Many people say they would hate to be born on a holiday, and for the most part I think I agree, but while it isn’t really a “holiday,” Groundhog Day, for my husband’s grandmother, Vina Hein, was a special day. When she was born on February 2, 1909, Groundhog Day in the United States was a mere 22 years old. There are lots of differing views on how it came to be, but apparently, it is pretty much an American tradition. It is thought to be a spinoff, of sorts, of a tradition that started with the early Christians in Europe, and for centuries the custom was to have the clergy bless candles and distribute them to the people. Even then, it marked a milestone in the winter and the weather that day was important. On old song about the day went thus: If Candlemas be fair and bright, Come, Winter, have another flight; If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, Go Winter, and come not again. It all sounds quite familiar doesn’t it? Of course in the Christian religion, it meant something else. It is half way through winter, and it was also thought to be when Mary’s purification day occurred after Jesus was born.
Nevertheless, leave it to Americans to make their warm weather travel plans based on the machinations of a reticent rodent. Each year, groundhogs around the country…but most notably Punxsutawney Phil of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, are paraded out to predict how many more weeks will transpire before spring is on the way. It’s either six more weeks of winter…as was the case with Punxsutawney Phil this year, or an early spring. It all depends upon whether the groundhog sees his shadow or not. This tradition has been going on since 1887s, despite modest advances in weather prediction since that time…if you think the weatherman knows his business that is.
So, while it was not a major holiday, Grandma Hein’s birthday always had an added little bit of sparkle. If her wish came true, the groundhog would predict an early spring, because after all, who isn’t ready for the beautiful flowers of spring in the dead of winter. Today would have been Grandma Hein’s 109th birthday if she were still here. Grandma, I know that where you are, the Spring flowers are always blooming. Happy birthday in Heaven Grandma. We love and miss you very much.
I never had a problem remembering Grandma Hein’s birthday. Grandma is my husband, Bob’s grandmother, so I didn’t grow up knowing her birthday. Nevertheless, I always can always remember that day. I suppose it is because, every year, Grandma had a special date with a ground hog. Everyone has dates…and I don’t mean the romantic kind. There is a date with death, a date with birth, a date with an upcoming test, or graduation. We don’t always call these things dates, although, some of them we do. And every year, we have a date with our birthday. That was the kind of date that Grandma Hein had. Every year of her life, Grandma knew that her day was extra special, because she got to find out about the coming Spring. She mentioned that to me several times, so I know she liked it.
Grandma’s life wasn’t always easy. Her mother, Viola Leary, was in and out of their lives, and when she returned, Grandma wasn’t sure she wanted her there. Of course, there was a step mother in the picture at some point, but that marriage didn’t last either, opening the door for Viola’s return. Viola was back in Grandma’s life until her dad’s passing, and then resurfaced at the time of her own passing. Unfortunately, Grandma’s relationship with her mother was never an especially close one, even when her mother lived with them. Of course, I also understand that there are two sides to every story, but since everyone else had passed away, I only heard the one side.
Grandma was a hard working woman. I’m sure that is partly because of all the years she spent taking care of the house that she and her dad and brother lived in. I remember going to her home for visits, and finding myself thinking that Grandma just never slowed down. She could run circles around most people and never seemed to get tired. I think that is how most ranchers’ wives are though. The day just never seems to end.
It was always so much fun to go to visit Grandma and Grandpa Hein. It was a trip we made sure we took every year, and I have always be thankful we did. It has been so many years, and I really miss those trips and I miss Grandma and Grandpa Hein. Today would have been Grandma’s 108th birthday, and while Spring is supposedly 6 weeks away, the day is special because it is hers. Happy birthday in Heaven, Grandma Hein. We love and miss you very much.
When your birthday happens to be on a holiday, it can be a special thing. Groundhog Day, 103 years ago was one of those special days. That was the day Bob’s grandmother was born. I don’t know if Grandma’s parents looked at her birthday as something special in those early years or not. For me, however, as her granddaughter-in-law, hers was a birthday that I never forgot. It wasn’t that Groundhog Day was any big holiday where I come from, but for me, the coming of Spring means…well, a return to life!!
I was curious as to whether or not Groundhog day was even something celebrated when Grandma was born, and since I had never researched it before, I decided to look. I found that Groundhog Day began in 1841 when a German shopkeeper named James Morris in Berks County, Pennsylvania, wrote that February 2 was the day the groundhog comes out of his burrow from hibernating. If the day is sunny and the groundhog sees his shadow, he returns to his burrow for six more weeks of hibernation. If the day is cloudy and the groundhog cannot see his shadow, then he ends his hibernation and the weather will be mild. So it was something that was celebrated when Grandma was born.
Still, I don’t know if her parents gave it much thought or not. What I do know is that for her children and grandchildren, it was a special day. Of course, many people like me look at Groundhog Day as the day we hope will point to an early Spring, but for our family it is also the day a very special lady was born. Grandma was the glue that held the family together in the early years, and the one who taught everyone about love. In the later years, her grandchildren and great grandchildren loved to spend time with her too. She made every visit wonderful…an adventure.
Grandma always liked the fact that her birthday was on Groundhog Day. I remember her telling about her birthday, and you could see it on her face. I think grandma liked the Springtime too. What rancher didn’t. Spring always brought the new life. New cows, the garden growing, being able to get outside and enjoy the day…these were things she liked. Her front yard was a place she liked to be, as was her garden. But the place I remember her the most was in her kitchen. Grandma could easily run circles around most people. When breakfast was over, a short break, and it was time to start preparations for lunch…and then dinner.
Even if Grandma’s birthday had not been on a special day, it would always be a special day to us, her family, because it was the day grandma’s life began. Grandma has been gone for 14 years now, but every year on Groundhog Day, I can see her in my mind’s eye…always busy, always smiling, always special.