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A charmed childhood

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 5, 2000


TAMPA -- There was just the three of them. What else did they need?

That's what Ronde Barber remembers the most about life as a 10-year-old in 1985. Just him, twin brother Tiki, and their mother, Geraldine. To him, those days living in Roanoke, Va., well, that was the good life.

And by the good life, Barber means biking with the twins' close circle of friends all over nearby Cave Spring, maybe grabbing a slice of pizza or playing an impromptu sandlot baseball game.

There was swimming and whiffle ball in the alley behind the Mews apartment complex, where they lived; Little League games at night, with Mom manning the concession stand; mystery books to read at home; Looney Tunes cartoons to watch; and Pac-Man duels -- but only after their chores were done.

Most of all, though, Barber remembers the breezy, comfortable life of a child -- and the woman who made it possible.

"We had no worries," said Barber, 25. "We didn't have a lot of money, but we didn't struggle. My mom always provided for us."

The twins' parents divorced when they were 4, leaving the working mother to raise the boys on her own.

That year the 49ers defeated the Dolphins 38-16 in Super Bowl XIX, and the Barber boys, born and reared in Redskins country, already were learning the game. Football had become a family affair, and at dinner time everyone had an opinion to share.

"The three of us would sit down at the table and discuss who's doing a good job on the field," Geraldine Barber said.

Sports was just beginning to enter their lives. The boys had learned to hate soccer and had just started playing football.

Mom made sure they had every opportunity to pursue their dreams and interests -- before the pair starred at Virginia; before Ronde became a Buccaneers cornerback and Tiki a Giants running back.

It was never easy.

"It was my family that prevented me from going crazy," said their mother, 47 and working for the Roanoke County budget director. She recalls how close-knit the three of them were; how busy they always were; and how eager the boys were to get out of the house and do something, anything.

"We just did everything together," she said. "They knew they had to do their chores around the house before they could ride their bikes. I'd get a call (at work), "We're done, bring this home for dinner because we're leaving.'

"Literally, I would pull into the yard of the complex, they see the car, and when I went in to change my shoes, they were sitting in the car ready to go to baseball practice."

Ronde understands now how hard his mother strived to build a better life for the twins.

"I appreciate what I had," he said. "We were in a good environment. We never really struggled, or I never really felt like we struggled."

Q: Ronde, whom did you most admire then?

A: My mom, Geraldine. I've always admired my mom. She always had everything together, 24-7. She always kept us in line She was always on top of whatever we were doing. She was always really dedicated to the family, too.

Q: If you could impart some wisdom to yourself back then, what would it be?

A: To keep doing what you're doing and be happy. Enjoy it. Because it goes away. You have to start paying taxes.

SUPER BOWL XIX

Jan. 29, 1985

Stanford, Calif.

49ers 38, Dolphins 16

MVP: Joe Montana, 49ers quarterback (24-of-35 for Super Bowl-record 331 yards, three passing touchdowns, one rushing TD).

IN THE NEWS: March 11: Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko dies at 73 and is replaced by Mikhail Gorbachev, 54. Oct. 7: PLO terrorists hijack the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro, with 80 passengers plus crew. Oct. 8: An American Achille Lauro passenger, Leon Klinghoffer, is killed. Oct. 16: The Italian government is toppled by a political crisis over the hijacking. Nov. 19-21: President Reagan and Gorbachev hold a summit meeting, agreeing to step up arms control talks and renew cultural contacts.

BEST PICTURE OSCAR: Amadeus

MUSIC OF THE MOMENT: Brothers In Arms/Dire Straits

EVERYBODY'S WATCHING: Miami Vice

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