I loved the original Mary Poppins movie and book. I may have to get this updated film and watch it soon. I am sorry for your loss, I too still miss my father who passed away over 20 years ago.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Bk42author: So glad you found this one. It's recent and more raw than I usually write, but I really got blindsided by this seemingly light movie. Thanks for commenting.

    • Bk42author profile image

      Brenda Thornlow 

      4 years ago from New York

      I definitely want to see this movie, now. What you said in your last comment is so true, how a movie, book, etc. can bring raw emotions to the surface and, at times, help you form new realizations and see something in a totally different light, especially feelings we may have suppressed. Has happened to me several times. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      carter06: Who doesn't have angst about something? It's one of the colors in our spectrum, isn't it? I also have my fair share of bright colors too. It's just strange how a movie, book, song, sermon, or even off-handed remark can bring up a raw emotion when you least expect it.

      "honest, succinct vulnerability" You should be a writer!

    • carter06 profile image


      4 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      Wow Kathleen I have to go see this movie now..and sorry about your dad ( the good one dying) that must have been tough to deal with & totally get why couldn't it have been one of the other two instead..I really liked reading your story with it's honest succinct vulnerability..great job of explaining your well deserved angst..sharing this..cheers

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Jaye and Grand Old Lady: It's always scary to open your veins in a piece of writing, not knowing if the readers will sympathize with what it's costing you to write with your own life's blood. You've both been very generous to me and I appreciate it more than I can say. I haven't felt that overwhelming urge to write for about a year, and this movie struck a nerve. I'm glad I managed to write something that spoke to each of you.

      Jaye: My biological father reached out to me too, when he was so old he needed me as opposed to someone needing him. I'm afraid I was not as forgiving as you, and it cost me what you know have. I'm happy for you in that.

      Unfortunately, our stories are not unique. But after watching that movie, I thanked my husband for being a father to our children who was a promise-keeper.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      4 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Your title was so intriguing that it pulled me in, and am I glad it did! This is such a helpful hub, especially since my own childhood was blighted by a poor relationship with my father that carried over into adulthood with an almost non-existent one. By the time he was elderly and in poor health (a time when my philandering father could no longer attract a woman to give him her full attention), I managed to craft a friendship of sorts with him during the last years of his life. It was never a true father-daughter relationship that made me feel loved, but it was better than nothing. More importantly, I was able to forgive him for the way he treated me in the past. Residual anger hurts only the one who feels it intensely.

      I was fortunate that my mother married a man who was a good substitute father (and grandfather to my children), and I also had not one, but two loving fathers-in-law.

      Childhood hurts are difficult to overcome, and those individuals who are able to do so earlier in life are the lucky ones.

      Voted Up and Awesome


    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      4 years ago from Philippines

      This is so beautifully written, and so interesting. Thank you for sharing your life in this hub. I feel so honored to have had a glimpse of your childhood and how you endured and overcame your experiences. I admire the way you came to understand and have sympathy for your biological father. Your father in law sounds like a wonderful man, too. Two out of three isn't bad, and you came to understand what a true parent is, because of what your legal father failed to give you.

      I had watched Mary Poppins as a child, and now I know what drove the author to write the story. Thank you so much for this exceptional hub.


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