Creative Non-Fiction by Doug Ferris
“My glance locked momentarily with the sky-blue eyes of a slender blonde. She held my gaze, smiled confidently, then disappeared into the crowd. No word was spoken.”
I needed information to complete the bank form. “What’s your favorite flower?” I texted. I re-read the words before I hit send. Without context, the words seemed innocent, almost tender though I hadn’t intended them that way. I just needed personal information to complete the online form. Nothing romantic about it.
After more than thirty years together, she suspected a motive. “Is this some kind of personality quiz?” she typed skeptically. And then, her tone softened: “My answer depends on the day…sometimes sunflowers, sometimes Gerber daisies.”
“Sunflowers!” I chastised myself. I should’ve known that by now. I realized that I didn’t even know what Gerber daisies looked like. Her response melted my heart, though. How had I let it all become so practical? When did the joy of learning new details about each other rely on something as practical as a bank form?
It wasn’t always that way. “Once Upon a Time,” I wanted to know everything. Like Groundhog Day, that goofy annual celebration in praise of warmer sunny days, and bright hopes for tomorrow. Ever since that first sunny and mild Groundhoggy day, we have shared all of our dreams together.
On a brilliant day in September, a dry lecture on dusty literature ended, and a somnolent crowd of a hundred students lolled towards the exits. As I awaited my turn to plod up the aisle, I stared carelessly around the packed hall. Briefly, I locked eyes with the sky-blue gaze of a slender blonde. She returned my glance with confidence, and smiled disarmingly. The throng lurched, and the girl disappeared. No words were spoken.
That February, Groundhog Day was unseasonably warm. Though it startled the chubby rodent with his own shadow that day, the bright sunshine lured me out to the front porch of my student rental to lace up my red converse sneakers before heading off to my turgid class on Romantic Poetry.
As I squatted awkwardly to tie my shoes, a slender blonde walked by, turned, looked directly at me, and smiled gently. “How did your pictures turn out?” I stared blankly and uncomprehendingly in response. I had no idea what she meant. ‘Think of something cool to say‘ I thought.
But her self-confidence both unnerved and attracted me. Kerchiefed in a Joplinesque red bandana, her figure draped by a masculine second-hand rummage sale overcoat, she struck me as the essence of edgy counter-culture cool, and suddenly the only thing that mattered was making a good first impression. She waited for me to stand, and I looked away as I tried to think of a clever reply.
“What pictures?” I asked. ‘Not cool. Not cool at all,’ I winced.
“I saw you shooting photos for the school paper at the concert last weekend,” she replied. I summoned the courage to ask her name, she smiled disarmingly, and replied: “EvelynSchomethingerotherski.” I pretended I heard. Then I pretended I knew what I was doing. I was fully and completely smitten. Like the little groundhog on a sunny day in February, I just wanted to dart back onto my burrow, and figure things out.
So it began. We roamed campus together, chatting, and parted hours later when there were no more good excuses to delay.
At home, I realized I didn’t have her phone number, address, or last name, so I sat up that night reading every listing in the student directory that listed first names only, sometimes accompanied by a last initial. Finally, I found “Evelyn S.” Out of eleven thousand students, there was only one.
While the rest of the world anticipates the romance of St. Valentine’s Day, Evelyn S. and I celebrate the enduring romance of Groundhog Day, just as we have for over three decades. It’s silly and frivolous and fun, like being in love.
In a way, the insecure groundhog–shy, bashful, and scared of his own shadow–symbolizes our vulnerability and expresses the courage we need to leave the safety of our burrows and accept the lifelong risk of loving others. But it’s worth it. Every minute. And, as the sunflowers show, we are still learning to love each other with each passing year.
Move over St. Valentine, the lowly Groundhog is the new Mascot of Love. Forget the roses. From now on, I’m sending sunflowers.
(c)2021 Doug Ferris.