There is a song written in 1892 by English composer Harry Dacre entitled “Daisey Bell”, that all of us oldtimers know. Since this column is about a marriage between a handsome young gent named Jeff and a belle by the name of Barb, I have changed the first two words in the chorus in this column.
It all started innocently enough. My older sister brought Barb home for dinner. At the time, Barb was 18 and I was 19. She, a senior in high school and I, in my second year of college. Geographically, it was quite convenient. Barb lived about five blocks from me. Our first dates were things like going to our high school basketball games, bowling, a tiny amusement park (thanks to $5 from Barb’s parents) and the movies. All of a sudden, we were seeing each other daily and I took frequent advantage of her mother’s good cooking. I pretty much knew my fate was sealed when she used to shut me in a room at her house and told me not to come out until my homework was completed. It’s amazing what power ladies have at even that young age, although I can’t be “certain” that I completely finished my homework before I came out!
We both knew the inevitable was coming, thus the chorus:
“Barbie, Barbie, give me your answer, do
I’m half-crazy all for the love of you.
It won’t be a stylish marriage
I can’t afford a carriage
But you’d look sweet upon the seat
Of a bicycle built for two.”
I must say, Barb did not have her sights set very high. Not only did we not have a car, we couldn’t even afford a tandem bicycle similar to the one above. Actually, the first new bike I ever owned was a tandem that Barb’s parents gave to us for Christmas after I came home from Vietnam (when we had been married for three years).
Now, the reason for this article. In a way, it seems like November 18, 1967 was yesterday. In another way it seems like “forever ago”. Since we just celebrated our 50th anniversary last November, I thought I would take a quick walk down memory lane. Our differences were very few over the years and as time went on, we matured as a married couple, elated at the wonderful happenings. When we had challenges, we “gathered the troops”, which made us that much stronger as a couple.
Since I had to finish college and then “enjoy” my adventures with Uncle Sam, we didn’t start a family until midway through our seventh year of marriage. I must tell you I’m not a gambler, but in those days it may have paid off to be one. Our agreement was I would select our sons’ names and Barb would select our daughters’ names. We had three sons! We probably should have tried to have one more child and hoped it was a girl because Barb picked a beautiful name: Sarah Elizabeth. However, that was not to be.
Our biggest excitement was the birth of our sons, Greg, Brad and Tom. Not unexpectively, among our biggest challenges were Greg, Brad and Tom. My boss for many years would see that a baby magazine would appear on my desk periodically, to tell me it was TIME. I think he was jealous because he had two girls around their teenage years. My boss didn’t paint the complete picture for me until it was too late. He let me in on one of his favorite sayings: “The bigger they get (kids), the bigger the problems.”
Yes, we had our share of difficulties with the kids, but certainly they were very tame compared to many other families. One of my toughest times was when I was at work and would receive a phone call from the Headmaster at their school to report that one of the kids had done something very minor (in my book). I would “Yes, Mr. Jones, I’ll take the matter up with my son.” At the dinner table I would seriously address the infraction with the son. I have to admit when doing so, saying things I don’t think are so serious, I pinch my thumb with my forefinger nail to stop from laughing or smiling. Many times my thumb became pretty red. Since our sons are well into their adulthood, I have related this story to them.
Our marriage was strengthened immensely when Barb accepted the Lord as her personal Savior. Over several months, I saw a huge change in her and I wanted to have a part of that life. After a series of unplanned (by me) circumstances I too accepted the Lord. This would give us the strength in future years to face the death of Greg at the age of 23. He died in his sleep from a heart ailment that we didn’t know about. That was in April of 1999. Obviously, we were still hurting badly that Christmas. We had a Christmas tree, but neither of us was in the spirit to decorate it. Out of nowhere, a couple showed up to visit us and decorated the tree. What a blessing!
There were so many exciting times and challenges over these last 50 years that I don’t have room to touch on them. A wonderful blessing to me was that when I asked Barb for her hand in marriage, she didn’t say:
(Parody of first chorus)
“Jeffrey, Jeffrey, here is my answer true,
You’re half-crazy if you think that that will do.
If you can’t afford a carriage
There won’t be any marriage
Cause I’ll be switched if I’ll get hitched
On a bicycle built for two.”
Rather, during the 50 plus years her saying has always been, “I love thee more today than yesterday but less today than tomorrow.” HAPPY 50TH BARB!
Jeff Hall of Honey Brook is a regular contributor of columns to Berks-Mont Newspapers.