[*Originally Published on www.DivineCaroline.com on Groundhog Day, 2013.]
I’ve always hated that movie, “Groundhog Day.”
Every day, like the one before it? It goes on and on and on and on and on…. So tedious.
Nevertheless, on February 1, 2012, that was a good description of my life.
Get up, kids fight, get them dressed. Everyone screaming. Quiet for 2 minutes while they eat, quickly replaced by fighting in the bathroom while brushing teeth. Me screaming over the din. Rush rush rush! Drive to school. Late as usual. Miss them like crazy. Try to get my work and writing done, while placating the 3 year old for the day. Then the older boys would get home, just in time to fight over math and spelling and what was for dinner. Despite the fighting, we would try to get homework and laundry and cleaning done in time to finish a bedtime story but would often give up when it got too darn late while everyone.was.still.fighting.
I was exhausted.
So on the day before Groundhog Day 2012, when the kids got home from school and asked if we could drive 5 hours to see Punxsutawney Phil in the morning, I thought about it.
I really did.
I thought about how we could all use a shake-up in the routine.
But, of course that would be silly.
At 11 pm, that same night before Groundhog Day, just as I was heading off to bed, something on Facebook caught my eye. A groundhog – named Patty - appearing at sunrise at the Reading Pagoda, a historic landmark no more than fifteen minutes from my home.
Interesting. (And a landmark, no less. That would kill two proverbial birds with one stone, wouldn’t it?)
I went to bed elated.
What a hero I will be in the morning. A groundhog 15 minutes from our home.
I was delirious.
I woke up at 615 and tiptoed down the hall. I roused my sleepy boys with a whisper.
There’s a groundhog in town. She’s coming out at sunrise. I just found out last night. Hurry, if we dress quickly and eat breakfast bars in the car, there will be enough time. Hur-
I didn’t have to finish. In 10 minutes, they were up. They were dressed. They were helping each other get ready. They were not fighting. They were exuberant.
They piled into the car and I got my nearly 4 year old out of bed and put her into the car half-asleep. We’re off to see the groundhog, honey.
We made our way up the steep hillside to the Pagoda. The first morning light was peeking through the sky. It was a brisk but comfortable morning. About 40 degrees. I recall wondering if this would bode well for the groundhog’s predictive capabilities.
I just couldn’t wait.
Nor could the kids.
This is going to be so fun, mom.
Thank you SO much, mom.
You are the best, mom.
There was so much patting me on the back, I didn’t notice at first that the Pagoda parking lot was nearly empty.
Wait, where is everyone? I suddenly wondered.
Only a handful of people had assembled. A few more arrived as we stood there. A local news cameraman joined the sparse crowd.
One woman wearing a handmade Groundhog Day sweatshirt and crocheted scarf told me that she looks forward to this day all year. It’s better than Christmas, she said. Well, actually I hate Christmas, she said. (Turns out, she was in retail.)
As we stand there – waiting for the groundhog – this same woman tells me that she has even been to Punxsutawney but now she comes here every year. Much closer, she says. “You know if more people don’t start coming to this event, they’ll cancel it.” I am horrified by that thought. Well, we’ll tell people. I assure her. We’ll start coming every year. What a lovely tradition. See you next year! I exclaim confidently.
I turn back to the Pagoda. There is a flurry of activity inside and I crane my neck wondering if there is a cage for the groundhog. Where is she? Where is Patty? There is a ceremony and a poem and then the Mayor blows a whistle and my three children and I are all giddy with excitement.
Around the corner comes Patty.
And Patty is … a costumed mascot.
My heart sinks but not as fast as my 6 year olds’ who turns around to me and assesses me instantly as a traitor.
That is not a real groundhog, mom.
I plaster a smile on my face, desperate not to show my naivete to these trusting kids. I know, honey, isn’t that adorable?
But it is not adorable. It is disappointing with a capital D. My 8 year old mumbles “Got up at the crack of dawn. For THAT.”
I feel lousy.
The cameraman turns the camera on the small crowd and begins interviewing the lady in the crocheted scarf. I lean over and whisper to the boys to jump in the shot. They eagerly get behind her – staring at the camera. My 6 year old takes the mike and answers a few questions in a barely audible tone. I know he will never make the final reel but I tell him – you were on the news! And his excitement is back.
I am redeemed just a little bit.
We headed back to the car, a little quieted by the morning. But we got to school early. And there had not been one single fight. And it’s not every day you get up at the crack of dawn to see a costumed groundhog named Patty. So we giggled a bit as we drove away and you know what?
Our routine had been shaken and stirred a bit.
Groundhog Day was over.
My little outing was indeed a success, after all.
So what about next year? Will we be joining the lady with the crocheted scarf?
Not a chance.
Next year, we’re driving to Punxsutawney.
[And we did.]