I have this cousin. Her name is Julie. She’s our family historian, the keeper of our genealogy on my mom's mother's side. Now, that's a mouthful isn't it? Try saying that 3 times fast. Julie and I are opposite in many ways but we come from the same line of strong, independent women. Together you could say we’re a couple of nuts off the same family tree. She’s my partner in crime, my co-conspirator, and collaborator in all things mischievous and roughish. We’re cousins by blood, sisters by heart and absolutely friends by choice. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Our grandmothers, the Bergman sisters, Marie, (she’s my middle name’s namesake) and Betty, were sisters. So in reality, we’re distant cousins. In fact we grew up as far apart as possible; she in Pennsylvania and myself in Texas. Truthfully we never knew who the other was until 2012. When we met just four short years ago; we made up for lost time. Looking back, I don’t see how we haven’t known each other our whole lives. We would have made quite the pair for our grandmothers if we had anyway.
Julie and I’ve connected over many various, diverse and very distinct adventures and escapades to say the least since we met. We’ve both faced some fairly difficult and overwhelming times, situations which took true grit. Nothing has come easy for either of us. Many of the same ghosts from our families past have haunted us while others we’ve laid down at the river together. Isaiah 40:31 is a scripture my mom often encouraged me with growing up. Repeating it as an adult, I know it speaks to both Julie and I, to our hearts even now. “Yet, the strength of those who wait with hope in the Lord will be renewed. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and won’t become weary. They will walk and won’t grow tired.” Our faith is not perfect, but it’s sound. We may be a couple of lost souls from time to time but we absolutely walk in His strength, and fly on the wings He’s given us, individually and together. We have more in common than most and yet we’re very different in others. It’s true we love Fireball, Wonder Woman, Kolaches and laughing for no reason whatsoever. We can chat for hours and then go for weeks without, picking up right where we left off. She’ll listen to me without judgment and still set me straight.
Life Lesson #60, Live like renegades. So go on, get up, embrace your past, present and future, have no fear. Never be tamed and “Run away with me, lost souls in revelry.”
“Our roots say we’re cousins” but our hearts say we’re sisters and friends. Julie is my constant reminder (paraphrasing a pintrest quote here) that no matter where life takes me, I can’t forget where I came from. When I hear the song Renegades, by X Ambassadors, I think of Julie and I. Maybe because we’re both slightly rebels with wild spirits and definite fight inside us. I imagine our lives now and our grandmothers then, stepping out, a little rebellious, in awe, seeing life for the first time. Betty the younger sister picking up her guitar singing and yodeling and Maria the proud older sister, playing her harmonica, riding her bicycle, free and wild through the streets of Philadelphia. The lyrics echo in my ears, “Long live the pioneers, Rebels and mutineers. Go forth and have no fear, Come close the end is near And I say hey, hey hey hey Living like we're renegades.” These words, they speak to me, inspire me and remind me of the lineage we come from.
My grandmother, Maria, her 6 sisters ( Betty, Frieda, Selma, Ruth, Carol, Doris) and her half-sister (Sigrid) , well they were the beginning of a legacy. Through them the generations who have followed have a connection and a bond, a link that can’t be broken. I love all of my family, each one of them individually, unconditionally, bound by blood or not, all my aunts, uncles, cousins and their families. We’re spread out all over from Pennsylvania, Virginia, DC, to Georgia, Florida and Texas. We’re family, all of us together, strong, and connected with a solid foundation despite the miles between us. We stand together, unbroken. As a family, we remember our grandmothers, our past, their past while looking to the generations ahead. Julie and I well, we’re just a piece of the legacy, but together, we’re linked. We understand we’re part of them just as much as they live inside of us here in the present. “I was born into a family of warriors, really strong people.” And Shallene Woodley is absolutely right about that. I was. I have no doubt my strength in this life comes from the generations who came before me, who’s struggles shaped my future and who’s wild, independent spirits flow through my veins even today. As our family grows, as those of us descended from the Bergman (Olson in the old country) sisters have families of our own we won't forget. Julie is preserving the details, our heritage, birthrights, our inheritance, our identity and the story of us, the legacy of who we are.
Because of our grandmothers, Marie and Betty, Julie and I have a blood bond. Because of our bond, I have a forever friend in my Great Aunts granddaughter. Looking forward, as a family we remember, we pass their legacy down. “I am bound to them, though I cannot look into their eyes or hear their voices. I honor their history. I cherish their lives. I will tell their story. I will remember them.” Julie, thank you. And to the Bergman women and men of course, may we know them, raise them and love them!