Killing the groundhog

Dara Squires
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Dara Squires

My youngest came home from kindergarten a couple of weeks back with more than his normal exuberance: “Mom! We made a hedgehog craft. Do you know what a hedgehog is?”

In my typical boring mom fashion I said it was a small animal and we could research it some more if he likes.

His enthusiasm dampened hardly at all by my expected response, he informed me that a hedgehog lived in his hole and made winter when he came out.

Seriously, what else is a child raised on both science and magic supposed to think when he hears the story of Groundhog Day?

“Do you mean a groundhog,” I asked him?

“Yeah. That,” he replied, not at all worried about the semantics or taxonomy.

I know some kids are excited by the winter Olympics this year, and there has certainly been more hoopla at his school about that, but the groundhog is all my son can think about.  He insisted on watching all the groundhog reports on Groundhog Day — with an attention span he usually reserves only for episodes of Johnny Test.

The fact that there was more than one groundhog confused him. And the fact that some saw their shadows while others did not confused him more.

But he figured it out. “They only can tell about winter near them. When they make winter, it can’t go too far.”

I probably should have disabused him of the notion that the groundhog actually decides if he will make more winter instead of it just being a superstition about shadows, but we were having too much fun.

I’m a little sick of Mr. Groundhog now, though. And so is my son. The other day as he struggled through yet another overnight snowdrift he decided that groundhog was pretty foolish and wanted to know if the six weeks were up yet.

That silly groundhog made us have more winter and despite the fun of sledding and snowballs and getting candy for helping the neighbours shovel, we’re a little sick of ice storms and power outages (after going four days without power, the kids and I develop PTSD-type symptoms the minute the lights flicker) and cold.

Yesterday I caught my son trying on his sandals.

“I feel like stomping that groundhog, mommy.

“Not in your sandals.

“Yeah, he will get all over my feet.”

I suppose I could disabuse his notions and figuratively stomp the groundhog for him. I could explain to him that their predictions are accurate only about 40 per cent of the time and introduce him to Ryan Snodden and meteorology instead of Wiarton Willie and magic.

But, I like the way he grumbles about “that ol’ hedgehog” when his boots are full of snow or says he’d like to pet the groundhog when he’s enjoying playing in the snow.

Despite my frustration with winter myself, and the urge to stomp that scared little rodent at times, it’s not yet time to kill the groundhog.

Groundhog Day, from the eyes of a child, really is more exciting than the Olympics and the idea that the natural world can be predictable — though at the whims of the things within it — is a notion that I don’t mind him find safety in for a while.

Next year, though, I’m planning on placing a shade over every groundhog hole in North America and flooding their burrows so they have to stay out.

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Geographic location: North America

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