My dearest E.,
I watched part of an old movie (old, as in from 1996) over the weekend. It was called “The Spitfire Grill”. It was quite beautiful and poignant, and tells the story of a girl named Percy Talbott, who serves prison time for manslaughter, and relocates to a small town called Gilead in Maine to start afresh, with great hopes for a new beginning. She works in a restaurant/grill called “The Spitfire Grill”, whose owner is an old lady named Hannah Ferguson, who really has a soft heart beneath her gruff exterior. Percy also makes friends with a lady named Shelby (who is married to Hannah’s newphew, Nahum Goddard), and the three of them become fast friends. Percy’s arrival, though, is met with mixed feelings: by distrust and negativity from Nahum Goddard, – and by a vigour of passion and sweet love from Joe. As the plot unfolds, so, too does a new character in the form of a person living in the mountains, whom Percy calls “Johnny B.”
When Hannah has a bad fall, Percy and Shelby pitch in to help her, and Hannah thinks she is getting too old to run the grill by herself. When Hannah, however, fails to find a buyer for “The Spitfire Grill”, Percy comes up with a brilliant idea: Hannah runs a $100-per entry essay writing contest in a newspaper for contestants to write in and tell her why she should give them the grill and why they would make good owners of the grill. The contest generates a flurry of letters moving into the small town, generally quiet and docile, and eventually creates a positive change in the relationships of the town’s inhabitants.
When Hannah’s pot of money grows from the $100 per-entry submitted by numerous contestants, so too does Nahum Goddard’s distrust and hatred of Percy. We see Percy being judged cruelly because of her background, and of her growing relationship with Johnny B. who is believed to be none other than Hannah’s shell-shocked Vietnam veteran son, Eli.
It wasn’t so much the film that captured my heart. What did was Percy’s declaration of love for her unborn child, growing within her womb when she was a teenager, which she recounts to Shelby. The unborn child, a product of rape by her abusive step-father, was Percy’s salvation in a cruel world, and she vowed to herself, to God and to her child that she would do all within her power to shield her baby from the cruelties in life, from her abusive step-father. However, it was not to be, because Percy lost her baby when her step-father abused her during her pregnancy, and she lost faith in her life, certain that God would punish her for failing to protect her unborn child. When Percy told this sad story to Shelby in a scene from the film, I felt my heart melt and I thought of you. Of how much of Percy I saw in myself in her promise to keep her child from harm. I cried.
When the film ended and introduced the new owner of the Spitfire Grill, a young single mother named Claire, another declaration of love for a child was yet again presented. Claire’s essay won her the grill, simply because of her promise and declaration to protect her young boy, Charlie and to give him a wonderful start in life in Gilead. This made me cry again.
Do you know, my sweet E., why this touched me so? The film dealt with powerful themes of redemption, hatred and compassion- but what I saw most was love, love for a child. It is amazing that the universal theme of love was presented the way it was in this film, and with such great depth, that I could visualize myself saying the same things as Percy and Claire.
I promised you this, E., when you were growing within me. I promised you this when you opened your eyes and entered this beautiful world. And I promise you this, which I will carry for the rest of my life: that I will be your rock, the tree that shields you from the hot sun, the house that shelters you from storms and rain. I will be your protector from all bad, evil and harm.
I am your greatest worshipper and I love you.