Phantom affairs, unproductive pregnancies: priest’s wife tells all

By Sara McGinley

One Sunday not long after my husband, Aron Kramer, started his first job as a priest a woman in her late 70s pulled me aside after church. She looked up at me from her 4’10” height in a way that made me feel small and very, very young and said, “Dear, I want you to know, Miriam has been answering the phones in the afternoons at church. You know how busy it gets. Well, I just thought you should know she told me, a Sara McGinley has been calling Aron an awful lot. You keep an eye out dear.” She gave me a lovely squeeze on the arm, smiled, looked me up and down as if to size up my fortitude and walked away.

Thus began my husband’s affair.

A few months later spring arrived after a very, hard, long winter, the first we’d spent back in the mid-west after leaving San Francisco.

He talked that morning in his sermon about how the world was pregnant in spring. In an 8 minute sermon he used the word pregnant 3 times.

That morning at coffee hour three women seemed determined to coax me into admitting that I was pregnant, seemingly hungry to be the first with confirmation.

One woman even pulled me aside to tell me there was no shame in being pregnant perhaps a bit sooner than one expected. She, after all had been pregnant at each of her three weddings.

Thus began my first pregnancy.

All told I think I was pregnant according to the rumor mill at least 3 times before I actually conceived a child.

Our impending divorce was predicted the day I was caught on the local news getting my head shaved bald.

A friend’s friend was in treatment for breast cancer and when her hair fell out all of her close friends shaved their heads. I ended up in the mix (truth be told, I’d always wanted to see how air feels on a bald head and so I fell in line easily when asked).

The first Sunday after that very public shaving I was pulled aside and reminded that the last woman to shave her head at the church was divorced within the year. “You should be more careful,” I was told.

I’ve had plenty of days as a priest’s wife that I felt imposed upon, days when it seemed that my life was laying wide open for everyone to interpret as they pleased.

Some days it has been exhausting, others just hilarious.

And there have been days when I’m blown away by the seemingly unending energy people in the church have when it comes to caring for me and Aron and our children.

Six months ago when our son was diagnosed with leukemia a stream of warm, hearty, meals and their accompanying desserts found their way to our front door night after night.

Eleven months before that, when my daughter was born and my son was just 18 months old, meals arrived, ready to eat and just in time for dinner.

When my son was born I joked that I had a new part-time job writing thank you notes for the mountain of gifts given to us.

Never did I anticipate asking for and receiving the generosity of spirit and prayer from such a widely diverse group of people.

When my husband and I were married I had every intention of having a high-powered job that took up a fairly huge chunk of my time. I intended to be one of those Christmas and Easter kinds of Christians.

I intended to fake it a lot at church and pretend that I actually knew my way through the church service.

I intended to do just enough not to sink Aron’s career—and absolutely nothing more.

Naively, I thought it would be my propensity to swear and my lack of interest in hymns and cleaning brass that would get people talking.

Instead it was my husband’s affair, mystery pregnancies that produced no offspring, and my exceptionally shiny head that got people stirred up.

The fact that I use the ‘s word’ has caused at least 2 people to start coming to church.

When a friend caught me lip syncing hymns in church and another caught me making up words like “I like Aron, he looks so cute in his funny priest dress thing” to hymns they both started coming to church more often.

If anything, the church has taken me as I am, held me up, shaped and changed me for the better and whenever I start to seem boring they’ve just added a few more exciting details to the mix.

Sara McGinley, irreverent priest’s wife and mother of two, writes the blog subtly named, Sara McGinley. She is a lay person from Minnesota who thinks the term ‘lay person’ is unnecessarily suggestive.

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