“What’s your name and where are you from?”
They are two of the most boring questions, but they are how most conversations start when meeting people for the first time. While the answers are usually boring, my first few seconds with somebody new is usually much more entertaining.
“My name is Trevin and I’m from Punxsutawney.”
A lot different from the usual “Steve from Columbus, Ohio” that most people hear, a polite introduction with me usually ends up in a full-fledged Q and A session.
When I was younger I didn’t like my name and I didn’t like where I was from. I was a kid with a weird name nobody could pronounce from that weird town with the groundhog.
I’ve grown to love and embrace my name. People might mispronounce it, but nobody forgets it. Trevin is an awesome name.
My hometown was a different story. Like most kids who grow up in Punxsutawney (or any small town), I always thought that any place would be preferable over Punxsutawney. It was small, it was sleepy and once a year every February the entire world reported what Punxsutawney Phil said while thinking silently that we were all insane, Groundhog-worshiping folk. Being from Punxsutawney automatically made you a freak show to a lot of people from neighboring areas.
We were all famous because we were…strange.
At some point when I was in high school, though, my feelings towards my hometown started to change. It didn’t happen all at once, but the more I saw of the outside world the more I appreciated where I came from.
I remember going to track meets in Pittsburgh and getting strange looks from people we were running against. I suppose people were surprised to see real, living human beings from Punxsutawney out in the wild. In a strange way, though, I loved getting that extra look from people we were competing against. We used it as motivation. Yes, Punxsutawney is a real place. Yes, we live there. Yes, we are going to beat you to the finish line.
The first time I really “got out” of Punxsutawney was when I left headed for college in central Indiana. I was shocked initially to learn that the things everybody hated about Punxsutawney — gossip, close-mindedness, boredom — weren’t confined to the southeast corner of Jefferson County, Pennsylvania.
In fact, all the other places I’ve called home since high school have all been pretty similar. They have mostly good people and some bad people. Every town has gossip and drama. Every town has construction.
The difference, I’ve learned, was that Punxsutawney has an identity. It might be a weird one and we might not have liked it, but there was always something that united everybody who lived there. We all had one thing in common — Groundhog’s Day — and we all knew it. The population of the town might continue to shrink and our local economy might worsen but no matter what we still have Groundhog’s Day and we’re still going to get our moment in the spotlight whether we like it or not. If you have ever rooted for a terrible sports team for an extended period, the bond you feel with your fellow fans is a lot like the bond you feel with other people from Punxsutawney. No matter how bad last season was, THIS YEAR IS GOING TO BE OUR YEAR.
Plus, being from Punxsutawney has some other perks:
- We never had school on February 2nd.
- Tourism money
- Laska’s Pizza
- Sega debuted Sonic the Hedgehog 3 on Groundhog Day when I was five years old.
Other than being around to visit my folks, I haven’t lived in Punxsutawney since summers during my college days. While moving back doesn’t appeal to me, I appreciate it a lot more than I ever have.
I used to think of Punxsutawney as a strange, isolated place famous for a groundhog. I still think all of those things are true but now I think of it as a strange, isolated place famous for a Groundhog that has blessed me with wonderful friends and experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Punxsutawney gave me both pride and a chip on my shoulder.
Nowadays when I meet people, I don’t mind at all talking about Gobbler’s Knob, Phil and Phyllis or weather prognostication. Most of the time, I can even recite some interesting Groundhog Day facts.
It took me 25 years to realize it, but being from Punxsutawney is more blessing than curse.