I dedicate this story to Tess. I sent you this story with insistence that it was "for your eyes only." Today, because of your encouragement, I share it and many other stories with the world.
Winds of Change
She came down from the clouds with umbrella and carpet bag in hand. Her cheeks still rosy, and that same twinkle in her eyes. But now she has creases by her eyes when she smiled. Her dainty hands were slightly wrinkled by time. Her raven black hair now had streaks of snow white. Her days of flying with the changing wind were over. She had done her duties- but her work would not be done until she did one last thing.
Her feet hit the streets of London. She walked slowly, taking in the sights of the city, and breathing in the fresh air. Then she "stumbled" onto Cherry Tree Lane. Mary Poppins never let feelings of sentiment interfere with her head. But her heart led her to Cherry Tree Lane, whether she wanted to admit it or not. Memories began to flood back- the morning she first met Jane and Michael, their faces as they saw her slide up the stair banister, their laughter cleaning the nursery, their amazement jumping into the painting, and their smiles- their smiles when their father mended the kite. That's when she had to leave. The wind changed, and she wasn't needed there anymore. She was lost in thought until she was jarred back to reality at the sight of 17 Cherry Tree Lane.
"Do they still live there?" "Are they well?" "Do they remember Mary Poppins?" All these questions and more flooded her mind. Her umbrella lifted her up to the nursery window and she looked in to see that nothing had really changed. Then her thoughts were silenced by the appearance of a little boy. From her experience she could see he was about six years old. Then another child, a girl, waddled into the room. She had brown curls and a red ribbon in her hair. She was no more than 3 or 4 years old. It was very obvious they were not Jane and Michael. Mary turned to leave until she heard the voice of a young woman. "Mary, my darling! There you are!"
"Was she talking to me? Am I not hidden?" she thought. Then she saw the young woman pick up the little girl. Mary sighed with relief and then scolded herself, "There are more people on this earth named 'Mary' than you, Mary Poppins." The face of the young mother looked familiar to her-- it wasn't Mrs. Banks. Certainly, by this time, Mrs. Banks was near her own age. But there was something so familiar about her and -- before she could continue in her thoughts she was interrupted with. "Jane, darling, lunch is ready and cook is insisting you be down stairs at once." Jane giggled as the man wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed her on the cheek.
Jane. It was her Jane. There was no mistaking who that giggle belonged to. And the darling little Mary- she really did remember who she was. "Well, how could she forget me?" thought Mary Poppins. "I was the best nanny those children ever had." If there was one flaw Mary Poppins had, it was pride- but just a little. Hence the term, "practically perfect in every way." It was practical to have some confidence in yourself.
"Well, cook can wait!" said Jane playfully. "Michael isn't here yet, and we can't start without him." Michael! Michael would be there! "Is he tall and handsome?" "Is he still mischievous?" "Does he still hide his vegetables in his pockets?" Before she could ask more questions, she heard the door bell ring. She peered out from behind the branch of a tree, and saw the familiar face. He was tall and strong. He was very nice looking- or at least she thought so. He had on a military uniform, for the times had changed since she nannied the Banks children. He also had a girl, whom Mary Poppin's was certain she did not know, on his arm. "She will suffice," she thought. A cheeky smile formed across her face.
When Mary looked into the nursery again, Jane had already left and flew down the stairs to open the door. Michael was greeted by a host of people, including the much older Mr. and Mrs. Banks. But none was more excited to see him than Jane as she flung her arms around him and said, "Oh, Michael I missed you so! How are you?" And after he had answered Jane's question, he was flooded with several more questions about his well being, his long journey— and who was the young lady on his arm? To all of their surprise, except Mary's of course, Michael announced that this was his new wife. Michael and his bride walked into the old house, showered with love, hugs, and congratulations from every member of the family- from the oldest to the youngest.
