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Groundhog Day


Groundhog Day has always been my favorite secondary holiday. Perhaps it’s because we had a family of woodchucks living under our house when I was a kid. I used to go out like some kind of National Geographic photographer and wait, camera in-hand, for the critters to emerge from their holes. Somewhere, buried in my parents’ house amid boxes of other decades-old crap, are arty black-and-white photos of pensive-looking rodents.

The other significance of Groundhog Day was that it became, over time, the unoffical end of my family’s holiday season. We always left the Christmas tree up well beyond New Year’s, and eventually February 2nd became the marker for when the holiday decorations really had to come down. In retrospect, the tree was probably dangerously dry, but none of us wanted to take it down. We should have just gotten a live plant to decorate and left the lights up all year round.

Even to this day, I am loathe to take down any meager Christmas decor I can muster until we hit this holiday marker. This practice strikes most of my friends as weird.

Of course, having no yard and living in Oakland, I have no access to woodchucks. This makes me a little homesick for the east coast. When I travel back to visit, I get all excited at dusk when groundhogs and bunnies come out to graze by the side of the road. I suppose some people look at groundhogs as varmints that leave big holes in the ground, but I just see them as fat, furry, and cute.

And while we’re at it, don’t confuse groundhogs (aka woodchucks) with prairie dogs. This becomes even more confusing when the term “gopher” is applied. “Gopher” is s generic word that applies to various ground squirrels, including prairie dogs, squirrels, and woodchucks. But, technically, woodchucks and prairie dogs are different genuses. And if you have seen them both, you know that a groundhog could take down a prairie dog in a second.

As we all know, in Caddyshack, Bill Murray’s persistent rodent nemesis was dubbed “Go-ferr” and clearly, from his size and paunch, a woodchuck. Not content to work with just one marmot, Murray returned in top form to film today’s signature flick, Groundhog Day.

I was hoping to dig up yet another personal connection I had to the holiday. When I was very young, my mother and I used to make holiday cards out of construction paper and send them to all of our relatives and friends. I think she had a book of templates, and it included everything from the major ones to the more creative and obscure, like May Day. Each one was a very simple cut-out of one or two colors of paper. And there was a great one of a woodchuck, cut from brown paper, for Groundhog Day.

Sadly, I do not have one of those cards saved. Instead, I have a few scattered others, as shown below. I’m lucky to have even these, which my loving grandparents saved. Maybe someday a groundhog will surface. Until then, Happy Groundhog Day, by way of Easter, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and May Day!



From → Weird Things

One Comment
  1. mkc permalink

    That’s “National Geographic.” Don’t know what I was thinking.

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