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It’s pitch black out, the roads are covered in ice, and, well, so is everything else. But the Davis’ are going to the mountain, because it’s Sunday and that means we’re all cozying up in the station wagon—blankets and all—and heading to a ski race in the middle-of-nowhere, Vermont. Dad drives, Mom backseat drives, and my sister, Annie, and I sit in silence. We’re nervous, anxious, and incapable of downing even a bite of breakfast—but thanks for the bagel anyways, Mom.
What my parents are getting into isn’t a day of face shots, hot chocolate, and family bonding. No! They know exactly what they’re getting into: an entire day of standing outside in the freezing cold in whatever form of precipitation Vermont pukes out to watch four minutes of skiing. And that total of four minutes is generous assuming my sister and I will make it down the course in about a minute per run (we each get two runs).
But really, they’re just going to see us come flying over the last pitch, which means they’ll see us for about 30 seconds each.
And I’ll definitely fall. Hard. And we’ll definitely go to the hospital. Again.
The day’s not easy. We have to be at the mountain for registration by 7:30 a.m., or else coach will be pissed. And my parents don’t want coach pissed. As far as he’s concerned, the team is training for the Air Force squad he used to fly with, and if my parents don’t get us to the race on time, they’re on his bad side. Besides, what parent wants to be late for something as important as an every-weekend ski race in which their kid rarely wins anyways?
We were never late. Thanks Dad.
After several hours of side-slipping the course, waiting in the lodge, and having French fry-throwing wars with my idiot friends, it’s finally time for my first run. I put on some of my gear, forget some of it in the lodge—usually a shin guard or something small, but sometimes my goggles—and ride up the lift. The conditions are even icier and colder than when we woke up at 5:30. Yet I’m about to hurl my frail, 10-year-old body down a steep, massive mountain. Mom’s from Boston. She surely isn’t the one who got us into this insane sport. Dad’s from Ludlow, Vermont. He did it.
“Racer ready? Three, two, one…”
I’m off. I’m flyin’. And I’m going to win this damn race, I know it. I’ve got all my new gear too: red-hot Lange boots, flame-covered Dynastars, a speedy Spyder suit, and a top-notch race tune that took all night to perfect. Thanks Dad.
I get to the bottom, and I don’t win. I don’t win with my second run either. But I don’t care. I’m psyched! And there’s Mom and Dad. They’re smiling at me from the finish barrier as if they hadn’t just frozen their butts off waiting to cheer for me. Maybe they’re smiling because they get a weekend without a hospital bill. But who cares? They’re smiling!
Annie doesn’t win either, but she’s just as happy, and Mom and Dad smile just as big for her too. The whole Davis family is psyched because, unlike a lot of people who just sit on the couch and watch football every Sunday, my self-giving parents let their kids ski—no matter what it takes.
The summer after I graduated from the Stratton Mountain School, a winter sports academy in Southern Vermont, my dad died. And while I always appreciated the things he and my mom did for me, I now realize how lucky I am solely because of their support—especially while skiing.
Thanks Mom and Dad.