My Home on the Mountain

Human DignityAwesome Moments

I'm not sure I believe in fate, but the fact that my dad bought a house in Windham, New York, is too important to me to be sheer coincidence.

He bought the house when he was in his twenties, before he even thought about having me, and spent the better part of a decade rebuilding it. It was the original farmhouse of the surrounding area when it was built in the late 1800s. My dad bought it when all that was left was a frame and a roof, and the work began.

The Adaptive Sports Foundation on Windham Mountain has become one of my favorite places to go to in the winter. From the moment we walk in, it's brimming with activity, from all the students itching to hit the slopes to the instructors coming in from morning runs. My brother Izzy, of course, runs straight for the hot chocolate, which he has dubbed the best in the world. Then, right around ten o’clock, a sort of choreographed chaos ensues as we get ready to take on the mountain.

My dad is a Broadway stagehand, but not just a regular stagehand; he's the head electrician. A light in the ladies' room doesn't get changed without his say-so. Here's something you need to know about my dad: he can do pretty much anything. And when restoring an 1800s farm house, that's a good thing. There was no construction crew for this project, just my dad, whichever buddies came to help, and Sammy, my dad's beloved dog. I have heard many times about the early days, when my dad and Sammy would sleep next to each other other on the kitchen floor because the only heater in the house was there. My dad had to keep rotating because one side would be sweating while the other was freezing.

Getting in the ski is a bit of a process; it involves duct tape and many straps. I go down the mountain in a bi-ski, which is a bucket seat with two skis on the bottom. Once I'm strapped in, all I want to do is go fast! When I'm in that ski with the mountain flying by, I feel totally independent. The instructors and everyone on the mountain disappear, and I really do get to do this on my own. That sense of solitude while sliding down the mountain is enthralling.

The first time I tried skiing, it was nothing like I imagined. Often when the word “adaptive” is tacked on at the beginning of something, it can lose some intensity. But shredding down that hill, I knew the instructors weren't letting up. We were hitting jumps in the second lesson! There was one thing I was sure would bother me. While the vast majority of the population loves and thrives on that whole wind-in-your-hair feeling, I am without a doubt an outlier — wind is usually sensory hell. But I rarely noticed it once we got started.

The house on Mill Street was my dad's weekend project on steroids. It still has a whole workshop that would make any tool buff drool. The shop is where the heavy work got done. It is like something out of a PBS woodworking show: table saws, sanders, even an axe from Japan — a tool for every job.

In talking about the shop, I'm obliged to mention the table. My dad had this idea to build a round table à la the Knights of Camelot. The problem is he never got to it; the wood has been sitting there since before I was born.

Having a family changed everything for my dad. Before he met my mom,  two wood burning stoves were going to heat the whole house. My mom wouldn’t have that, and he installed a real heating system that he is now thankful for.

My dad always says, “We are a DIY family.” This year he made me a sled for cross-country skiing. I love that he made it, but cross-country misses the best part of skiing: speed. They should call it snow hiking.

Hiking around North Lake is serene any time of year, but winter is stark and still. We find silent moments between snowshoes crunching the frosty path. The sled glides. Slowly, we appreciate the afternoon sun's waning.

Our Mill Street house is a place that will always be special to me. It is where I learned to ski, but it is also so much more. It's where we go to the creek, sometimes for a bike ride and sometimes for an evening stroll. I don't even want to think what would have been if my dad had chosen one of the many other houses he saw. Would I never have skied? Where would my oldest friend's mom have gotten married? Would Camp Weitzman, the annual week where our friends come up for a mini summer camp, even exist?

Some things have changed — my brother and I now have our own room, and our family has a new hot tub — but the essence stays the same. We may not have a giant man cave like the house across the street. We don't even have cable. What we do have is a bunch of amazing memories from our time there. I'm not sure I believe in fate, but my dad’s buying that house was more than just coincidence.

Abraham Weitzman is a 13-year-old New Yorker who loves Mel Brooks, Edgar Allen Poe, and Sherlock Holmes. He enjoys traveling and staying home.

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