My husband and I bought our house six years ago.
On our first night there, a neighbor knocked on the front door. We thought he'd welcome us to the neighborhood. Instead, he warned us. About the groundhog.
"Listen. You guys got a groundhog living in your yard. I don't want that thing ruining my lawn. You gotta do something."
I don't know what he wanted us to do. This was suburbia. We couldn't shoot the thing. We didn't have a trap. We hadn't even owned a yard until a few days ago. My husband and I looked at each other. Then we promised the neighbor we'd watch out for the groundhog.
We kept our promise. We poked around the pine trees that separated our property from the neighbor's, looking for signs that a groundhog might live there. We pruned the shrubs that had gone neglected by the house's previous owners. We tore down the rotting old deck and built a new one in its place.
Each time, we searched for clues that would lead us to the groundhog. We found none.
We joked, occasionally, that the groundhog was biding its time. We blamed the groundhog when moles left holes in the backyard, and again when a family of bunnies ate our strawberry plants. When a series of dead robins turned up around our lawn, we joked that the groundhog was sending a message:
"Your time is up, suckers. Either get off my turf, or I'm comin' for ya."
Eventually we forgot about groundhog. We got busy. We had a baby. Life went on.
But today, as I was leaving for work, I saw something strange in the backyard:
No, I thought. This cannot be happening.
But it was. A groundhog was standing under trees.
I felt like I was seeing a unicorn. A disheveled, sleepy unicorn that had just breakfasted on last year's Halloween pumpkin and was now kind of inconvenienced by my presence.
Look, I know. I know this is not the same groundhog that my neighbor was complaining about six years ago. But wouldn't it make a much better story if it was? If the original groundhog had gone into hiding, or gone off to get the ring of Sauron and save the hobbits or whatever, and then six years later HE CAME BACK?
Yes. Yes it would.
That's why I'm choosing to believe that the elusive groundhog has finally returned.
And I can't wait to see the look on our neighbor's face.
Cover image courtesy of Wikicommons and used under a Creative Commons license.