Knowing I have to get up early, I tend to toss and turn all night. As the clock strikes midnight, I am reminded that I will soon be taking my annual trek up to Gobbler’s Knob. The bright lights, the cold, the screaming crowds, all waiting to hear if there will be six more weeks of winter. I am no longer a “spring chicken,” but manage to get up, just a little slower than when I was younger. I make my way down the hall to the lavatory, run the brush through my thick brown hair, and eat a light breakfast.
By 4 am, my friends are knocking on my door to pick me up for our yearly trek up to the Knob. I am the most conservative of the bunch; the rest are always hooting, hollering and ready to party. I am also the youngest of the group, at just 38, so I volunteer to ride in the back of the vehicle. It’s important to go early because Groundhog Day can bring crowds of over 15,000 people, just waiting to hear the weather prediction.
It’s a ten-minute ride from my house and I always wear my warmest coat. I travel up to the Knob with my friends, many of whom belong to the Inner Circle. The Inner Circle guys get dressed up in their top hats and tuxedos for Groundhog Day no matter how low the temperature. As we approach the festivities, even in the earliest of hours people are dancing on the stage, in the crowd, and having a merry time. You will find others drinking hot chocolate, eating, or enjoying the fireworks display. There are always lots of events and commotion through the night and into the day.
The closer we get to morning, the crowd begins to speculate on the prediction of an early spring. You will always hear a few people say that they are excited at the prospect of six more weeks of winter. As 7 am approaches, the weathermen begin broadcasting and sometimes there are celebrity sightings. A few years ago, Bill Murray came to visit and this year John Ratzenberger from the television show Cheers came to Punxsutawney.
As the sun begins to rise, it’s so cold that I can see my breath. The crowd quiets down for the first time all morning and one of my friends from the Inner Circle begins to speak. After a few minutes, he just stops and looks at the groundhog handler who is standing next to me. The handler immediately grabs ahold of me and before I have a chance to get away, I find myself six feet off the ground. My short little pudgy legs wiggle about. The crowd begins to cheer and as I look down I squeal, “I see my shadow! I see my shadow!” The crowd goes wild even with the prognostication of six more weeks of winter! What seems like a million cameras begin to flash and I can barely see my own paws. After a few minutes the crowd calms down and we participate in a ton of photo ops and interviews.
As we leave Gobbler’s Knob, I ride around with my friends most of the day. They are a great group of guys and have made me a custom glass bubble that keeps me safe during appearances. I like to think of it as my own personal “pope mobile”. I am especially appreciative of the sneezeguard that was installed, especially since Groundhog Day occurs during the cold and flu season. We ride around all day, visit with people, and attend an astronomical amount of activities. It truly is the BEST day all year. By the end of the day, however, I’m exhausted. My friends return me to my home at the library, where I have lived the majority of my life.
At the library, I have a nice big loft space with a view of the park on one side and a view of the children’s section on the other side. As I walk through the front door, my girlfriend Phyllis is there waiting for me. She has a nice bowl of chicken soup and my old blue recliner ready for me. Phyllis is a short, portly little groundhog with brown hair and green eyes. She’s not as portly as me, but nevertheless still portly. A few years ago, I went to pick up some furniture for my mother and I bumped into her. When our eyes met, it was like fireworks went off in my small furry, brown little head. I had one of those flash-forward moments of us growing old together, and I just knew that life would never be the same.
Past practice has taught me that the prognostication of six more weeks of winter doesn’t go over as well as one would think. People “boo” and the weathermen look down on me – it was, and still is, really hurtful. Phyllis and I both have made a pact to stay off social media because people can be quite critical. I must admit for a split second when I am pulled from the hole, it’s tempting to just “pretend” not to see my shadow. However, I am a groundhog of character and that wouldn’t be the honest thing to do.
I am really looking forward to the next six weeks. I make tons of special appearances and occasionally get to walk the red carpet. However, my absolute favorite events are the ones where I visit the kids in their schools. They always have the best questions and my favorite that is often asked is, “Are you the original Phil?” I explain to them that I am only 38 years old, but Groundhog Day goes back 130 years. I do, however, come from a long line of Punxsutawney Phil’s. My late dad (and a great guy) was a Phil, his dad was a Phil, and my great-grandpa, who I simply knew as Paw, was the original Punxsutawney Phil.
Other than a few busy weeks post Groundhog Day, most of my nights are spent home in the burrow. Naturally, Phyllis and I do a lot of reading because we live in the library. She is more into fashion magazines, but I personally like current events and the stock market. Tonight, Phyllis has turned in early; we both have had very long days. I am still sitting at my desk finishing this this journal entry when I hear the clock strike midnight. It would appear that, at least for this year, February 2nd is over. My brown eyes are weary and as I set my pen down, I plan on crawling into my burrow, curling up with my girl, and settling in for a long winters nap. Good night & Happy Groundhog Day!
— Punxsutawney Phil, IV
©2017 Katrina Pascuzzo
About Katrina: A small-town girl just skipping through life and loving every day.