There is a story about the celebration of the New Year’s Eve in the third Mary Poppins book, Mary Poppins Opens the Door published in 1943. “Happy Ever After” is its title, and I think it appropriate for this time of the year to ponder on its meaning.
“When igzackly does the Old Year end?”
“Tonight”, said Mary Poppins shortly. “At the first stroke of twelve.”
“And when does it begin?” he went on.
“When does what begin?” she snapped.
“The New Year”, answered Michael patiently.
“On the last stroke of twelve”, she replied, giving a short sharp sniff.
“Oh? Then what happens in between?” he demanded.
Of course, in her usual manner, Mary Poppins refuses to give any answers and puts Michael, Jane, John and Barbara to bed instructing them to go to sleep at once. Michael rebelliously declares that he will stay awake and watch the New Year arrive. Jane decides to follow his lead, but a few minutes later the children are all fast asleep.
“Suddenly, through the silent night, a peal of bells rang out.” “Boom said the Big Ben”. Jane and Michael are now wide awake and confronted to a strange scene taking place in the Nursery. Their favorite toys, the Golden Pig, Alfred the Elephant, Pinnie the Monkey and the Duck are alive and on their way to the Park. There, under the silver light of a round white moon, the most amazing party is taking place. Characters from fairy tales and nursery rhymes are “moving backwards and forwards in the shimmering light.”
The astonished children meet the Three Blind Mice and the Farmer’s Wife, Miss Muffet and the Spider, Humpty-Dumpty all in one piece, the Unicorn and the Lion, Jack-the-Giant Killer and his Giant, the Old Woman in the Shoe, Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf and many more. All these characters are talking, laughing and dancing together on music played by Mary Poppins!
The sight is dumbfounding. How is it possible for Humpty-Dumpty to be whole when all the King’s men could not put him together again? And, how is it that Miss Muffet does not fear the Spider? And why is not Little Red Riding Hood scared of the Wolf?
It is Sleeping Beauty who explains the mystery. They are all in the Crack, the space between the first and last stroke of midnight.
And inside the Crack, all things are one. The opposites meet and kiss. The wolf and the lamb lie down together, the dove and the serpent share one nest. The stars bend down and touch the earth and the young and the old forgive each other. Night and day meet here, so do the poles. The East leans over towards the West and the circle is complete. This is the time and, my darlings – the only time and the only place – where everybody lives happily ever after.
Harsh as it may be, this is a necessary lesson to learn for Jane and Michael if they are to be prepared for adulthood. Life here on our planet is anything but peaceful. Minds and hearts are divided. Opposites clash. Peace for all remains a dream that seems possible only in the Crack. That of course is almost like saying it is all an impossible dream. The realization of the inescapability of life struggles, obstacles and dangers prompts Michael to ask:
“Shall we too, Mary Poppins?” he asked blurting out the question.
“Shall you too, what?” she enquired with a sniff.
“Live happily ever afterwards?” he said eagerly.
A smile, half sad, half tender, played faintly around her mouth.
“Perhaps,” she said thoughtfully. “It all depends.”
“What on, Mary Poppins?”
“On you,” she said quietly, as she carried the crumpets to the fire…
Mary Poppins teaches the children (and all who want to be taught) that there is always hope, even in seemingly hopeless situations if one takes responsibility for one’s own mind. Nursery rhymes, fairy tales and myths are the mirrors of our own minds and hearts, and they reflect back to us our struggles.
The question then is: Are we to dance to the cacophony of our inner and outer conflicts or are we to be the ones playing the music? How are we to reconcile the opposing forces in our lives? Mary Poppins doesn’t tell us how, but she tells us that it is possible. She has done it!
We can be happy ever after; it all depends on us!
Happy New Year to all!
What a lovely message: we would all do well to follow Mary Poppins’ example. Thank you for a great post: I wish you a very Happy New Year, too!
Thank you for being a regular reader! And a Happy New Year to you too!
What makes you interested in Mary Poppins and P.L.Travers? Would you be willing to share?