My parents moved to my hometown when I was under two years old for my dad’s job as a French professor at Carson-Newman College (now Carson-Newman University). They immediately found friendship with another young family who had a daughter my same age. Because of this serendipitous occurrence, Rhesa is the friend I have had since before my awareness of friendship. After both of our moms had both of our baby sisters, my mom went back to teaching elementary school while Rhesa’s mom stayed home and kept us four girls.
I got to go to the BIG church with Rhesa a few times after a Saturday sleep over. Almost all my friends went there too. They even let me sing in the children’s choir, which was equivalent to fame in our small town. The Big Church had a personalized bus that would take you there from school as well as a bunch of nice ladies who would feed you dinner. This was the closest thing to being a rock star I have ever experienced (or would want to).
When we were seniors in high school, Rhesa’s dad planned a college visit to his Alma Mater—Samford University. I was invited to tag along. We stopped for Dunkin Donuts, and as we paused for the train on the way out of Jefferson County I felt the world expand. Although I hadn’t applied anywhere out of state, I fell in love with that Birmingham campus and somewhere on the quad decided it was the place for me. Rhesa ended up at Belmont in Nashville and so our friendship became a long-distance one.
We picked out bridesmaids dresses for each other and had our receptions in the same exact building—Carson Newman’s Sarah Swann Hall–on the campus where our families became friends. As each of our children were born, we celebrated and commiserated together. In one particular crisis I recall Rhesa reaching out to me, encouraging me in some way while I was being stubborn and resistant. After speaking at length and praying together, I hung up the phone and thought, “Well if Rhesa’s worried about me I better do something…for HER sake.”
Rhesa is the kindest, most generous person I know. She is tender and caring. She loves deeply and with abandon. She is neat and careful and diligent. She is thoughtful and cautious and warm. Rhesa’s concern for others keeps her busy all the time and makes her an outstanding sister, wife, mother, daughter, student, teacher and friend. If Rhesa were an animal, she would be the most adorable warm baby bunny, but one with a sense of humor that makes you laugh. Like Thumper from Bambi. Yeah that’s it. Rhesa is Thumper. Love ya so much girl, and I thank God for bringing our families together, for such a time as always.