John Carlson: Reflections on “A Father’s Love for His Child”

Mary Poppins at Muncie Civic Theater. Photo by: Kishel PhotographyMary Poppins at Muncie Civic Theater. Photo by: Kishel Photography

By: John Carlson—

John Carlson

John Carlson

It’s amazing how sometimes, when you least expect it, you have an encounter that makes you think about the truly important things in life, or in my case, just flat out humbles you. It happened to me Friday night when Nan and I went to see Mary Poppins at Muncie Civic Theatre. It was a wonderful show, a smash by all who worked so hard to put it on, and a tribute to the play’s director, Laura Williamson, who happens to be Civic’s executive director, too.

But that’s not what this story is about.

Taking our places, we were seated beside a father and daughter. He was a slender man, soft-spoken, and dressed like an office worker who was now off the job. His daughter, was a sweetheart, sitting quietly, maybe 10 to 12 years old, wearing a shirt that read “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” She was also a child with special needs.

As the play progressed, though, she became more animated. On the up-tempo numbers she would bounce lightly in her seat. Sometimes I’d hear her softly mouthing the words being said on stage. When a fog machine dispensed a cloud of vaporous white toward our seats, she’d tentatively reach out to touch it as it drifted past. When a well-known character like Bert looked her way, she’d wave.

At intermission, I began talking to her father, who was from Indianapolis. He said his daughter liked a number of musical plays in the fantasy genre, but far and away her favorite was Mary Poppins. In fact, she loved it so much, he made a practice of finding performances on the Internet and taking his daughter – her name was Sarah – to see them.

Friday night’s performance at Civic, he said nonchalantly, was the 69th production of Mary Poppins they’d seen together.


I thought about that for the rest of the performance, and the kind of love this father had for his child to do that. Frankly, it kind of nailed me right in the heart. With all the crap going on in the world, and how demoralizing it gets, this father’s love for his child was so strong, and so right, it gave you hope. If it was a lesson in love for me, though, it was also part of his lessons in love for her.

Before they left, Sara hugged the actress who beautifully sang “Feed the Birds.” She hugged Nan. And, I’m touched to note, she hugged me, too.
Sara & her father would come back the next night for their 70th production of Mary Poppins, and shared that fact with the Muncie Civic Theatre. When asked, her father had this to say, “I am enriched by her love of theater and the joy it brings to her.”

Muncie Civic Theater looks forward to welcoming them back on the final weekend of Mary Poppins performances for their 71st together.


A former longtime feature writer and columnist for The Star Press in Muncie, Indiana, John Carlson is a storyteller with an unflagging appreciation for the wonderful people of East Central Indiana and the tales of their lives, be they funny, poignant, inspirational or all three.