Mary then flew down from the window and closed her umbrella. As she walked past the dining room window, she looked in on the family dinner. Looking at the elder Banks, watching Jane as she helped the children with their plates, smiling at Michael as he adored his new bride- the years gone by brought obvious change. But then she saw Michael mischievously eye the potatoes, and she heard Jane's giggles as he flung them onto her nose with his spoon. It was those things that brought her comfort. A lot had changed, but the world hadn't changed her Jane and Michael so much that they were strangers to her. They were happy. They were healthy. They were her Jane and Michael. She continued to look in the window of the house as tears began to fill her eyes. The handle of her umbrella then piped up and said, "I told you, Mary Poppins. They meant more to you than just two ordinary children. If I were you I'd knock on that door, and-" and with that she shut the wooden bird's beak with her fingers and said, "That will be enough from you." But they were more than just two ordinary children to her- she loved them. To see them happy, brought her all the happiness in the world. Mary then left 17 Cherry Tree Lane with the image of the grown up Jane and Michael in her memory and extreme warmth flooding her heart.
London held fond memories for Mary. Above that, London was home to people she thought fondly of. Poor Uncle Albert had left this earth 2 years ago- but he died in the best of spirits. She and Bert were there as he closed his eyes and went to eternal rest- and eternal laughter no doubt. Bert. She hadn't seen Bert since the day of Uncle Albert's funeral. When she left London that day she wasn't sure how long she had left to do her duties. She wasn't even sure how long it would be until she saw Bert again. But today all those questions were erased from her mind. She walked the streets of London traveling to all their old haunts. "Maybe he's a chalk artist today or a chimney sweep? Or perhaps he's a one man band?" she thought. Whatever it was, she knew it couldn't be ordinary.
She finally made her way to Hyde Park—and there he was. The years hadn't only changed Mary, they had changed Bert too. His head was white as snow. He too had creases by his eyes when he smiled- but his were more evident. Bert was always smiling. He had only a few wrinkles on his forehead, and he was even sporting a white mustache. "That's new," Mary thought to herself. But if the eyes really are the window to the soul, then Bert's eyes told all. His eyes were bright. They've always been bright. His outward appearance had changed, but his eyes always remained the same. His body had aged, but his soul remained vibrant- it was young. She knew he would always be young at heart.
Today, he was an artist with brushes and paints. Although, there was no hat on the ground asking for money today. Instead, he wore it on his head. She came and stood behind his canvas as he painted. The sun cast her shadow onto the large canvas. Bert grinned and quickly began to trace her silhouette with his brush. "I'd know that silhouette anywhere," said Bert nostalgically as he turned to look at Mary. She blushed and the memories came flooding back.
"Hello, Bert," she said cheerily.
"Mary Poppins," he said grinning and taking her hands. "I knew I felt the wind change," he said with a twinkle in his eyes.
She changed the subject with, "I see we're not painting for tuppence today," pointing to the hat on his head. Mary Poppins was always kind, but even she could be cheeky sometimes. Bert knew this and with his cockney accent quipped back with, "Why, even the workhorse runs for pleasure!"
Mary just smiled and said, "Oh, Bert how are you?"
"Couldn't be better, Mary!" said Bert as he took her arm and her carpet bag (because Bert was a gentlemen and gentlemen like him were few). Before he could ask how she was in return she said, "Fine, Bert! That's just fine!" They both began to stroll around the park.
As they walked, they began to tell of their newest stories and adventures. They laughed and reminisced about the adventures they shared in the past. They were just enjoying each other's company- something they hadn't done in a long time.
"Say, Mary! It's Thursday!" said Bert with question in his voice.
"Well, of course it's Thursday, Bert!" said Mary laughing.
"But you're day off is on Tuesday."
"Mm-hmm," said Mary. Her eyes were downcast.
"Well, Mary where are the children?"
"I'm not nannying any children, Bert," said Mary. Her voice was filled with wistfulness- maybe even some sadness. After all, Mary Poppins had dedicated her life to saving families. Bert leaned his tall body back to look into the downcast eyes.
