Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day.

Something about Groundhog Day makes me a little introspective every year. I know…weird. Most people don’t even notice Groundhog Day, and they haven’t even thought about it since they were kids. Well, I’m not “most people.”For a variety of reasons, Groundhog Day has meaning to me.

My godmother was born on Groundhog Day. She passed away in April 2020, during the first round of pandemic shutdowns. On the day she died, a bluebird “harassed” me as I walked through our neighborhood. OK, “harassed” is a strong word. Maybe I should just say a bluebird followed me. It flew around me, and it landed on a mailbox in front of me, as if it were waiting for me to approach. As I got closer, it dropped down to the ground and just watched me…from really close. I thought it was odd at the time, but a couple of days later, I learned that my godmother had passed that day. She loved “bluebirds of happiness.” She had given my mother some glass bluebirds of happiness that I sent back to her after Mother died. Was the bluebird’s visit really a visit from her? I’ll never know, but Happy Heavenly Birthday to Cynthia!

Also on Groundhog Day, I started my blog in 2018, a little over a month after my mother passed away. I was nervous about putting myself out there, but I shouldn’t have been. Everyone I know has always been so supportive and gracious. And I’d like to think some of my own experiences have helped others. Plus, I have quite the record of crazy stories from my life for my daughter to read later…long after I’m gone.

When I was a little girl, I fell in love with the whole idea of Groundhog Day when my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Peavy, told us about it. I was five, and I was absolutely fascinated by the idea of a groundhog (which I had never seen in south Alabama) coming out to look for its shadow! And the idea that it would predict how much winter was left was incredible to me! I took it at face value. I truly believed that groundhog knew something the rest of us didn’t. Oh, to be five years old again! My five-year-old self was full of wonder and soaking it all in! And Groundhog Day gives me a day to remember what it felt like to be five years old. For the record, I did check on ol’ Punxsutawney Phil today. He saw his shadow, which means he predicts six more weeks of winter for us. I’m OK with that. Winter is short in the Carolinas. I need opportunities to wear my winter clothes and shoes!

And then, there’s the movie, Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. It’s a silly movie, of course. The whole idea of reliving the same day over and over and over is preposterous! But there are days I would love to live over and over…especially if I could alter the course they take on each subsequent day till I got it perfect. Remember how Murray’s character starts each day with his alarm clock playing Sonny and Cher’s I Got You, Babe? That song is, of course, a favorite from my childhood, when I would spend one night a week watching The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour in front of our big, Zenith console TV in the family den. The duo ended every episode with that song, and sometimes, they would bring out their cute little girl, Chastity, to sing with them. But it’s not the song that makes the movie special. It’s just a way of letting the viewer know the same day is being replayed. It’s the whole concept that I love…keep doing it over and over till you get it right. I would have a hard time picking what day I would want to live over and over, if I could pick.

But for all the joy and good memories Groundhog Day brings me, I know there are people who have lost loved ones on this day…one family, in particular, who lost their 16-year-old daughter/sister eight years ago. I know it’s a heartbreaking day for them and many others out there. So every Groundhog Day, I say a little prayer for them. As much as these types of anniversaries can be difficult, sometimes they bring us peace, as they force us to remember the loved one.

Whatever Groundhog Day means to you, I hope you see some bluebirds of happiness instead of your shadow.

A Bluebird Takes Flight

A bluebird of happiness takes flight.

I just received word that a dear family friend passed away. When I say “dear family friend,” I mean someone who had basically been a member of my family since my parents first married in 1961. My mother met her when they were both working at a Sunland Center in Florida. Sounds luxurious, right? Well, Sunland was  actually a facility that specialized in offering services for the physically and mentally disabled…mostly children. My mother was a nurse there, and Cynthia, the family friend, worked in the recreation department. Cynthia was just 18 when they met, and while she admired Mother, I think Mother kind of took her under her wing. Mother was four years older, a registered nurse, and married. They became lifelong friends.

With encouragement from my mother, Cynthia later went to nursing school and then continued her education to become a nurse anesthetist…against the odds, since she was dyslexic. But she worked hard, and she was successful.

My parents moved to Alabama soon after I was born, and I remember Cynthia visiting regularly throughout my life. In fact, I thought she was my aunt till I was eight or nine. I have pictures of her visiting when I was a baby.  I know she was with us at a hotel in Panama City Beach in March 1970, when my toddler brother pulled a coffee pot off the table, burning himself. Mother and Daddy rushed him to the hospital, and Cynthia stayed with me. We watched people shooting fireworks off the balconies of the hotel…out over the beach. That’s likely one of my earliest memories, since I was not quite three years old. I’m sure it registered in my longterm memory because my brother’s burn was emotional for me.

Later, Cynthia had a little Triumph convertible. I thought she was the coolest, and I loved riding in that little car with her. She would visit us once or twice a year, and she was fun and energetic. She loved telling stories, and she loved to laugh. She had an infectious sense of humor with a twinkle in her eye, and she was always supportive of our little family. With no kids of her own, she treated us as if we were hers. Interestingly, somehow I remember that she was visiting us in Spanish Fort when I turned ten in 1977. She gave me a cool hooded shirt and shorts, and some Faberge Tigress cologne…what I thought was a grown-up gift! I loved it…the bottle was beautiful, with a fuzzy top that looked like a tiger skin. Funny what we remember.

And when Daddy was dying with pancreatic cancer, Cynthia was right there with us…helping us help him. I vividly remember her bathing mother’s dog and entertaining my daughter and my cousin’s daughter. The girls were two and three years old at the time, and Cynthia knew how to entertain them.

You might remember that I wrote about Cynthia once before, a couple of years ago when I wrote about the Bluebird of Happiness I found in my mother’s home after she died. I didn’t know where she got them, but I knew Cynthia often brought little gifts when she visited Mother, and I was right…when I called Cynthia, she said she had given them to her. I promptly packaged them up and sent them to Cynthia, and she later told me she kept them on a little table next to a picture of Mother. You can see the Bluebird of Happiness piece here. 

Last year, when I took my daughter and one of her friends on a road trip along the Gulf Coast, we visited Cynthia in Tallahassee. She took us to dinner at Shula’s atop the Hotel Duval, and we enjoyed the view of the Tallahassee skyline from the balcony. I had planned to see her again at Labor Day this year, when we visit Tallahassee again for a Florida State University football game.

While I’m brokenhearted…again…after a big loss, I know that if she were here with me right now, we would be laughing about something. She could make anything funny…with just a look.  In fact, last year, when we went to dinner, she kept my daughter in stitches with her crazy sense of humor. She told my daughter stories from my youth, and we laughed and laughed.

She loved my family as if we were her own, and the feeling was mutual, so this loss is a big one. It took the wind out of my sails. While I know loss is going to happen, this one was a shock. She was 76, but she was a young 76, if that makes any sense. She was a tough chick, and she is missed already.

Hug your loved ones, and if you can’t hug them because of this pandemic, talk with them as much as you can.