Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why Brother Hanson Got Divorced

Racine, Wisconsin, June 1968

I am in the second grade.  My parents are making a big fuss over the girl with the marvelous dollhouse:  "You have a girlfriend!"

When I protest that I like boys, they don't believe me: "Oh, one day you'll meet the right girl, and fall in love, and get married and have kids of your own!  You'll see!"

"The right girl" is my destiny?  But I want to marry a boy!

Like Brother Hanson, the Minister of Music at church.

I look forward eagerly to Sunday morning and evening and and Wednesday evening, when he climbs up onto the platform and begins the services with the magic words Isn't this a beautiful day in the Lord? Who would like to testify?

Then he leads us in three songs, leads the choir in their special number (only on Sunday morning), has the ushers pass around the offering plate, and tells us to Rise for prayer.  Only after all of that is the Preacher allowed to get up to scream about how much God hates us.

Brother Hanson is obviously more important than the Preacher, plus a lot nicer, and much cuter -- big and husky with wavy hair and blue eyes (this is not him). I think he's a teenager, but he's probably about 30.

I never see him with a woman.  Maybe he's found a way to get out of the "right girl" destiny, so we can get married!

"Does Brother Hanson have the 'right girl'?"  I ask.

My parents tell me that he has a wife, there in the front row -- they just don't spend much time together.  They come in different cars because he has to get to church so early, and of course she has to sit alone during the services

I expect Brother Hanson to continue leading the testimonies and songs forever.  But one Sunday in the spring of second grade, without warning, an old, ugly guy climbs up onto the stage  and says Isn't this a beautiful day that the Lord has given us?  Who wants to give a testimony?

Shocked, I look around for Brother Hanson: he is sitting by himself in a back pew.  His wife is not in the sanctuary at all.

How am I supposed to listen to the Preacher screaming for 45 minutes without seeing a cute guy first?  Besides, the old, ugly guy said it wrong -- the phrase is isn't this a beautiful day in the Lord!

Maybe Brother Hanson is sick, and will stand up again next week.

No.  Week after week, he stays in his back pew, while the old, ugly guy -- Brother Williams -- leads the testimonies and songs before the Preacher screams.

I begin to hate going to church.

Every summer the Nazarene Church has Vacation Bible School: a week of sermons, songs, Bible studies, and arts and crafts for kids from kindergarten to fifth grade.  Last year I made a "David and Goliath" out of construction paper, won a prize for memorizing Bible verses, and got cookies and Kool-Aid.

This year Brother Hanson is teaching the music class!  Rousing campfire songs with clapping, stomping, and hand gestures:

Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory! (clap, stomp), Children of the Lord.

Instead of a suit, he wears a short-sleeved shirt.  He's got muscles!

He also teaches the sports class: kickball on the grassy field outside the church.  I keep praying that he will take his shirt off, but he never does.

When my mother arrives to pick me up, I can hardly contain my excitement: "Brother Hanson was our teacher!" I exclaim.  "We learned a new song, and played kickball!  It was great!"

"I'm surprised they let him teach Vacation Bible School," Mom says.  "They won't let him be the Minister of Music anymore after his divorce."

Divorce?  I have never heard the word before.

"It's when a marriage ends, and the husband and wife don't live together anymore."

Wait -- marriages can be temporary?

 That's my loophole!

After I grow up, I'll "find the right girl," get married, and have kids, like my parents keep talking about. Then I can get a divorce.  and spend the rest of my life with men!

A few weeks later, we move away from Racine, so I never have the opportunity to see if Brother Hanson divorced so he could spend his life with men.  But ever after I think of divorce as a wonderful word.

See also: The Marvelous Dollhouse

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