categories: Cocktail Hour
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Back when Anxious Bode was still just Thierry, we were trying to blend in, my folks and I, and we were observing and copying what the crowd did on this Sunday morning in Saint Michael. I was living in Lincoln Park, near North Chicago. My parents were visiting from France for Christmas. There was snow on the ground, and a sharp wind as we walked the cobbled streets leading to church. It should have been easy—we were all Catholics, even if some of us were foreign—and in a sense it was. Until the offertory. The silence that fell on the congregation as members prepared their donations impressed us with the necessity to be ready when our time would come. We were quick to notice that the man who collected the donations, did so with the help of a basket attached to a pole. He would push the basket through the pews, serving the farthest away first, and retreating toward the aisle. My father-Anxious Senior—was not entirely ready when our turn came. He could not find decent bills to put in the basket. He gathered all the coins that he had accumulated in every American store he’d gone to. When the deacon stopped at our pew and vigorously pushed the basket in front of us, my father, worried he’d miss his chance, lunged.
The collision was swift and decisive. An avalanche of coins fell on the marble floor, coins bouncing and rolling under the pews. The shocks reverberated and spread to the entire church. God knows, and in this case almost literally, how many coins there were. The coins kept rolling. The offertory stopped.
Parishioners went down on all four across three rows of seats. My mother and I were getting cramps, trying not to laugh. At the other end of the aisle, the priest was looking at us. We were torn between intense mortification, and the need to run outside and laugh until we could catch our breath. But eventually the coins were collected, and mass could resume.
Afterwards, the priest loomed at the exit, saying a few words to each parishioner. He saw us and his face lit up. “You are new to our congregation?”
I mumbled something to the effect that we were here for a short while.
And the priest said, “I do hope you will stay.”
[Anxious Bode is Thierry Kauffmann, who lives in Grenoble, France, where he studies sleep, and fights Parkinson’s, all while keeping his chops on the piano.]