He stood in front of her and chuckled as he said, "No children! Well, Mary what is the wind doin' bringing you here?" He had a raised brow and a thoughtful hand to his chin.
"I don't leave when the wind changes anymore, Bert. My work is finished." said Mary in a quiet tone.
"You mean... you mean you're quite through?" said Bert. His tone softened. His face showed surprise- pleasant surprise.
"Yes, Bert," said Mary as she turned from him and looked to the ground. "My job is done. It's someone else's now," she said with a tinge of regret. This was truly bittersweet.
Bert's mind traveled back to all of those years ago when they jumped into one of his chalk drawings. They were just taking a holiday, as they so often liked to do. They were enjoying the scenery of his painting and all of the hidden surprises Bert's imagination had put into it. To some they seemed an unlikely match- for who would of thought that someone of such high standing as Mary Poppins would enjoy the company of ol' Bert. But to Mary, Bert's blood was nothing but pure blue. To them there was really no difference in the way they lived or their social standing. They were two bonded souls.
They weren't winning derbies that day, going on hunts, or riding carousel horses. They were just walking, like they were right now, until they stumbled onto a giant magnolia tree perfectly situated on a hill.
"Ah, there it is!" said Bert as he took Mary's hand and led her into the tree's pink shade. "I told you there was a tree here somewhere!"
They both took a deep breath and took in the beauty of the scene before them. Mary sat down against the tree, and Bert laid his head on Mary's lap with his hat over his eyes. Bert couldn't really tell you how it happened, he just knows it did. Bert and Mary always knew their feelings for one another. It was rarely spoken of, and really it didn't have to be talked about. Their actions spoke loudly even when their words were few. They both just knew. But one way or another, their feelings began to overflow into their words-- and Bert said that he would wait forever. So they promised, when Mary's work was through, that they would be together as they should be. And then it began to rain. The sunshine around them had erased the memory of London's cloudy skies. Bert's gorgeous painting began to wash away around them.
"Oh, sod!" said Bert as he helped Mary to her feet. They were suddenly taken back to reality on the wet streets of London. She quickly opened her umbrella, which they both huddled under for shelter, and began to walk swiftly to the Bauer house (this was the house where Mary was currently nannying). When they got to the door, Mary with a tinge of nervousness in her voice said, "Goodbye, Bert. You better hurry, if you're out here too long you'll be sure to catch cold."
Bert quickly kissed her on the cheek and said, "Good day, Mary Poppins." Mary smiled and blushed so much so that she could feel the heat in her cheeks. She quickly turned around and went inside.
Bert then sang and danced in the rain all the way home, for even the rain couldn't erase the smile off of his face that day! But Mary was right, the next day he awoke with a dreadful cold.
Bert smiled reminiscing about that day. It was never spoken of again, but they didn't need to talk about it. They trusted each other. They didn't have to remind one another of their promises.
Bert quickly put the carpet bag on the ground and removed his hat. He took Mary's hands and looked into her eyes. He tried to look serious, but a smile crept to his face. "Mary,... Mary, you know this means-" he was cut off by his own chuckle. Nervousness and pure joy is what he felt- but those were feelings he had felt around his Mary before.
She blushed and nodded her head. "Yes, Bert," she said excitedly. But then she cast her eyes down again and apprehensively said, "Bert, you are ready for this change?" Her eyes fluttered back up to his, "You do want it this way, don't you?"
He put his hand over his heart and said solemnly, "Mary, I've waited me whole life."
Then all of her apprehension melted away. She took an excited breath and said, "Oh, Bert!" He gave her hand a quick squeeze. She laughed as she said, "So have I!"
And that was the beginning and end of everything. They were married just as they should be. They spent the rest of their lives together jumping into paintings, strolling through the rooftops of London, and laughing until their feet lifted off the ground. (Bert was the only one who could make her laugh so hard that she floated in midair.)