[This text was originally published in AREA Chicago #7 in December 2008]
Growing up, all of the older women I knew (mainly my two grandmothers and the grandmothers of my friends) were anything but activists. Then there is Judy. I had to interview Judy for a class assignment; I wanted to know about 1968 from the perspective of someone who hadn’t been a youth, wasn’t in the street, and wasn’t a romantic about that summer.
What I found was something much different than what I had expected. I had spent the previous night sketching out interview questions that I thought were “respectful” but could also be telling.
As Judy and I sat down, I was immediately surprised. She led me to her kitchen and snacked on a late lunch, subsequently shooing her husband from the scene as our interview began. Two hours later and a discussion about the future of the Co-Op Market, Hyde Park, and University of Chicago politics; I left feeling more narrow minded and presumptuous than accomplished.
Since that Saturday Judy and I have continued a rapport. She is neither my mentor nor teacher but instead a fruitful partner for discussion. Our relationship is so important, I think, not because she is older than I but because we both care about the community, progressive politics, and changing something (anything).
It has been 8 or 9 months since I’ve met Judy. As our friendship developed, we tried to involve each other in one another’s spheres. I constantly received e-mail updates and invitations to OWL (The Older Women’s League) meetings which she headed, and in return I kept Judy up to date on my work with the University of Chicago sponsored Looks Like Freedom exhibition in Hyde Park. We have used our relationship as a way to connect and communicate despite what might seem like diametrically opposed lives. Though most of our meetings were down the street from one another—in fact, we were neighbors—I would have never known how similar the discussion of the Older Women’s League were to the discussions I was having with people I considered my contemporaries. To think (as I did) that older people aren’t progressive, aren’t radical, aren’t activist is wrong. Judy is more politically active and aware than I have ever been, and encourages me to get up and do something. It gives me hope no matter how romantic it may seem, that old age is not congruent with apathy, but instead a choice. ◊