Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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In the mid-1970s I taught at an all-boys Catholic high school in Alexandria. An older lady, Anne, worked in the school's main office. Her gray hair framed her smiling face, and she was always pleasant and patient, even to a rude parent on the phone or an impatient, young teacher.
My friend Druin Burch lives in England. He practices medicine in Oxford and lives in a lovely Cotswold village near there. We met when he and I were employees in the same program of study for American high school students in Oxford. We have been friends for 15 to 20 years, and the bond that brought us together was our mutual love of and appreciation for literature.
When Mary Ann and I were just valley "weekenders," each Saturday morning I would ride my upright bike on Old Bethel Road. Our little road is hilly, so it offered me good exercise and a way to keep my weekly mileage up. It was on one of those rides, some 10 years ago, that I met him.
Sitting in the shade on the bank of the North Fork to escape the early July heat, I watched Carl, our oldest son, fly-fish. His waders gave him a bulkier than realistic look, but his fly rod was a baton of magic as he played line using his artistry to lure any unsuspecting fish with one of his hand-tied flies.
The past winter, as gardeners know, was a brutal one for plants. Our winter-killed butterfly bush is just now showing good growth from its root ball, and Mary Ann and I await its first blooms of rich purple.
The spring of 2001 was, in my memory, much like this one -- lots of rain and chilly. I remember it because it was when I purchased Red Hill, and it was when I met him.
So much, it seems to this observer, is celebrated during this season of the year. People are almost giddy with the prospect of spring's brightness after the dark of winter. The longer days offer more warmth, blooming flowers, fresh air, trees coming into leaf, and grass that is green not dull, winter brown. Indeed, Red Hill seems to have taken on a new life after the cold of snow and ice and dark.
As I write on Tuesday afternoon, the sun crosses the southern sky and reflects brightly off what we all hope is the last of this season's snow. Out the front bay window is a row of Norwegian maples. For two days I have watched the snow and for whatever reason, one similar to it comes to mind. It was March, 1957 or '58, and in North Carolina we had a sudden spring snow like this one. One day it was balmy, the next the land was covered with 6-8 inches of white.
Last week I gave a test to my high school seniors. The last part of the test was for extra credit in which a student could earn up to an additional five points.
Last week I began teaching 12th grade British literature for the second semester. As all readers know, the weather has caused many disruptions, and even on what was to have been my first day teaching, school was closed because of snow. So yesterday I went to school thinking, like everyone else, of the big snow's approach and had a lesson plan for my students over some more anticipated missed days.
This past Sunday some 111.5 million people watched a professional football game between Seattle and Denver. Both teams were led by well known quarterbacks who have overcome obstacles.
A small notice in the Northern Virginia Daily this week caught my eye: Chris Chataway had died of cancer at the age of 82. Later I asked my wrestlers had any of them ever heard of him and was not surprised by their uniform, "No." But in my mind, Chris Chataway is the type of athlete every young person should know about and try to emulate for what he did on May 06, 1954 and the life he led afterward.
For a Christmas present, Mary Ann gave me a book titled "The Upward Path," which was published in 1920. It is a small, blue book with just 250 pages of text, but each page is packed with information still useful today.
By most accounts, the time of the recently passed holidays is busy. And, there is much to get done, especially if one has children. Also, family and friends may be coming for a visit, so there is work in preparing food, beds, and bathrooms for all those visitors.
When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, I was often told by a teacher or coach that it was important to be a "good loser." I took those words to heart and always tried to be gracious when I was on the losing end of an athletic contest. However, as I enter my fifth decade of teaching and coaching it seems to me that too many winners do not exhibit good behavior in several areas of play.
This morning my brother and I were talking on the telephone. Like siblings who live far apart, we shared news of work, children, grandchildren, sisters, and our mother. However, it was when he began telling me about buying a box of oranges for a fundraiser of one of his grandchildren that a memory came into focus. And, like so many memories, this one had lain dormant for many years in my mind, but when my brother began talking about peppermint sticks and oranges, it and more of those Christmases in Shadybrook came to life.
It is not yet Christmas but another winter storm has blanketed us with snow. Last Sunday churches closed as did schools the first two days of this week. Now, this Saturday is all white but for the Angus silhouettes in the pasture across the road. I can see across the white landscape a bit of traffic moving along the Pike, and a few hardy souls have ventured out to drive on our little road.
My memory dates the pants to the spring of 1958. If that time is not exact, it is close enough, and I would have been 12.
This morning, the last one of November, was cold when I took the hound out for his morning ramble. The sun's rays had not yet cleared Short Mountain, but they gave the few clouds a warm, pink hue. However, that was the only warmth we had, so the trip was quickly finished when the necessary duties were accomplished.
As a teacher and coach at Central High School, I follow students and their activities. The Central football team has had a fine regular season (8-2) and has made the VHSL playoffs, as it did last year. So, on Saturday afternoon a team from Richmond came to Woodstock for the first game of this year's playoffs. When I saw the regular season record of the team (3-7), I became curious as to how a team with a losing record could qualify for a state playoff.
Over the past few days, I have been reading about the Miami Dolphins -- not because I enjoy professional football but because of the actions of guard Richie Incognito against teammate and offensive tackle Jonathan Martin.
Because they are used as polling places, many schools are closed on election day. The students are happy for a day off, and it is a good day for school administrators to utilize since no teacher will be missing classes. Thus, the collective wisdom is to use the day as a chance for parents to come in and meet with teachers.
As I write this sentence, it is the first morning after the change from daylight saving time to standard time. However, having the early light in the morning is nice as I recall the October mornings when I walked out into the dark with Nolan the honey hound, who made strange noises to scare the nightly visiting skunk away.
Perhaps if you are of a certain age, you can associate with the experience of waking suddenly from a good sleep with some past act you committed gnawing in your mind.
When I purchased Red Hill in 2001, I promised the seller that she or any member of her family could visit the site of her just deceased husband's marker. His marker and ashes are in what is now our side yard, but while he lived here the area had been the site of his spectacular vegetable garden.This year his widow and youngest daughter came near the date of his death, Sept. 2, to pay him homage.
The days are getting shorter, crepe myrtles are blooming, and mums are beginning to show their varied fall colors. You may think it early in the season for that discussion, but one fact cannot be ignored: schools open this week or soon and it is this occurrence that engenders the following suggestions for students and parents. They are only suggestions, but I think that if they are followed, the school year will be a good one for students and parents.
This Saturday morning -- Aug. 10 -- is heavy with two things -- clouds and traffic. The clouds have moved in as if to stay for the day, and the traffic out on The Pike has definitely moved in for the day. Yet, why not, it is Yard Crawl day and it appears that no slight drizzle will cancel this all important day of looking for more stuff. Me? As guilty as the next person, but I wonder...
There is a black and white photograph on my desk. In it is a man and six children, four of them are his. All of the children wear Easter clothes and the two kneeling girls in front, who are cousins to the other four, hold Easter baskets. The bare trees in the background tell that it is an early Easter, and the 1953 Bel Air parked in the driveway helps date the photograph.
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