Monday, February 2, 2009

Happy Groundhog Day!

Wow. In my desire -- inspired by our own Olga -- to not only entertain but to inform, I've discovered some interesting things about Groundhog Day.

  1. The critter's name is one word, not two as I had thought.

  2. The gala celebrations of Groundhog Day started in 1871. I think we'd be justified in two years to double the energy of our festivities, even though I don't know the word for "the hundred and fortieth anniversary of." Well, then maybe we should wait until 2021 so we can have the sesquicentennial. Yeah. That'll make it easier on us all.

  3. If Phil of Punxsutawny sees his shadow today -- meaning it's sunny up there in Pennsylvania -- then there will be six more weeks of winter. A cloudy day (with no shadow) indicates an early spring. I thought it was the other way around. I can't imagine the tragic results had I continued in this ignorance.

Groundhog Day, the movie, was and remains one of my favorites. The extravagance of our [anti]-hero's feats satisfies me greatly. He saves lives! He thwarts thieves! He plays the piano! Nothing exceeds like excess. The first time I saw it, which is when it came out in February of 1993, I decided that next Groundhog Day would see me up in Punxsutawney.

Well, deciding and doing are two different things, aren't they?

My mother's first serious boyfriend and his family lived in Punxsutawney when I was a kid. I remember only one visit from them, this doughy man with a puffy wife and too many kids with runny noses. I remember looking at those kids and thinking I could be them. My last name would have been Swanson. Hm. I prefer Nicolazzo. Of course, if Mom had gone ahead and married that Eddie, I might have looked at Mike Nicolazzo's kids with their dark hair and dark eyes (except for that middle child with the hazel eyes who now lives in Florida and is blogging such a convoluted scenario that she's about to hit the CANCEL key), and been grateful for my blonde hair and blue eyes and snotty face. I might have been thrilled to have a Swedish name. Who knows?

I do know that Mom was proud of her ability as a young girl to spell Punxsutawney properly, as well she should have been, as I also am now.

I grew up three miles from the southern tip of Letchworth State Park. On Labor Day, the Silver Springs United Methodist Church had a breakfast out at the park. Do you think that's true? Maybe it was Easter Sunday? No. I remember being in church on Easter morning, where we by god belonged, not outside being boggled by Nature at Her finest. Well, maybe a sibling will chime in and correct me if I'm wrong. Let us go forth with Labor Day.

The men would fry bacon and eggs on the grills at the park and I vaguely remember sweet rolls. I can't believe this, but I actually preferred store-bought sweet rolls, even though Mom baked fabulous sticky buns. It's only in adulthood that I recognize the error of my young taste buds. But what I really remember about the Labor Day Breakfast is all the groundhogs we'd see on the hilly lawns of the park. Dad drove along the winding road that led from DeGolyer's farm at the park entrance and followed the deep gorge the Genesee River had gently gouged over the centuries. I was accustomed to seeing those fat brown mammals waddling alone on the side of our non-park roads. I saw plenty of them dead on the side of the road. But only at the park, and only early in the morning, did we see groups of them wandering around so chocolate against the bright green grass.

I'm using I and we interchangeably, I see, which is what I do when I'm talking about my girlhood. I think I was part of a pack as a kid, not quite an individual.

When I was in Ghana with Habitat for Humanity, we were served a meal of ... well, they didn't really say. They just brought us some white meat that we all assumed was chicken. If chicken, it was the best I'd ever had. Afterwards, they told us it was bush rat or bush baby.

That's a tough call, isn't it? Would you rather eat a rat or a baby?

Later, after Habitat left and I was hanging out with a family in Accra, a twentysomething son and I rode up in a government-run bus to Kumasi. On the side of the road, a boy was holding up -- for sale -- a dead animal by its front paws. It looked like a groundhog to me. My friend said it was a bush rat.

I don't remember people at home eating groundhogs or woodchucks, but if it tastes like bush rat, we should.

Now say it with me, please:

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck

if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

A woodchuck would chuck all the wood it could chuck,

if a woodchuck could chuck wood!

Do parents teach that to their kids these days or was mine the last generation to chant that fricative-heavy verse?

Speaking of verses, here's Tom Robbins' great version of the days-in-a-month rhyme:

Thirty days has September,

April, June, and November.

All the rest have thirty-one,

save February, which has too many Rs.

I finished reading 47 by Walter Mosley on January 31. It was the author's first foray into young adult fiction and my first foray into Mosley's work. 47 is about colonial American slavery with a sci-fi twist. You go, Wally! He's famous (but not to me) for his Easy Rawlins mysteries, but his next book will be pornographic.

I may have cleared up the trouble some of you have had while trying to leave comments here in Blogtown. You should be able to comment anonymously and without having to get a Google account. You brave and tenacious ones may try again.

And again.

Aren't spellchecks fun? Mister Google didn't like Punxsutawney -- not even on Groundhog Day! -- but he did suggest "unexciting" and "preexisting."



Jason said...

I don't remember Grandma baking anything. I remember Thanksgiving at their house so, some baking went on, but I can't see grandma doing it. I can see her toasting marshmallows, making Rice Krispie Treats (with peanut butter, yuck!), just no baking. She had to have, because I'd spend a week in the summer there. I can see the plates we ate off of
Anyway, good times...

Anonymous said...

The reason a sunny day presages more winter is, of course, because the groundhog is frightened by his shadow and retreats to the safety of his den, thus causing the sun, in shame or embarrassment, to retreat behind clouds. Old Man Winter, by default, is left to hang around longer. --Eunice

Barbara said...

Yay for Eunice's delightful theory, and YAY for her successful commenting. Boo to Mister Google!

olga kruse said...

Again, when I am sleepless in St. Petersburg, I can read Ms. Chatter and really laugh in the middle of the night; laugh, I tell you. Smile and churtle as it were. Yes, thank you again for making the nighttime a 'brightime'. Oh we do try.