February 2nd, marks my favorite day of the entire year. Seriously, it is. I love Groundhog's Day and have gone twice to the town of Punxsutawney to celebrate with the G'hog in person.
Do you know or care what Punxsutawney Phil predicted today? Here is the information about this morning's findings: OH NO! Six more weeks of winter. Living in Vermont, I expected that. If you live in Vermont, you expected it too. That's why we all order more wood than imaginable.
Why on earth would anyone claim that G'hog's Day is their favorite holiday?
Well, if you don't already know, February 2nd marks the halfway point through winter: halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. That is why I love it now. As an Outdoor Educator in Vermont, I am thrilled to think I am halfway to the time when the earth warms, things melt, things sprout, and soon flip-flops won't cause frostbite.
In the past, I fell in love with G'hog day because of the movie. I don't really like watching movies, TV, or enjoy spending much time in front of a screen (because of being raised without such things) but there were some scenes in that G'hog film that caused me to belly laugh. Laugh out loud funny. For me, this is rare.
Here's my favorite scene from the film: "He's gotta be stopped. And I have to stop him."
Here's my second favorite scene from the film: Ned Ryerson punch scene If I had to wake up every day and experience the same thing over and over such as Ned coming up to me and getting in my space, I would want the freedom to punch him in the face, too. I lived vicariously through Bill Murray in that moment.
I could go on and on about my favorite scenes in this movie. I just love so much about this movie, but I digress.
I mentioned earlier that I have gone to the real site of the big event, when the G'hog gets pulled out of his warm space in the public library in Punxsutawney: once in my twenties and once in my fifties. The first time I went, I had to see if the town in the real world was as charming as the town in the movie world. It wasn't. In the movie, they make it look like the G'hog event takes place in the village proper on the town park. In real life, it is held outside of town in the woods. Thirty plus years ago when I went, it was crowded. Three years ago went I went (pre-pandemic and it feels like a decade ago), it had become out of control crowded. I took my teenagers the second time. They hated the experience. Full on hated the cold. The highlight of the event was the fireworks display in sub-zero temperatures. In hindsight, I should have bought everyone hand and feet warmers.
Last night, my dear friend Marcus sent me a text with a link to this: Groundhog Dies Before His Big Day Marcus and I (and several other friends) had driven across the state of PA, rented a hotel room, and woke up before the sun to take a tour bus to Gobbler's Knob. The thought of the G'hog dying before his big day after a few years of this pandemic was pretty much the worse thing I had heard in awhile. I actually got tears in my eyes.
So I clicked on the article and read it. Phew. It was not Phil, the PA G'hog. It was poor NJ G'hog Milltown Mel. I felt much better. I mean I'm sad that the NJ G'hog is a goner, and I am sad that Milltown couldn't find a replacement on such short notice, but I felt true relief that it wasn't Phil.
When Marcus and I (and the others) went to the big event all those years ago, we were not thinking about getting older. We were not thinking about anything other than the massive party with thousands of people we would never see again. We were certainly not thinking that there would be a Covid19 pandemic someday. None of us knows what the future holds, of course. This goes without saying.
But here is what the older version of me knows today: 2/2/22. I know that I finally found my way to a town that is ten times more charming than the town in the G'hog movie. I know when I look out my front window, I see a scene very much like the bandstand of the movie. I know now that I got to spend most of my teaching career working with some of the most supportive and incredible families in this town. I know now that I will REALLY come to appreciate this special holiday more than ever before because I will be in the elements most of the time. In Vermont.
Yesterday, one of my first grade students asked me, "Hey. Do you get cold out here sometimes?"
My answer? "Yes."
But, I don't care. In fact, I am about to head outside to light a fire in my fire pit. I am going to enjoy the evening because I have the chance to do so. I am feeling well (I had a headache earlier) and so I am going to celebrate my health by lighting a flame for Milltown Mel, may he Rest In Peace.
Happy Groundhog's Day everyone from my sweet little hometown to yours!