I hated that she had a cool rhyme that my dad used for her. Mine was “Andrea Gail with a big long tail.” It could have been “tale”, as if I enjoyed telling stories or something. But to my childhood mind, it was the lowly “tail” I had to live with.
She also had a cool Beach Boys song that went coursing through the house whenever we needed Rhonda. Me? Later on I was the ship that sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in “The Perfect Storm”. (Look it up. The ship’s name is ‘Andrea Gail’.)
With all that petty jealousy aside, Rhonda was my best friend for as long as I can remember.
My mother said I was potty trained until Rhonda was born and she had to start all over on me. She was born only 16 months after me, so I guess there is more to that petty jealousy than I realized. Even with three big sisters ahead of her, she was never afraid to be her own person, never felt that she had to prove anything. I think things came fairly easy for her. In fact, my dad always noted that any boys she dated in junior high or high school would follow her around like a little lost puppy dog. A few earned nicknames, such as “Loving-Boy” who was from a neighboring town and would fawn over her any chance he got. She couldn’t help it; she was too determined to stay herself and never let anyone try to talk her into what she didn’t want to do, be it drinking or cheating on a test. Rhonda was straight and arrow, but cool about it as well. She never judged others, either. So those boys were content with following the lead of a strong and pretty teen-aged girl.
I guess I would have to start my stories by celebrating our sports career together. Along with two cousins, Rhonda and I took two relay teams to state track and medaled two years in a row. Yeah, we boasted about strong family genes and stuff. But I do remember basketball my senior year. She was a sophomore and we both started on the varsity team. To be fair, we weren’t that great of a team, but she was talented and strong. Once while the starters were being announced, Rhonda and I had the great idea to jump in the air and chest bump each other. Neither one of us were well endowed, so it was no big deal (pun intended). Except to the coach, it was a big deal so we had to quit after the debut of the fun sister-chest-bump. I sure wish she would have told us that the day before in practice when we even did a few trial runs at it. At least we didn’t go with the “running at each other, linking arms at elbows, and then spinning like a leprechaun in the air” stunt.
That year after basketball was over, my teammates told me how they couldn’t believe how much Rhonda put up with my yelling. I had NO idea I had yelled at her so much. I felt terrible, but she just shrugged her shoulders at my apology and said she could handle it and other people on the team probably needed to hear the message anyway. (I doubt they heard any of the message, just the insane screaming. Ugh.)
She did make things more fun. We were once trying to get an errant steer back where he belonged. It was in the middle of a sweltering summer day near a creek where not a breath of air stirred the leaves of the trees. Hot. Humid. Miserable. That stubborn steer WOULD NOT go where he was supposed to, and Rhonda, Dad, and I (there could have been more there, but I don’t remember) were on the second or third hour on this project. I had to go get the truck and trailer to try to tote his hot and bothered self home. Trying to entice this beast back to where we could maneuver him out of the trees and into the open, Rhonda was shaking her butt at him, sticking her tongue out, taunting him until he would charge, her singing crazy songs as she was tempting fate. She would quickly leap into the back of the truck that was pulling the trailer. I was the driver trying to back the trailer into position and had to do it all over again when he over shot his mark. Once, he barely missed her but hit the door, right where I was sitting. This guy was pissed. “That was a close one,” she would laugh. Long story short, the steer died of heat exhaustion but we enjoyed the tasty hamburgers later.
After I graduated, I found work as an umpire for the local softball summer league. It was set up for kids and adults, and many times the adult women’s team invited me out to the parking lot for a few beers. Thankfully, Rhonda helped me home one night, driving as I couldn’t at that point, and fed me M&M’s to try to help sober me up before we got home. That didn’t work so well, unless you count me re-visiting those M&M’s only a mile before we hit the driveway. She also helped me get upstairs with no problems, and with no interruptions from my parents. (Mom, that was probably the third time I had ever drank. Don’t freak out!)
I had to help her out, once. Not that I really did anything but tear her cheating boyfriend out of a picture of them together, support her for calling him out on it, but mostly made sure she knew how much he screwed up by losing such a great person as her. Not only did he have a fiance, he had another girlfriend. To be fair to Rhonda, he was from a different town (not the same kid as “Loving Boy” but from the same vicinity, I believe) and they didn’t see each other very often.
We also double dated. Although once I had a boyfriend from another town and my parents made me take Rhonda with me for safe measure, which was cool. We all double dated a few times over a few weeks, until I felt pretty sure my boyfriend wanted to break up with me but didn’t so his friend could keep seeing Rhonda. You see, she couldn’t go without me, either. Oh well. I got a dozen roses for Valentine’s Day out of it. And I didn’t begrudge anything from Rhonda. She IS that awesome.