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When I was an undergraduate, I wrote a short story entitled, “My Grandfather’s Wake,” for a fiction workshop. It wasn’t a great short story, and most of it wasn’t fiction. But it had a pretty good first line, if I do say so myself:

The groundhog didn’t see his shadow when I was five, but it was still a very long winter.

I think I was influenced by Harper Lee on that one. Or maybe Truman Capote (inside fiction joke).

The story went on to tell the story of the day my grandfather died—Groundhog Day, exactly a week before I turned five. Kind of standard maudlin undergraduate stuff from that point. But Groundhog Day has rarely passed without my remembering that particular year. Funny how different things mean different things to different people.

I am not sure if Groundhog Day is even a thing in most of the country. But I grew up near Pittsburgh, where people notice. Winters are long, dark, and miserable there. And folks get ready to start leaning toward Spring. Also, Punxatawny Phil, the groundhog, is from just up the road.

We have watched the Bill Murray, Andie McDowell movie, Groundhog Day, about fifty times (or maybe it was only fifteen but seemed like fifty). There are scenes I can watch over and over again (which is good, since you have to watch them over and over again). The splash into the slush scene. The ice sculpture scene. The variations on a theme by Paganini … morphing into the screaming Les Paul scene. The Hymlick scene. The motor club scene. It’s a movie that has made me enjoy the idea of Groundhog Day, even if I don’t really enjoy the day itself.

Day before yesterday, our most recent Groundhog Day, I was reminded that a groundhog is the same thing as a woodchuck. “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck, if a wood chuck would chuck wood?” A question for the ages I suppose. Goes to show you the power of a name. Woodchuck Day would have been a total flop.

Here in Dixie, a groundhog would not have seen his shadow this year. Also, we tend to have much earlier springs than they have up north. I hear Phil did see his shadow, however. So sorry, yinzers. Maybe next year.

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