How Seeing Saving Mr. Banks Saved My Christmas

“For every laugh, there should be a tear.” – Walt Disney

I’m a lucky woman. I’ve had more than my share of laughs in this lifetime. I’ve also had my buckets of tears.

I spent most of yesterday (Christmas Day) alone, by myself, by my own choice. I’ve known and planned this for the past couple of months. It didn’t feel right to me to be with others, not this year, not now. I wanted to feel my sadness, feel my grief and not inflict it on others. I’ve long heard the only way out is through, and I’m going full steam ahead through the emotions that will rise up in me during this first year without my father.

Don’t get me wrong. I never planned on curling up underneath my Christmas tree with my father’s ashes and crying (well, okay. I did THINK about that!:)). I had this thought pop into my head that I’d go to the movies, that I’d take myself to a local luxury cinema (, where they have giant easy chairs and where waiters bring dinner, drinks and popcorn to your seat, so you can dine on delicacies while watching the movie.

When I heard Saving Mr. Banks would be playing on Christmas Day I knew exactly which movie I’d be seeing! To top off the serendipity of the occasion when I went to buy my movie ticket on Christmas morning, only one seat remained, in the top row middle!! Perfect location!!

I had no idea about the topic of the movie. If I’d known, maybe I wouldn’t have gone. You see, at its core, Saving Mr. Banks is about a woman coming to grips with her father’s death. I wanted to see the movie because I thought it was about Walt Disney and Mary Poppins—that had to be a happy movie, right?

The story centers around P.L. Travers (aka Helen Goff, aka Emma Thompson) and her reluctance to give Walt Disney (aka Tom Hanks) the movie rights to Mary Poppins. As the movie unfolds it becomes apparent that her attachment to the portrayal of Mary Poppins’ has much deeper personal implications.

You see, Mr. Banks isn’t just Mr. Banks, he is, in reality the father of Mrs. Travers. The very alcoholic father of three young girls. The movie makers reveal this part of the story in flashbacks. We bear witness to the pain Mrs. Travers feels as a little girl in Australia, watching her alcoholic father become so engrossed in liquid libations that he loses the ability to care for himself, for his wife, for his daughters, for his job……..and the list goes on……

As a mature woman participating in the writing of the screenplay (Mrs. Travers has insisted on final approval of all parts of the movie), the beloved author of Mary Poppins finds herself uncontrollably reliving the beautiful, the sublime and the searingly painful youthful moments leading up to her father’s death, a death too soon.

As I watched this grown woman unharness her grief, held in for far too long, I cried. I felt sad. I couldn’t believe I’d chosen THIS movie to see on Christmas Day!!!!! I THOUGHT I’d be seeing a HAPPY movie about Disney!!!!

But as the movie progressed, I started to see, to realize happiness did exist within the grief. My father somehow drew me to this movie and not just through his love of Disney.

My dad never talked much about his childhood. I know he had a tumultuous relationship with his own dad, an alcoholic like Mrs. Travers’ father. He (nor his two siblings) ever had friends over because they could never predict how his dad would behave because of the alcohol. Watching the movie, I could feel my dad next to me, in my heart.

Watching the movie, gave me a deep glimpse into his childhood. I feel so much closer to my dad having seen Saving Mr. Banks. I understand now. I understand why there are only a few pictures of my dad as a child. I get it. Everyone, including his mother, had a preoccupation with my grandfather’s alcoholism. In those moments, I gave my dad the biggest ethereal hug. I could feel him, his heart beating in mine.

I also heard Walt Disney’s words about living a life not dictated by the past. We learn a little bit about Disney’s dad in the movie, but I won’t say too much about that here.

Create the life you want through imagination. Create the future in the imagination of your dreams. “When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.”

I BELIEVE in the beauty of my dreams. I BELIEVE I’ll work my way through my grief. I BELIEVE I’ll have the life I deserve. I BELIEVE when I wish upon a star all my dreams will come true. I BELIEVE.

The movie left me with those thoughts and more—Grief isn’t about letting go. Grief is about taking the sadness, taking the tears and integrating those thoughts and emotions into the strength of my dreams. By doing this I’ll always have my dad with me.

Walking out of the theatre last night I felt moments of lightness. Moments of hope as I sat for over an hour looking up at the divinely lit Christmas tree. Yes, moments of sadness too, but, along with that, the thought that I alone had the power to imagine, create, and, yes, LIVE, my dreams. One moment. One breath. One thought at a time.

Walt Disney created magic. So can you. So can I. All you have to do, all I have to do is BELIEVE.

See the movie. There’s much more to it than I have revealed here. Do yourself a favor. See it. Believe it. Believe in YOU!

I Can't Find Any Pics of Me and My Dad at the Magic Kingdom, but I Did Find this Pic that My Dad Took of Mickey!

I Can’t Find Any Pics of Me and My Dad at the Magic Kingdom, but I Did Find this Pic that My Dad Took of Mickey!

The Christmas Tree Outside the Theater where I Saw Saving Mr. Banks

The Christmas Tree Outside the Theater where I Saw Saving Mr. Banks

Me and My Dad Shortly Before He Died

Me and My Dad Shortly Before He Died


3 thoughts on “How Seeing Saving Mr. Banks Saved My Christmas

  1. Yes, to everything you said! I am amazed over and over how the power of story has the capacity not only to help us to understand but to help us to heal. Dean Spanley is another film that shows how the power of a story can lead to healing. It’s not for everybody but I think that you’d like it.

  2. I’m at a loss for words…Your confidence in your ability to BELIEVE comes right through my screen! I’m glad the movie was therapeutic for you and that you were able to come to terms with some of your memories and grief! You are gracefully heading in the right direction, on the right path, in the right way! I’m proud of you my friend! Keep smiling! 🙂

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