Most of the time, it’s less that Phil can forget, and more that he can put everything that happened in Punxsutawney on the shelf. Somewhere next to the still-recurring stress dreams about his junior year Weather Systems final and unresolved baggage with his dad.
It’s funny what flowing time will do to you. It catches up sooner than you would think. Phil feels like an idiot when he really thinks about it. The amount he curses when traffic is bad. Or how he’s furious (even when he knows he’s being irrational) because the coffee shop is out of half and half. Rita just rolls her eyes and reassures him that as long as he doesn’t actually go off on the baristas of the world, then he’s only human.
Phil tries. Most of the time he succeeds.
Over the years he's slowly forgotten the 2017 almanac. Sure, Phil remembers enough that he doesn't embarrass himself when he gets into a conversation with actual farmers, but his days of rattling off statistics about tomatoes are over.
Phil knows he's different after Punxsutawney. That it’s probably a good thing, if only because Rita continues to give him the time of day, not to mention a piece of her mind whenever he forgets to take out the trash.
But no matter how you look at it, the shit that happened in Punxsutawney was weird . The fact that his life has resumed any semblance of normality is nothing less than miraculous. Men and women spend fortunes trying to eke out an extra few years of youth. These days Phil is okay with his steadily increasing grey hairs.
So he continues to hate the universe when the checkout line at Trader Joes is long, all while being quietly grateful for it at the end of the day. Phil's not a god, he's no alien. Just a boring ole mortal trying to get by, do a few new things, and maybe leave the universe a less shitty place than before.
But today is different. It doesn't matter how much time has passed, how much everything has changed.
Phil looks down at his watch. 6:20 AM.
The long months of snow have not been kind to the lawn. The grass has large chunks of brown and Phil is mentally calculating the cost of redoing the worst patches. The yard is scattered with clumps of evidence that the neighbors have not kept their promise to keep Fido on their side of the gate.
Still, the snow is gone, and just in the nick of time. (There have definitely been years when this day has been more symbolic than literal). Phil smiles despite himself. Even with the chill, he can feel the warmth of the morning sunlight on his neck. He steps closer to one of the trees, reverently brushing a hand over the green shoots just starting to form.
It doesn't matter how many times Phil has experienced the changing of the seasons since Punxsutawney. Something as simple as the fucking earth completing its latest rotation around the sun is enough to bring him to the point of tears, being a grown man be damned.
Never take this for granted, he tells himself. Forget everything else, but never this.
The minute hand turns, signaling the moment of equinox has come and gone. Phil exhales.
The back door opens abruptly. The face that emerges is not amused. “We were supposed to leave five minutes ago, please tell me there's a reason you're standing outside in your boxers.
Phil can tell by her shoes that Rita is in business mode. She only gets out the Doc Martens when she's trying to psych herself up for something that scares her. That's right - today is the meeting about the incident with the asshole from Accounting. Phil knows she was in the right, Rita knows, and for Christ’s sake even HR has said in writing this is just a formality. Not that he can blame her for being nervous.
Phil can’t leave this moment just yet. He laughs softly. “It's spring, Rita.”
There's a quiet beat as she meets his eyes. For a moment Phil worries that he's pushing her at the wrong moment. Somewhere along the way Rita has accepted his eccentricities as part of the Phil Connors package, but he knows full well that doesn’t equal carte blanche.
He sees comprehension pass over Rita’s face. Phil still doesn’t know if Rita believes in time loops. He makes a point to not press her on it. But he’d like to think she does believe in him . At least enough to accept that something happened, whether it be out there in the space time continuum or just in his head. Maybe Phil knew Rita for longer during his endless Punxsutawney days, but he knows her better now. Knows that she can be stubborn and cynical and carry a grudge for too long. And that at the core of it all, she's the most compassionate person he's ever met.
Phil realizes he still has a hand on the damn tree branch. He must look like a lunatic.
Rita’s lips curve upwards in a gentle smirk. “You doing okay, Mr. Unstuck in Time?”
Phil grins despite himself. “I'm incredible.” It’s true.
Rita takes a step outside and shakes her head. “Leave it to the weatherman to go all It's a Wonderful Life over the first day of spring.”
Phil shrugs. “Special occasion, extraordinary circumstances…” He closes the distance between them pulls her to him, wrapping his arms around her front. Rita leans back into the crevice of his neck and puts a hand over one of his own.
This was never supposed to happen, he reminds himself again. I’m supposed to be debating college sports teams with the Clevelands right now, or maybe picking up a third instrument.
I was never supposed to get to be with you.
“You are freezing,” Rita snorts, breaking the moment.
“What are you talking about, we're up to the high forties today. Not to mention these currents from the west which will be picking up altitude and-”
She swats at him. “Put on a coat. No sympathy here when you get sick.” Rita's eyes are gleaming.
Phil laughs and presses a kiss to her neck. “I guess that means I should get dressed.”
“I will also have no mercy if you become an internet meme for doing the forecast in the nude.”
“C’mon, you’re the one who’s always worried about ratings.” Phil mentally starts going through the day’s appointments. Rita wasn't wrong - they really should have left five minutes ago. “There’s no real reason to stop by the office first this morning, should save us some time.”
Rita squeezes his hand. “I know.”
Time to go back to that whole mortality thing. It’s okay, though - he'll do his best to remember that it’s all just part of the ride. Phil spares one last look before following Rita inside.
Never forget this.