Pretty Church

By Michael:

You never live anything down in a family.
Seriously, you don’t. No matter how long ago you did something funny, endearing, stupid, whatever, you will hear about it for the rest of your life.
For instance, when I was five or so, we went to pick up a baby-sitter who didn’t have a car. I was sent to the door to retrieve her, and when she answered my knocking I asked her, as only a true child of the 80s would, if I could see her selection of breakfast cereals.
(If you didn’t withstand the advertising barrage of the Kellogg Wars in the 80s, you don’t know. You just don’t.)
Anyway, she thought that was funny enough to warrant showing me their pantry. She asked, as I seriously surveyed what they had to offer, if we had Fruity Bombs or whatever in our pantry. My response was grave in the way that only a small child can manage:
“No. My parents love me more than that.”
Now, I have no recollection of this event whatsoever. It doesn’t matter. I hear about it, from other sources, at least once a year, and have for the entirety of my existence on this earth. You really don’t live anything down in a family.
Kinda like the time we went to Paris.
When I went to study in Italy, my folks decided to cash in all of their SkyMiles and come visit. (Keep in mind that these SkyMiles were gathered from decades – literally – of purchasing everything for the entire high-school choral program and Birmingham Boys Choir on my dad’s Amex. Music for hundreds of singers, three or four massive tours a year, robes and stoles and everything else? SkyMiles!)
So my mom, dad, and brother all came to Europe for Christmas. Rather than come to Italy, however, we decided to meet up in Paris for a week or so. Our hotel was in the Latin Quarter, very close to Notre Dame – so the very first thing we did after unloading the taxi was go check out that glorious church.
(SubStory: My father speaks every language. It doesn’t matter where he goes, he knows how to talk to the locals! It’s just that he speaks the “easy version” of every other language. This, as you may know, involves yelling at the locals in English, very slowly, while waving your hands dramatically. That is how my father relayed to the taxi driver that “WE – NEED – A TAXI – FOR (and here he held up 80% of his fingers) – FOUR – PEOPLE.” The cab driver apparently got the message, which translated into actual  French as “Charge these idiot Americans triple the normal rate.”)
Anywho, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Notre Dame, and then passed out in exhaustion. We spent the rest of our week checking out as many of the Paris’ magnificent artistic and cultural offerings as we could, celebrated the New Year in Paris, and got all packed to go. Our last night we were taking one last walk around the Quarter and we turned the bend around the Seine and there – in all its glory – was…
“Ooooh, that’s a pretty church!”
Our heads swiveled to stare at Mom.
“Why haven’t we been there yet? We should go over and see if that’s open, or maybe try to see it first thing before we leave! It’s so pretty!”
The belly-laughs that we had all been holding in just couldn’t be denied any more. All three of the Berg Boys peeled forth in all our majestic guffawing glory as my mother realized that the “pretty church” she was so intent on seeing was, in fact, Notre Dame.
One of the most recognizable structures on the planet.
Possibly the most recognizable church.
And the absolute first sight we had seen in our week in Paris.
It’s been eight years, and I still laugh every time I remember the entire sequence. Rounding the corner, smiling at the beautiful sight in front of me, the incredulity at hearing what Mom said, and the four-part counterpoint of our mutual laughter. (Mom’s laughter was, of course, sprinkled with, “Oh, oh, shut up, don’t ever – hehehehe – don’t you DARE ever – hehehe – ever tell ANYBODY!” Wishful thinking, Mom. You’re on the internet now!)
Being the loving, loyal sons we are, David and I of course had our laugh and let it go.
If you believe that, I have some beach-front property in Nebraska I’d love to sell to you.
“Hey, that’s a pretty church!” we exclaimed upon driving up to our church in Birmingham once we were home.
“Oooh, what a pretty house!” when we pulled up to our home.
And “Hey, Mom, can I join you on the pretty couch?”
We love our mother, and we respect her…
But you never live anything down in a family.

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