They threw us out, irrevocably. From the distant shores of the snow clouds to the eastern pink stargazers my family was exiled from that kingdom of the air. That did not stop us from flying though. That did not stop us from singing to the birds, or speaking to beasts. We had our wits about us we knew to fly with the wind, so the guard dogs never snapped at our hats as we passed them by.
My mother bought me an umbrella from a secondhand shop with a green parrot head for a handle. She thought it was funny and odd, like me. She said the Jacks on the roof would appreciate a fine girl with a proper umbrella, the sun out of her eyes, her hair and clothes not sopping wet with rain and cloud dust. I envied my brothers who flew about the sky without a care for their clothes and fine deerskin gloves. Yet after my mother burnt the last of their sky shirts, caked with cloud dust and smelling all too familiar of our dear homeland, I did not feel so alone in my need to carefully wash and mend my things. I missed my tree house that bore stone drop fruit, so close to terrestrial stars that this earth's moon did not shine as brightly on it as the Horn of Poseidon in the summer evenings.
On clear fall nights, when the stars shone their gleaming light my brothers and I would peek out our sky ship window hatch where our mother could not see us and watch the guard hounds perched on their invisible pillars and howl at the sky. Sometimes we would throw scraps of apples and crumbs of bread at them. Thankfully, they knew we were only children. We knew no better.
We'd skirt the city edge of London town for months, following the weather vanes twisted route back and forth, fishing for scraps of wood off rooftops to repair our airship. The Jacks on the roof would sometimes help, sometimes bat our clever hooks away, making them crash into the street below. My mother would send me down with in my hat and gloves to discuss the matter with them. I had always the clearer head, more than my father and my brothers. And I had a lovely smile. Most of the Jacks picked up their brooms and let us leave in peace, but a few braver, younger scallywags climbed up our line one next and set fire to our sail as a warning. They did not want us on their roofs. One even tried to steal my umbrella but I yanked from his hands and pushed him none too lightly out of the ship. He fell onto a roof and slide down into the street. He had minor injuries but I will always remember his soot-ridden face, proud and threatening.
My father had a carpetbag. A bottomless one full of our treasures from the sky. Some things truly ours, some things taken out of spite and fear from the royal house. I knew I must not touch it, must less take to the Jacks waiting for me below on a roof waiting to see one of my father's inventions on a dare. Yet I took it and in my haste to find solid ground beneath my feet, I flew against the wind. A guard caught my scent, and howled like thunder. My father raced down the steps of air to find me, to rescue me, for now the Jacks were frightened, hearing the cloudless thunder howl and threatened to keep me prisoner. My father flew down so fast a woman screamed in the streets that a man was falling out the sky. I could hear the calls and shout to arms as the guards followed our scent down the air. My father looked then at me, a mix of fatherly kindness and fear in his eyes, and I knew that I could not follow him back to the ship. He took the carpetbag from my hands and told me in our own tongue to hide in a chimney until he came for me.
The Jacks hide me in one of their own chimneys, in a nook above a great, unlit fireplace. I hid there for hours, with Jack boy a little older then myself. He was not like the Jacks who tried to steal from us: he had a kind face, ashes dripping from his hair in the half-light, and the luckiest buttons on his jacket. He held my hand while I tried to sleep, and made sure I did not tumble down into anyone's parlor.
My father never came for me. I waited a whole night before emerging in the darkness, under a waning moon on the rooftop, my red overcoat filthy with soot. I saw our ship in the sky, on fire, shining as brightly as a star. I studied the sky for my brothers, for my mother and I asked the Jack boy if he could send out a word for the Jacks to look for my parents. I flew cautiously with the wind that day, my hand slippery on the parrot handle, my shoulder aching. I studied the rooftops of London, weaving with the wind, but I never found them. I fear they burned in the sky that night, or were captured with the carpetbag. The Jackboy Bert who kept me safe, found the bag under an eave, empty. All my father's great inventions, all the treasures we kept safe from our royal cousins, gone. I knew in my heart I would never see them again, and I cried bitterly that night.
The next day, a Tuesday, I walked in the streets of London for the first time, looking for work. All the petty jobs I found were for women with no other place to go. And here I was, educated by the High Priest of the Eastern Wind, looking at help wanted signs in Victoria. I sighed, but resolved that I would find employment that would suit me. I watched children walk past me as I sat on a park bench, mulling over the newspaper. They walked closely with a woman, who was clearly not their mother. She had no imagination I could see that. Nor did the children bear any respect for her. I knew that I could teach them. I knew that I could educate them, at that age when all things seemed possible and worthy of thought. The children never responded to their nanny's logical well-thought out, kind demands. "Keep off the grass, stay close to me. Don't wander off," were never met with any heed. The two girls only kept on their merry way, closer to danger, closer to mud, closer to simple, stupid lives. It would take a bit of nonsense to sort them out, like my brothers and I flying around London, following our mother's instructions to count every blue door we could find. I might have been exiled, but I would not let my ways, however unorthodox and silly they might appear to the children of gravity, be forgotten as Bert had been telling me they had. For instance, human babes were unable to communicate their thoughts or needs because their parents had forgotten how to do it? Or how to speak to intelligent birds and beasts?
I tucked my umbrella under my arm, picked up the carpetbag and set out to sort out children, one house at a time, as long as the wind did not change its course, and Bert did not let his lucky charms too waste. Bert came and gave me a bit of his luck, helped me fill out my first advertisement. He gave me a proper last name. Poppins, from when I first popped out of chimneys after winning an impossible game of hide and seek with half of the Jackboys of London, laughing at the sky, twirling in the rain and covered in soot. Bert pointed out a townhouse just down the street from the little park we were sitting in.
"There's a couple of children who need a governess there," he said, hefting his brushes on his shoulders. "They should keep even you on your toes, Miss Mary."
I looked down at my shoes and smiled, clutching the worn handle of the carpetbag.
"I doubt these people keep their spare rooms properly furnished." I said, thinking of my old room in the airship with its rugs and crystal lamps and peacock shaped chairs.
"I doubt they do." replied Bert.
"Where is the nearest lamp shop?"
"Down high street," he said, "I'll take you there if you'd like."
"I'd like that Bert."
"Would a lamp fit in that old thing?"he asked, jutting his chin out at the carpetbag.
I smiled my loveliest smile. "A lamp, and a few more things." I said.