What with St. Valentine’s Day coming tomorrow, I thought I would tell the story of how I met Judy, my blog partner and spouse of almost 35 years.
So cast your minds back to 1983 in Chicago. I was working for a political organization, preparing for a regional conference up in Madison, Wisconsin. Judy was an experienced community organizer and between jobs. More on that later.
Judy wanted to go to the conference but didn’t have a working car. I, on the other hand, didn’t have a driver’s license. My boss, Holly, solved this problem by suggesting that we go up together in her old Toyota pickup truck, one of those with room for only 2 in the cab – others had to use a bench in the back (which at least had a covering).
Holly had an ulterior motive: she wanted to recruit Judy for our local steering committee. So I was instructed to be extra nice to her.
The first time Judy and I met was when we rendezvoused in order set off to Madison. She told me later that she wondered who this ne’er do well was that didn’t even have a driver’s license.
There was a third person, Victor, along for the ride. He started out in the back of the truck, and we agreed to switch places at the halfway point.
So on the ride up some mutual interest developed between Judy and I. When we made our mid-way stop, Victor insisted on staying in the back, possibly because he realized that he was becoming a third wheel, so to speak. Sorry about that, Victor.
Anyhow, less than 2 years later we were married.
Now I want to share something about Judy which says a lot about the kind of person she is. We met shortly after she had left her job at a community organization on the Southwest Side of Chicago, at the time a heavily white, ethnic, and blue-collar area.
In 1983, white Chicagoans were in a state of near-hysteria over the election of Harold Washington, Chicago’s first African-American mayor. The top staff at Judy’s organization thought it would be smart to use that hysteria to build up their following.
Judy was the only person internally who argued against this. As a result, she was subjected to a campaign of what today we would call gaslighting. People spread rumors that she didn’t understand organizing, was having a nervous breakdown, or “just needed a man.”
Despite all this, she did not bend. She quit the organization, even though she had devoted years and countless hours to working there.
Over time, I’ve seen Judy do this on multiple occasions – stand up for the right thing, even if it meant she was the only person in the room to do so. She is not a gadfly – she likes people, works well with people. But she has courage and a bedrock sense of right and wrong.
This is only one of many reasons I fell in love with her. Among other things, she also has a great laugh. After all these years that laugh still gives me a warm feeling.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Judy. I’m glad we ended up in that truck together.