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Around the House: The closing banquet means the party’s over

The lights were off over the ice when I walked into the club last week for the closing banquet. Actually, the lights were off over eight sheets of water. In the dark, I could see the reflection of the illuminated clock on the surface. Strange, and kind of sad.

The end of the season always hits me like that. Of course, the weather is improving and it’s great to have more sunlight and feel the warmth in the air.

And yes, it’s nice to have a bit more free time during the week, especially on my curling night, which was always a rush between work, supper and the mad dash out the door.

But for me, a once-a-week curler in a small city, when the season ends, I tend not to walk through the doors of the club again until it’s time to deliver my registration form for next year.

So the closing banquet is a big deal, even if it’s not a club-wide event. This banquet was for the Ladies’ leagues: two daytime and two evening. And this particular closing banquet reminded me (as if I need it!) why I am a curler.

First, it’s about the team.  We commandeered a table in the corner nearest the food – of course we were last to be called up – and shared a bottle of wine, revisiting our season of challenges. And oh boy, did we face some challenges both on and off the ice. But that’s what teams are all about: we stuck together, lost some games, won a few, and shared a lot of laughs.

After all, laughter is a big part of the recreational curler’s game. The banquet had no shortage of hilarious moments, chiefly brought on by the unscripted speeches of people suddenly forced to speak into a microphone after winning an unexpected prize. We laughed together.

And we cried together, too, because a curling club is all about community, friendship and support. When we lose one of our own, we mourn together. This year we lost a long-time member to a cruel disease, and when her friend got up to announce the first winners of the memorial trophy in Judy’s honour, a collective tear was shed in remembrance. We’ll remember her every season as that trophy passes from team to team.

Did I say “trophy”? Let’s not forget that the closing banquet is also about prizes.  You might think that would be at the top of the list, but it’s not. Our team didn’t win anything  – not even in the door prizes – and we couldn’t have cared less. We celebrated the victories of our friends – formerly our opponents. We cheered the B-flight teams and the runners-up and the consolation trophy winners who rose in astonishment to collect their loot (“We won? Really?”).  Everyone is a winner at the closing banquet. Trophy or not, we celebrate the past season and look forward to the next one.

Yes, next season is a hot topic. Membership fees (pay them early and get a discount!). Team roster changes. Who wants to leap from the Spare List to a regular team? Who wants to try a new position? Who is ready for a change? Who wants to stick together and give it another go? Once the formal part of the evening is over, the club turns into a curling schmoozefest.  It’s all part of the game.

The closing banquet marks the end of my season at the curling club. Thanks, team, for making Wednesday nights the highlight of my week.

And this blog post marks the end of my season writing “Around The House”.  Thanks, Canadian Curling Association, for letting me share my curling life all season long. To anyone who read this blog and Liked (on Facebook) or Retweeted (on Twitter) it into the curlingsphere, thanks for reading and re-reading.

I hear the Velcro ripping – it’s time for handshakes…