Don't follow us, we'll follow you

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

I have a pretty terrific imagination, and by that I mean I can be a wee bit paranoid.

It is this innate bent towards suspicion that recently drove me to convince my entire family that we were being followed while visiting a small town in The Netherlands.

It all began when, while exiting a shoe store, I passed two smartly dressed men wandering through the narrow streets.

I’m a visual person. I notice things.

No more than 10 minutes later, I walked into a clothing shop to look at jackets. There again, were the men.

The cheese shop, the bakery, the electronics store.

The men.

At first, I chalked it up to coincidence. But later, when I spotted them right beside my mother, my 4-year-old and I in the supermarket, I began to feel nervous.

No, that’s not true. I FREAKED THE F*#K OUT.

Me: Psssst.
My mother (intrigued): What?!
Me:  Don’t look now but I think those men are following us.
Mom (believing me immediately): Okay, where are they?
Me (turning around, grabbing the 4yr old’s hand):  The bananas. They are at the bananas.

I wildly explained that I had noticed the same two characters in our vicinity for over an hour. I pointed out that they had no shopping bags. I impressed on my mother the fact that they did not look happy. And, they had cell phones. And, really shiny shoes. I went into full-on profiling mode while my mom started warming up her stink eye.

“Just look at them.” I hissed, “That one just picked up three tomatoes and put them back without choosing one. Who does that?!”

We pulled my 4 year old close and headed to the bread aisle on the opposite side of the store.

The men followed us there.

Just then, my husband appeared.

I casually walked over and filled him in, careful not to take my eyes of the little guy fingering the loaves of bread. At this point in our relationship, he knows it’s easier to go along with my imaginings than to question them so he did what any husband and father would have done.

He started tailing the pricks.

He may or may not have talked into his watch - secret agent style.

“Okay Kevin, I’ve got a visual. Have you got my back?”

Understand, we watch Netflix. A lot.

The men picked up half a loaf of whole wheat and headed back to the produce department, my partner walking closely behind them. He returned a few moments later and offered to "secure the exit" while the rest of us finished throwing yogurt and Paprika chips into the cart.

At the checkout, my mom and I looked up to see the “perps” - ahead of us - paying for six slices of bread, two apples and one avocado just as my hero came into view. While my blissfully (thankfully) child sang Crimson and Clover at the top of her lungs, the men quickly paid for their food, stepped over to the cigarette counter - where they bought two cigars - and scurried towards my husband who was standing, arms crossed, in the middle of the doorway.

They had to say, “excuse me” to get past him. (At least, we think that's what they said).

My husband. My hero.

As we drove back to our rental house, I wondered, had we really been followed, or did we just unnecessarily frighten the hell out of two innocent men, who were now busy telling their friends and family about the crazy man in a fedora who talked into his watch and bullied them out of the grocery store?

Back home, we decided if anything like that ever happened again, we would simply take out our cameras and start snapping.

Just then, a car slowed down in front of our floor-to-ceiling window. It was dark and we couldn’t see the driver.

“Oh shit!” I said, “They must have put a bug in my purse and followed us here!”

My heart was racing as hubby grabbed his camera. He talked into his watch (again) while pretending to dial numbers on a deck of cards and taking photos like a mad man.

Within seconds, the car sped away. But not before we captured this incriminating evidence.

Yeah, we couldn’t see anything either but as it turns out, the driver of the car was our next door neighbour. Just a guy, on vacation with his wife. He was just fiddling with his seat belt before heading off to the gas station to pick up chocolate bars when he saw the flashes from our camera and got the f#*k out of there.

Or at least, that’s what he wants us to think…

No, really.

Sleep tight

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

Geoff, Jan, the 4 year old and I are visiting Holland.

It’s the birthplace of both of my parents… a country where everything feels familiar, and most every face I see, is like looking in a mirror. It’s a country where my possibly abnormal devotion to all things black and brown makes perfect sense.

Also, you can buy croquettes from vending machines. Croquettes!

The shopkeepers address me in Dutch. I nod for a while before realizing I only understand half of what they say, and can only reply in English. I smile and tell them so. They say,  “But you look so Dutch!”

It’s a compliment, I think. Which was not so much the case when a boy named Dave used to call me “Dutchie” in high school. Of course, he also called me “Inga, from Sweden”. And sometimes: “that cute but dopey girl”. On second thought, maybe he was flirting with me. I was never very good at picking up on signals, mostly because I was usually too tired to think straight.

The thing is, I need a LOT of sleep in order to function and when  I don’t get enough, I’m really kind of a disaster. Trouble is, I’m a ridiculously light sleeper and most any noise, movement or thought will wake me from a deep slumber in a heartbeat.

