Some people come into your life for a short while, others become lifelong friends. They may not live right next door, but no matter where you go, they are always on your side and they are always in your heart.
I grew up in a little town on Lake Superior. Ashland is the birthplace of my Mom and me and my two sisters. Brother Michael was born in Glendale, CA while my parents lived there for a few years, lucky guy.
When I was born they brought me home to our house on the corner of Third St and Eleventh Avenue. It was a big house 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a basement with 4 rooms. It sat on a corner lot with big beautiful trees. Lilac bushes along the front of the yard, lilies of the valley grew in the back yard by the windows. There was also a permanent baseball diamond in the front yard, worn down to the dirt by the many kids who played there in the summer.
When I was a kid, one of my favorite movies was “Anne of Green Gables”. This movie was right up there with the old Shirley Temple movies. The original movie starred Anne Shirley (she was originally named Dawn O’ Day but changed her name after the movie was released).
The story is about an orphan who goes to live with an elderly couple by mistake. They wanted a boy to help on their farm. When they pickup Anne she has no idea that she isn’t wanted and in the end, the couple keep Anne and give her a home and together they form a warm and loving family.
During the story Anne has to learn a lot of things. She has a quick temper and gets teased about her bright red hair. This gets her in trouble at school and as a result she is punished at home. Through all of her trials, Anne grows up to be a beautiful and very smart young lady and her adopted family is very proud of her.
I loved that story. I loved that Anne had a good friend that she called her “bosom friend”. She also called the man that adopted her, Matthew Cuthbert a “kindred spirit” because of the way he stood up for Anne to his sister and because he was a sweet man who even went to town and bought Anne a blue dress with big puffed sleeves even though his sister had said no to Anne’s request. Kindred spirits played a big part in Anne’s life and she collected several of them during her lifetime.
All my life I’ve collected things. I have a lot of Partridge Family and Alice Cooper albums. Which probably means I’m psychotic. I have a collection of memorabilia from “Gone With The Wind” and “Snoopy” and the British Royal family.
But of all of my collections, the most important one is my collection of kindred spirits. Kindred spirits are the people that share some part of themselves with me and others in a very unselfish manner. They are the people that make this world a better place, that make you feel like you’re not an awful person if you did something wrong and that you’re not dumb just because you didn’t know something. Kindred spirits are the people that are always on your side and are ready and willing to help you no matter what kind of mess you make.
Over the weekend, my sister Clare and I made our annual trip to Alpine Valley Music Theater to see Jimmy Buffett. This year, we were joined by Erica (our cousin) and her husband Eric. They have been on an extended vacation this summer and we were lucky enough to get to spend the afternoon and evening with them at the concert.
Over the years I’m sorry to say I haven’t gotten to know my cousins very well. I saw Erica briefly a year or two ago, but didn’t really have time to talk for more than just a few minutes. I’m happy to say we made up for lost time last weekend.
Erica with her beautiful big smile, her gorgeous eyes and the long blonde hair I remember from when she was a teenager. Her smile and laughter are like bells on a sleigh in the winter snow. Her laughter is so delicate and lovely it sounds like a melody in the night air.
Some people go through life standing on the sidelines, waiting for someone else to make a move or make a noise or start something. Erica doesn’t do that. She’s life itself. She is so full of life, she just can’t keep it all in. She hugs without abandon and laughs with all her heart and smiles with every part of her being.
As I looked into her eyes, I could see all of the people I love so much. I could see the twinkle from Grampa Berg. He was the one who taught Clare to whistle in church on a Sunday during the sermon. He always had just a little touch of foolishness, which I’ve always thought is the best thing to be sometimes. People that are serious all of the time grow old.
I could also see the quiet strength of my Gramma Berg. She was a force to be reckoned with. Gramma Berg could do anything. I could also see the mischievous Uncle Palmer. A man who wore blue suits and when he crossed his legs, you were likely to see red or purple or argyle socks. You never knew with Uncle Palmer, he was a riot.
And as we talked together, Clare and Erica and I , I was reminded that this is what family is all about. The people that have gone before us, did the same things we were doing. They told stories and laughed and hugged and smiled and wished that the night had not disappeared so quickly.
And just like memories from my childhood of Christmas with my grandparents and birthdays at home with my Mom and Dad, that concert last Saturday will be put in a safe place in my heart where I will keep it and retrieve it when I’m sad or lonely. And then I will laugh and smile as I remember my dear cousin Erica the kindred spirit from New Mexico who lit up the midwestern night with her smile and her laughter.
Thank you Erica and Eric for a wonderful memory.
Thanks for listening.