Near the end of Saving Mr. Banks, Disney’s latest movie, Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) makes a statement that I am going to print and frame.
In the scene, Disney is speaking with P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), author of the Mary Poppins books. They are in her London home, and he has pinpointed the burden that Travers has carried since she was a child. He confesses his own troubled childhood, and Travers begins to soften.
The scene brought me to tears as I thought about my relationship with my father. Similar to hers, mine was a bittersweet one, full of adoration, love, disappointment, and disaster.
I listened to this part of the script with my father in mind, as Disney tells Travers what will happen if she would only allow him to make the movie:
“They will love him and his kids, they will weep for his cares, and wring their hands when he loses his job. And when he flies that kite, oh! They will rejoice, they will sing. In every movie house, all over the world, in the eyes and the hearts of my kids, and other kids and their mothers and fathers for generations to come, George Banks will be honoured. George Banks will be redeemed. George Banks and all he stands for will be saved.”
He tells her to let it go.
And then he says this, the statement that touched my writer’s heart:
“[He will be saved] Maybe not in life, but in imagination. Because that’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again.”
When I heard those words, I shook a little. They give a powerful definition — like a command for how to use the God-given gift that storytellers have received.
Restoration. Order. Hope.
God can use writers to do that? What a privilege.
As I thought about that scene later, it occurred to me that I’ve used this bit of storyteller magic to restore my childhood.
I’m able to think about my father in a George Banks “saved” kind of way because the stories I’ve written about my father honor him.
In fact, I don’t honor my father in my stories because I’m a writer. I do it because it is a real command from God: Honor your father and your mother (Exodus 20:12).
Yet, hearing that statement in Saving Mr. Banks reminded me of my goal as a writer — to be uplifting, hopeful, showing goodness and God in relationships.
Dad smoked and drank himself to death. He died alone, a few days after only two of his six children bothered to visit him so close to his death hour. He was not a good father. But I will honor him.
Among many other things, he gave me five siblings, a love for music and singing, a creative mother, California, words from the Bible, a never-forgotten duet with him as Marvin Gaye and me as Tammi Terrell, respect for the military, and my first trip to Disneyland.
Those are the types of things that I’ll remember to recall when I write about Dad. It will “save” his honor and keep me moving forward.
See Saving Mr. Banks, if you haven’t yet. It is a well-acted, entertaining, and heart warming movie. Unfortunately, the storytellers for this movie won’t be recognized during the Academy Awards next month. It received only one Oscar nomination, for its music/original score.
To screenwriter Kelly Marcel: Thank you for telling a story that celebrates hope and forgiveness. Please keep up the good work.
Have you seen Saving Mr. Banks? Let me know what you thought of it.