Monday, February 25, 2008

I'm no Mary Poppins

When you're a kid, there's a fine line between reality and imagination. I used to sit in treetops and believe I was captaining a pirate ship. I believed I ran so fast I could fly.

But the craziest thing I ever did was to ruin all the umbrellas in our household. You see, the movie Mary Poppins had captured my fancy. We didn't have any sidewalks in our rural area, so I couldn't jump into a watercolor painting. The thing we had on hand was umbrellas.

Two of my best friends and I were certain that we could fly like Mary Poppins with her umbrella. In our child's minds, we made the connection that an umbrella was like a parachute and a plan was born.

In secrecy we plotted our grand event. We waited until all the grownups were gone from my house. Two of us were able to jump to reach the limb of the magnolia tree next to the carport. My shorter friend had to drag the wagon over to be high enough to jump up on the limb.

We hauled three umbrellas up assembly line fashion. It was one of those hot July afternoons when the only thing stirring was trouble.

My shortest friend took one look over the edge of the tin roof and refused to jump. Undaunted, my other friend and I jumped together, hopes high and spirits bright. The fabric ripped from the umbrellas in a millisecond and we plummeted to the ground. It's a wonder we didn't poke our eyes out with the umbrellas or break every bone in our bodies.

It was scary. Exhilerating. And nearly magical for that split second of first freefall. Then there was the harsh reality of gravity, of our knees being driven into our chests.

We were lucky we didn't get hurt, luckier still that no one knew what we'd done. Rain was a long time coming that summer and when it did there were no umbrellas to be found in our house.

I kept quiet about our adventure. In the back of my mind was the thought that I hadn't believed in the magic of the umbrella strongly enough. Maybe some day I'll try it again.

Maggie Toussaint
SEEING RED out now at

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