Groundhog Day

I love Groundhog Day.  It’s a silly tradition but it manages to work its charm. I always wake up on February 2nd filled with anticipation about all the implications of a shadow. (Did that funny-looking creature with an equally odd name see his shadow? Did he not see it?) The shift to more daylight, so incremental since the winter solstice, suddenly feels dramatic. Winter is on its way out; spring is on its way in.

I know Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t always get it right, and I don’t care. I may be less forgiving with my local know-before-you-go meteorologist whose forecast promised clear skies and left me running for cover in a downpour—just the thing that got Bill Murray’s character in trouble in a cult classic movie that celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. What better way to mark the story of a weatherman caught in a comedic time warp with existential implications than for Starz Encore Classic to have round-the-clock showings today?

Putting aside the clever spin ‘Groundhog Day’ (the movie) brought to this very day, for me it’s more about continuity, and the whys and wherefores of legends.

One legend links Groundhog Day to Candelmas, an ancient Christian tradition marking the midpoint between winter and spring during which candles were blessed by clergy and handed out. A sunny, clear day signaled (superstitiously speaking) a long, rough winter; a cloudy sky meant warm weather was on its way.  The legend of Punxsutawney Phil as we know him, seems to derive more directly from German lore in which a hedgehog seeing his shadow on a sunny February 2nd was a sign of a six more weeks of winter.  Early German settlers in Pennsylvania made the groundhog a stand-in for the hedgehog.

This February brings more than a spring alert. As many of you may already know, that novel you got a glimpse of when I asked for your support in a Kindle Scout campaign (which did rev me up even if it felt a little like ‘American Idol’ for book lovers), is coming, April 10th to be exact.  Publishing is a quirky business that demands a great deal of tenacity and faith from a writer.  We write, we revise, we chuck what we think doesn’t quite cut it or we tuck it into a folder if it has some vestige of possibility.  We crave validation, we cry at disappointments that make us question why we do the very thing we could not live without doing.

At the heart of my novel is a young girl’s special relationship with a doting gay uncle and her coming of age during the ‘80s, which were nothing if not a threshold decade. Think about it—AIDS. Ronald Reagan. Glamour and greed.  My fictional mind took me to an era marked by innocence lost. And my metaphoric soul took me to a month on the cusp of spring, the shortest month of the year.

Now it’s here, the novel and the month for which Just Like February gets its name. Leap Year plays its part in reminding us there’s something more at play in how we measure our days. And, yes, the groundhog makes a brief appearance.




And the seasons they go ’round and ’round . . .

The month of April is playing tricks on me. No sooner do I shed the fleece jacket for a morning walk one day, a sweatshirt all I need, than I find myself putting it on again the next day.

Expectation really resists being defied.

Okay, so the groundhog screwed up, promising an early spring; instead we got lingering cold and snow, to boot. For one Ohio lawyer (with a sense of humor I hope) there’s only one thing to do: bring a lawsuit against Punxsutawney Phil for misrepresentation; he wants punishment by death. A more enterprising legal mind might take it to the next level, sue the companies that are the most egregious offenders when it comes to emitting those noxious gases linked to global warming.

So much is out of our control.

Buds start to emerge from the branches of trees, a crocus (still closed) pokes through the ground. There’s reassurance in the songs of birds and peepers filling the air.

What a fine line between captivation and feeling captive on that carousel of time . . .

April, with its fool’s beginning, taunts me. Is there some poignant, poetic message in being reminded of everything coming back to life in the very same month that my mother died?  She loved when I brought her fresh flowers.

Spring demands its very own kind of cleaning. I find myself pulling clothes from my closet, suits and dresses I will no longer wear, not because they’ve been worn to death but simply because it’s time to let them go. Most often I’ll donate clothes to the local community center, but I get it in my head that these particular garments – an elegant coat and dress ensemble, a classic pants suit, a designer dress – should go to a consignment shop. It’s as if I’m infusing them with a life they really don’t have, a prideful place that asks me not to just drop them off to be picked through on crowded racks. By virtue of a transaction, they attain a certain value.

The consignment shop I’ve chosen makes it all very easy: just come by, no appointment necessary. The owner has a policy I like: items that don’t sell within sixty days are donated to any of several charities.  Maybe I’ll make some money, maybe I won’t; either way, there’s a satisfaction that comes with passing on things of value and sentiment. All of  which really is beside the point when I drop the clothes off, and they’re tossed in a bundle, not closely examined  while I’m there so I can tell the stories.

Of the few items I have relinquished it is the coat and dress ensemble that cuts to the heart. Deep navy blue, with a ruched trim on the coat, it looks almost as new as the day I first wore it (more than ten years ago), when my daughter became a Bat Mitzvah.  I would wear it several times after but never with the sense of some synchronicity at play when I put it on in celebration of that rite of passage: too many years earlier to count, a fourteen-year-old girl would sport  a grey pinstripe coat and dress the day her brother became a Bar Mitzvah. I can still see that  stylish Peter Pan collar of the dress. I can still feel the pride that went with being the big sister.

As I leave the consignment shop I imagine my offering catching the eye of someone with taste, a keen shopper on the lookout for something a cut above.  At the same time, a sinking feeling takes hold at what I have left behind.