Before I moved to California, my Mother had a wonderful party for me on February 2, 1973, Groundhog’s Day.
Groundhog’s Day, of course, is big in Pennsylvania. Somehow I think the origins go back to Candlemas, a festival of light in the Roman and Episcopal traditions, since sunlight or seeing one’s shadow is the critical element of Groundhog’s Day.
Back to my party: more than seventy people came— friends and associates from work, church and theatre. Several remarked that it was nicer than their own wedding receptions. Maybe that was Mother’s way of saying she accepted me. For that event she made a ground hazelnut cake. It was terrific and for a number of years, Mother mailed me hazelnut cakes from Pennsylvania for my birthday in April.
For that same Groundhog’s Day party in 1973, I had wanted to serve “Panetti Punch” named for my favorite Yale music professor, Joan Panetti. It consisted of ginger ale, orange juice, lemonade, Hawaiian Punch, fresh lemons and limes, orange and raspberry sherbet and two fifths of bourbon. It was so sweet you could easily get sloshed without knowing. (As I had on my 20th Birthday in my Saybrook College dorm room at Yale).
I was an adult. It was my party. I would just inform Mother that was what I wanted. Dad, Julie and Cynthia advised me just to do it without telling her. So I did. And there was a good bit left over. Scotch as she was, Mother put it in the refrigerator and served it with breakfast for about a week. Mother said it tasted pretty good. Years later Helen Heisey told Mother, who absolutely refused to believe it had had any alcohol in it! (I think it was the only time she ever had a drink in her entire life.)
In 1985 I had an extravagant Groundhog’s Day party which I called the Feast of St. Hogus Terrae as a celebration for surviving the breakup with Ross Mang. (I can't believe that was thirty years ago!)
February 2 is also the one-hundred sixty-seventh anniversary of the Treaty of Guadelupe Hildago, which settled the Mexican-American War. Up until a few days before the signing of the treaty, the plan was to set the boundary between the United States and Mexico ten nautical miles (I recall) south of…. Monterey! But at the last minute, it was changed to ten nautical miles south of San Diego. What a difference that would have made! Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, the Hearst property with San Simeon would all still be part of Mexico. Supposedly Mexican dictator Santa Anna offered to throw in Baja California, but we declined his offer. After all, who would want that wasteland?