Tim and Donna Barton

Tim and Donna Barton on their wedding day, Dec. 17, 1977.

Submitted photo

Take a guess at which one of these statements is true:

A) Forty years ago today, I married the boy next door.

B) Forty years ago today, I married my high school sweetheart.

C) Forty years ago today, I married a man I hardly knew.

(You know it’s going to be C, don’t you?)

I met Tim Barton in June of 1977 in my hometown of Gadsden. He was from the faraway land of California and had come to serve as best man in a wedding at which I was a bridesmaid.

Two nights before the wedding, all of us attendants gathered at the bride’s house for a meet-and-greet over cake and coffee. At one point, the bride’s mother came rushing in from the kitchen.

“Where is Tim Barton?” she demanded to know, and then spotted him across the room.

“APRICOT?” she shouted, her voice filled with exasperation. “I send you out to get a cake and you come back with apricot?”

He shrugged, appearing a bit sheepish. “You said to get something that looked good,” he replied.

And that right there was my first impression of the man I would marry. A man who, when sent to the bakery for a cake that “looks good,” bypasses chocolate, coconut and Italian crème to choose apricot.

The following night was the rehearsal dinner and I was seated at the head table next to Tim. He and I talked throughout the entire meal and he made me laugh — a LOT. It was during that dinner that I fell in love. (Honest.)

At one point, he asked me where a couple would run away to elope.

“Trenton, Ga.,” I told him.  

He said, “C’mon, let’s go get married. Surprise everybody.”  

This from a man who hadn’t even kissed me yet. (And yes, it certainly would have surprised everyone.)

Six months later, we did it for real.

Those six months were the longest of my life because we were 3,000 miles apart. We wrote more than a hundred letters to each other and occasionally talked on the phone. (Long distance wasn’t free back then; it wasn’t cheap, either.)

We reunited twice before our wedding: once in August when he flew to Alabama to propose (a real proposal this time), and again in November, when I flew to California to meet his family.

In the four decades that have passed, I’ve come to know my husband as the smartest, funniest and most resourceful person I’ve ever known.

His parents divorced when he was a toddler and his mother worked as a waitress to support them. Left alone at a very young age, Tim learned how to cook his own meals, repair things around the house and become fiercely independent.

As a result, he’s one of those rare MacGyver-type individuals who can fix just about anything using only his wits and a pocket knife. If I was stranded on a deserted island, he’s the one I’d want with me — not just because he’s my husband, but because he’d build me a house … and a shopping mall … and maybe a restaurant or two.

It’s funny that I would marry a man named Tim because when I was 5 years old, my father gave me a teddy bear. It’s a treasured possession I still have to this day.

I named that bear Tim.

My sister told me I couldn’t name the bear Tim because it was wearing a dress. It was clearly a girl bear and since Tim was a boy’s name, I’d have to come up with something else.

I was heartbroken and began sobbing until my mother intervened. “Leave her alone,” she told my sister. “She can name the bear Tim if she wants.” That settled it. The bear was thereafter known as Tim.

And so it was that 40 years ago tonight, at our wedding reception, my sister lifted her glass in a toast. “To Donna and Tim,” she said. “Some of you may be surprised to learn that Donna has been sleeping with Tim since she was 5 years old.”

Happy anniversary, Tim Barton.

Here’s to 40 more.


Donna Barton’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at donnabarton@cableone.net.