I’ve been struggling to keep up with both baking and writing due to starting dog agility, Italian lessons and Chernobyl all at the same time.
It’s all starting to meld together, honestly, like when A spent twenty minutes clarifying the exact way to say “The dog’s Minnie Mouse ears” in Italian without confusing who the ears belong to (the dog) with the original possessor of the ears (Minnie Mouse), when we haven’t even gotten to possessive pronouns yet.
Meanwhile, I was texting under the table with my dad, who needed some reassurance as he dove into the ol’ nuclear reactor.
“I feel like the radiation is leaking through the TV screen,” he said. “Elizabeth, thanks a LOT. I’m having nightmares tonight from one episode.”
A wanted to go to Canada over the weekend to hit up the sidewalk sale at our favorite kitchen store, Williams Food Equipment, “The Candy Store for Cooks!”
It is, quite simply, the greatest store. Where else can you buy baking beads and bamboo steamers and industrial knife sharpeners at reasonable prices that are even more reasonable when you figure out what you’re paying in American dollars (which we can’t until we get back across the border, so it’s like a fun surprise!).
A insisted that we get there on the first day of the sidewalk sale, the moment they opened. While I was proud of her for approaching normal life like it’s Disney World, I questioned whether or not it was worth it to show up so early.
“No one is going to be there right when they open,” I said. “They probably won’t even have everything set up.”
“They will,” said A. “Because I’ll be there.”
And then she tossed an invisible scarf over her shoulder and walked out of a room she had just entered.
But before our adventure could commence, I had agility class. My sister offered to come with me, which was really nice of her, because agility freaks me out. Everyone in agility is intense, even the dogs. Lumi is only in a pre-beginners class (she’s not even a real beginner!) and we’re getting the full Best in Show experience.
(Have you seen that? It’s the best movie of all time. Do you like Schitt’s Creek? It’s like that. Canada has given us so much).
My sister helped me wrangle Lumi and get her crate in and out of my car (it’s standard to have a crate at all agility sessions because that’s how it goes for competitions and apparently I needed better triceps and perpetual open wounds on my hands anyway), but I almost lost her when she caught sight of something on the wall.
“RIBBON,” she whispered, pointing at a four-foot long prize ribbon. My sister loves a good show ribbon, and this was from a national level, so it was pretty impressive.
You know this scene in Sleeping Beauty?
It was like that.
“Yeah, Lumi loves the jumps, and the instructor is really good, but I don’t know if I’m cut out for this,” I said, as she stared at this ribbon without blinking. “I get really anxious before every class and then I think she picks up on it—”
“Oh, you have to do this,” said my sister. “Think of the ribbons.”
“I guess so, as long as Lumi’s enjoying it—”
As she helped me train Lumi on the teeter-totter, she informed me that she and her boyfriend, Steve, wanted to watch Chernobyl next. She didn’t know much about it, other than that my parents were watching it and listening to the companion podcast on the TV because it was somehow easier than playing it on a phone.
“Do people live in the next town over from Chernobyl?” asked my sister. “You know, what is it like to live in Chernobyl Heights?”
“I’m not sure,” I said.
“Steve went to a rugby tournament called ‘Three Mile Thailand’,” she said, “so he and his buddies showed up for their flight to Bangkok in hazmat suits. That didn’t go over too well. Made the flight though!”
I am terrified at offending anyone who could wield any power over my ability to move or access transportation. So the border crossing between Detroit and Windsor sends me into panic mode even though it’s always fine (anxiety!), especially when I’m driving.
I still have nightmares about the one time I was asked to open my trunk and was so flustered I couldn’t find the button, then forgot which college I attended, even though I have an alumni sticker on my back window.
When A drives us over the border, she tends to turn into an alien as soon as she puts down the window. The last time we went over, the Canadian border guard asked for our passports and she replied, “Have you by chance ever seen a MOOSE?” with the widest eyes outside of a cartoon, just filled to the brim with wonder at the chance of seeing a moose in a very urban part of Canada that does not have moose.
The guy was very nice and gently broke it to her without laughing that he had not seen a moose in twenty years, and I’m sure he tells his entire family about us to this day and hopefully asks the moose gods to smile on us in his daily prayers.
But when we rolled up to the customs booth at 8:30 in the morning on a Saturday, and the border guard narrowed his eyes at me and said, “What kind of animal is in that crate,” I somehow managed to channel a cool James Bond-esque persona without actually being cool at all.
I propped my elbow up on the open window, tilted my sunglasses and said, in a nonchalant tone of voice that I have never heard emerge from my body, “So, I’m taking this very intense dog agility class. They told me I have to bring this big ol’ crate with me to every class, but I don’t want to lug it up and down my stairs every week, you know what I mean?”
The guard looked bored the moment I opened my mouth, but I kept talking. “So I’m keeping it in the car for a few weeks. You know how it goes.”
I said all this like it was the most normal thing in the world. And the guard just waved us through! Is this how it feels to be a white dude? You say the dumbest thing that comes to mind and people just let you into their country?
Imagine my surprise when we rolled up right at 9 in the morning, on a Saturday, and there were already people outside! With carts!
And before I’d even parked the car, that good old frenzy mode had kicked in. A and I spent almost two hours pondering purchases of heart-shaped pots, bulk ketchup bottles, whisks of all sizes, and the actual bread baskets you see in every restaurant.
This is the land where bread baskets come from!
“I mean, we might need an oyster knife someday,” I said, a person who has never eaten seafood because The Little Mermaid made me cry in kindergarten.
A was already filling up her cart with discounted ceramic dip bowls for everyone she has ever met.
It goes without saying that everyone at this store is incredibly nice—if you buy a large cooking pot, they say “Congratulations!” like you’ve welcomed a new family member.
I asked if they had a French rolling pin, and a man emerged from the meat slicers and told me what kind of rolling pin is best to use for brioche and what to use for strudel and then just vanished back into a mist of flour and maple sugar.
I got that French rolling pin, along with a new digital temperature probe (or thermomètre électronique à sonde!) and a few other odds and ends that I genuinely can’t remember purchasing because I was in a glorious fugue state that only cooking supplies and Canada can create.
A bought enough dip bowls to create her own dip fountain.
I might have to go back for this:
I mean, it will obviously pay for itself.
We made it back across the border, but when the dude asked for the purpose of our visit, I forgot to prop my elbow on the window. Instead, I blurted “Kitchen supplies!” and started sweating like it might be a federal crime to traffic pie tins across an international border.
He waved us through. The dip bowls rattled in my trunk the whole way home.
We stopped at my parents to share our adventures and pick up Lumi. Steve and my sister were there to check out our haul. My parents had just finished Chernobyl.
“This is a quality rolling pin,” said Steve. “Is it really from France?”
My dad replied, “Steve, they came this close to killing 50 million people.”
“I wish I’d gotten espresso spoons,” said A. “Should we go back for espresso spoons?”
“We wouldn’t have been able to go to Estonia on our cruise,” said my dad. “They would’ve been toast.”
It surprised absolutely no one that Steve knew the locations of all three nuclear reactors in Michigan offhand.
“We’d be in the exclusion zone,” whispered my mom.