Here is a list of what wakes me up:

  • An airplane flying in the distance. Like, in Australia.
  • The 4 year old getting up to use the washroom.
  • Me, breathing.
  • A spider, spinning a web.
  • A ladybug crawling on the windowsill.
  • A cloud floating by.
  • A fruit fly landing on a banana in the kitchen.
  • Anyone, anywhere thinking about anything.

You get the idea.

It’s why I avoided sleepovers as a kid, how I became so easily addicted to sleeping pills during my college years and the reason I haven’t slept more than a few hours at a time since marrying an active sleeper. The thing is, as soon as Geoff shuts his eyes, he dreams. About mountain biking. His legs shimmy and shake as he barrels down hills, jumps stumps and hops over rocks. All. Night. Long.

Not at all conducive to a good night’s rest.

However, since landing in The Netherlands, I’ve slept like a baby. First I thought it was the comfortable surroundings, the familiar language, the croquette comas and the fact that we are living below sea level.

But, it isn’t any of those things. It’s the beds.

Instead of a queen or king mattress, Geoff and I are sleeping on two single beds pushed together to form one big bed.

It’s how they do it in Holland. Those Dutch. Always thinking.

Two sets of sheets, two duvets and a nice big crack separating personal space. It’s how I imagine heaven. This way, I  can sleep in the fetal position without being disturbed by the cycling tornado laying beside me.

Here’s our bed(s) after we got up this morning.  Go ahead and guess which side is mine.

I feel as though I’ve been drugged. In a good way. That’s how well I’m resting here. Which is why I’m already planning to chainsaw my mattress in half as soon as I get home.

Methinks Lucy and Ricky were on to something...

No, really.

Stop me if you've seen this one before

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

There was a major crisis at our house this morning. We’re all okay, but are still reeling from the impact.

I’ve since had a chance to regroup and am now able to talk openly about the ordeal.

Here’s what happened…

I couldn’t find my carry-on luggage. My bag was missing. Gone. For an entire hour and a half.

I accused everyone in the house of stealing it.

And then, I found it.

The thing is, we’re about to embark on a trip that we’ve been planning for almost a year. And as a result, I’ve been impossible to live with. You know, more than usual.

Full disclosure. I’m a terrible traveler. Mostly because I’m a wee teensy bit anxious.

Case is point: This is me, in the car, at the beginning of a journey…

“Did we lock the door?” 
“Do I have my wallet?” 
“Is there a roll of paper towels in the car?” 
“Who has the house keys?” 
“Did someone grab that red container I set by the door?” 
“Is it sitting upright in the back?” 

And that’s just a 20 minute trip to the grocery store.

See, I’m a little unclear on the concept of "the voyage". The problem is, instead of “getting away from it all”, I prefer to “take it all with me.”

As a result, packing often involves me digging through my closet and exhuming any and all items I never, ever wear but will inevitably take along because, you know, this is a holiday and nothing says holiday like baby blue corduroy jeans, black velour maternity pants that are really, really comfy and shirts with tiny wooden beads that go click click every time I reach for a coffee.

This is my luggage.

Still, I usually forget to bring underwear.

This past weekend, I was well on my way to filling my checked bag to absolute capacity, when we decided to go to a multi-family yard sale. Because, why wouldn’t we?

Wandering around, I spotted the usual flea market fare: stuffed toys, plastic placemats, yoga tapes and such. Also, three cards from a Busytown Mysteries game, an itchy scarf and a ceramic dish with a picture of a cat hugging a monkey. Which, incidentally, is now inside my daughter’s suitcase.

She’s about as efficient as I am when it comes to packing.

Now, the thing about taking a 4 year old to a yard sale is this. People tend to give kids the crap that’s not selling. And kids love crap. Which is how we ended up with a set of tweezers, a scale model of a New England town and the box from a game of Old Maid.

As I shuffled around, trying to avoid people, I recalled a yard sale we had held prior to our move two years ago. At the time, I was relentless and parted with an absolute abundance of stuff. Some of which I regretted selling.

That’s when I saw it.

A sweater - my sweater – was sitting there, minding its own, for the low, low price of $2.00. It was just $1.75 more than what I had sold it for all those years ago. Mostly because the sweater is pink. And I only ever wear black.

My precious. How I've missed you so.

No sooner had I bought my sweater back than Jan walked up to share with me her $1.00 purchase.

It was a purse. A black purse. The same black purse I had sold 2 years earlier for 25 cents.

I know, right?
We were totally winning the yard sale. (Did I mention our motto is buy high, sell low, buy high again?)

It was then that we decided to quit while we were ahead, but not before someone gave my daughter an unauthorized Miley Cyrus biography.

Apparently, it's what all the 4 year olds are reading.
In keeping with my pattern of lugging completely impractical junk with me on any trip I take, I’m planning to throw it in my purse, to read on the plane. Unless someone stops me. Please, someone stop me?

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a pink sweater to stuff into my suitcase.

No, really.


All images are mine unless otherwise noted.
Luggage image: DuBose