Dogs 2008

GROUNDHOG DAY
(2/3/08)


in the beginning
when we were kids
it was mystifying
and delightful

as teenagers
however
it became
increasingly
embarrassing

on February 1st
in the evening
during the week
or in the afternoon
when the day fell
on the weekends
Dad would search
through the garage
looking for an old tarp
that he kept
just
for the occasion

once retrieved
and shaken
he'd bring it
into the house
move back the furniture
a bit
and spread
the green mustiness
out in front
of the fireplace

next
he would get
a shovel
a bucket
and sometimes a pick
if the ground
was frozen enough
and look for a likely
spot
out in Mom's
flower beds

bucket
by bucket
he's bring in
the frigid soil
and heap it
in the middle
of the tarp

when
there was enough
dirt
by his estimation
he would begin to shape
the tumbling pile
until it resembled
a wide volcano
with a similar
large opening
in the middle

years later
when Close
Encounters
came out
I recognized
the same feverish
intensity
and obsession
in the Richard Dreyfuss
character
with his
mashed potatoes

to them both
their respective mounds
meant something

once sculpted
to the proper
proportions
he would rob the lid
from one of the
garbage cans
and cover
the hole
eyes gleaming

"I wonder
what the Groundhog
will bring us
this year?"

he would ask
us all

when we were young
we'd catch the excitement
as well

Hell
if it meant
more presents
it was well worth
the excitement

yet
for some reason
the Groundhog gifts
had to be things
that were
found
not bought

cast off
or lost
keys
rings
coins
radios
gloves
purses
wallets
lighters
ear rings
some practically
brand new
would find their way
into the earthen
receptacle
to be found by us kids
on Groundhog Day morning

whether the Groundhog
saw his shadow
or not
the lid
came off
and the spoils
were divided

it was up
to us
to decide
which gift
was for whom

no matter what
was delegated
to them
Mom and Dad
were always overjoyed
with their windfall
which multiplied
our joy
while
sorting through
the trash heap

one year
there was even
a twenty dollar bill
that Dad had found
blowing in the gutter
enough for pizza
and soda
for us all
which seemed
a perfect meal
for the event

of course
we learned
early on
that mentioning
this extra holiday
to our friends
was a mistake
and the very few
who had actually witnessed
the Groundhog mound
seemed
more than happy
not to spread
any apocryphal
rumors

years later
I asked Mom
what had started it all
and she said
that she didn't know
it was just something
that he had always
wanted to do
when he had
kids
of his own

other than that
one eccentricity
Dad was quite the normal
plodding
family man
and
sane citizen

seeing him say
at the hardware store
working in the yard
or cheering at a ballgame
no one would suspect
such a crazy
calendar event
would be noted
in his staid
and precise
block lettering

one by one
we all left home
and since colleges
and places
of employment
failed to observe
Groundhog Day
as any official
celebration
worthy of
a day off
no trips home
were made
to verify
the continuing
of tradition

when my youngest
sister
moved away
Mom said that Dad
let February 2nd pass
without mention
and it was left
to us kids
to remember
the one unique day
in our father's
schedule

although
no one
continues
the observance
in kind
we all take our kids
out for pizza
and soda
on Groundhog Night
pulling from our pockets
and purses
any strange objects
that had been found
during the course
of the previous
year

Dad just smiles
when his grandkids
tell him
what the Groundhog
has found
for them

and Mom
has no more
bare patches
remaining
in her garden