Dear Mrs. Vermont:
I have to confess it has been a really long time since I paid much if any attention to beauty pageants or frankly, beauty pageant winners. I don’t get the point.
We “met” each other Friday night at the Burlington premiere of The Hungry Heart. (Met as in you said hello to me and hundreds of other people entering the theatre.) I thought it odd that Mrs. Vermont would be at a movie premiere, but then again, I’m still not totally sure what Mrs. AnystateUSA does as part of wearing that crown. And why this movie?
The Hungry Heart focuses its lens on St. Albans and Franklin County in Northern Vermont. More specifically it focuses on the journey of addiction of a number of community residents and the unrelenting commitment and love of Dr. Fred Holmes, a man who started his career as a pediatrician, and retired as the last link to salvation for many of his patients.
The movie paints a profound and heart wrenching picture of the complexity of the prescription drug crisis, and while the focus is on a small area in rural Vermont, the impacts touch all corners of the state and the country. The distressing reality is that this could likely have been filmed in any one of a thousand locations across the US, with similar stories of survival, success, failure, and heartache. This is a resonating point the producer sent me away to think through.
But it wasn’t filmed anywhere else. It was Made in Vermont.
And so that’s why Mrs. Vermont, you decided to come to the premiere. Right?
Before the movie started, the producer, Bess O’Brien, spent some time thanking the benefactors. She invited the dignitaries up on stage to say a few words, and there you were. Like it of not, I was going to find out a bit about Mrs. Vermont and why you were at the premiere.
You stepped to the microphone. Even when I’m ready, I take crappy notes, and I was not ready at all for what you said so my account of your talk is sparse.
You said you were in recovery. You alluded to the struggles you went through and the support your family gave you. And shortly into your talk, you fumbled your words ever so slightly. You stopped. You started again, and told us that you just reached your four-year anniversary of being clean.
Mrs. Vermont, that is not what I expected.
It’s Sunday. I spent some time over the past day thinking about you and your sixty seconds or so on the stage. I fixed myself on your verbal stumble, with what you wanted to say. I did so not because of the trip over the words, but because of how you recovered. And I can’t help but think about how impactful that was to every person that was in the theater. It’s not a straight line.
The stumble meant nothing. The recovery meant everything.
Mrs. Vermont’s name is Hannah Kirkpatrick.
So Hannah, if I may call you that, I now get the point. Thanks for being at the show. And thanks for the work you are doing, and the work that you will do.