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Roger Barbee: Ending, beginning traditions

By Roger Barbee

On the Saturday following Christmas, the called-for snow had not begun when I let the dogs out. However, before all the coffee was finished, it had. It moved in with a low, heavy sky that obscured Powell Mountain and slowly the individual flakes covered the tops of tree limbs, the boxwoods, the shoveled drive, everything, to give Red Hill a new look of softness and peace.

As I sat in the front bay window of the library, I couldn't see the lights of Mt. Jackson. The tree line on the south side of the pasture was only a dark slant of shadow, and the usually busy pike to the west showed few vehicle lights. The snow had, it seemed, muffled everything but for the birds who chirped about on the frozen crust looking for a morsel beneath the boxwood and forsythia that began to bend with the weight of weather. Over to the east I could make out cattle in the field of corn stubble, feeding with no concern for the white ridge forming on their backs. A bit late perhaps, but the snow had arrived in time to justify the decision not to travel by school bus to Alexandria for the 37th annual Saints Invitational Wrestling Tournament. Since the snow was not a factor in Alexandria, the tournament would be held, but for the first time since 1976 I would not be there.

In the 1970s there were no tournaments for local wrestlers over the long Christmas holiday. Having successfully begun one at another high school, I began the one at St. Stephens in 1976, never knowing that in 2012 it would still be going on. Until today I had not missed any of them, but this snow had proven too much. The tournament would go on without me, and I was struggling with that as I watched the snow come. The tournament holds so many memories: the years when Andrew Maoury, who wrestled at St. Stephens, would return as the coach of the Oakton team; this year another past wrestler, Kahlil Abdul Malik, was coming with his team from Poly Prep in Brooklyn; the same three officials always return, and one of them I knew when he was a good high school wrestler; the sons of former wrestlers who competed in the tournament; and last year our team from Central competed and was scheduled to again this year. It was a time to see and visit with old friends and to make new ones. A tradition of over 30 years, now broken.

In the 1960s the Byrds sang a popular song, "Turn, Turn, Turn." It is a popular adaptation by George Aber of the opening verses of Ecclesiastes 3 in which we are told there is "a time for every purpose under heaven." As I sat and watched the snow, I was reminded once again that, as a mother of two students I had taught said, "Control is an allusion," and although I had had some wonderful years attending the tournament and had built memories, today that tradition ended. Having the personality that I have, I did not like that I could do nothing to change events, but as the preacher writes, there will be other times for other things. A door closes. A door opens.

So, before I dug too deeply into my pity-pit, I resolved to talk with my supervisors at school to explore the possibilities for a wrestling tournament next year at Central. Who knows, a new tournament may be begun that will still be in existence in 2030 with some of the present valley wrestlers attending as coaches or watching their sons compete. It has already happened twice.

Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at redhill@shentel.net.


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