Today is my Aunt Judy’s birthday. She’s an incredibly important part of my life, and I want to wish her the most wonderful birthday.
Her influence in my life is intricate and profound. She’s been like a Johnny Appleseed of sorts, dropping the seeds of beauty, love and compassion throughout my years. We have so much in common that I don’t always share with others. We’re both odd ducks, and it’s always been nice to have a kindred spirit in her. She has brought me countless blessings and gifts that it’s hard to see where my interests and ideas end and her’s start.
From as early as I can remember, she’s shared her love of bicycles, picnic lunches, show tunes (which she’d play in the house and the car), an appreciation for delicate treasures and art. She carried on her mother’s work in teaching me so much more about plants, flowers, birds, and sea shells. She introduced me to two of my most favorite places…Sanibel Island and North Redington Beach. We’ve spent hours talking about other cultures, color pallettes, design and decor, politics, recovery, healing and health.
She has been an example of how to stay married for a long time and not lose who she is in the process. She has been a grandmother to my daughter…never missed a beat. Picked up were my mother would’ve wanted to be…with love, humor, childlike mirth and understanding. She has been a mother to me.
But the thing about Judy that I want to celebrate today is her fierce independence and refusal to be held down. She and I have both survived difficult and painful childhoods. She has climbed the stairs faithfully towards being the woman she knew she was meant to be. And in her early adulthood, faced with more difficulty, she struck out on her own with her child in tow, and created a steady, reliable and loving home for them both.
In that process she faced a lot of discrimination as a woman and single mother. It was her experience that made her an activist for all genders, races and cultures to be respected equally. Because of women like her, the rest of us that follow have choices between working outside of the home and working within. Her worked paved the way for women to have vocational choices other than, teachers, nurses, and secretaries. Now women all over the world run successful businesses and lead countries. Because of women like her, women’s votes count and sway. Because of people like her, people of color and different cultures and genders can now dream about becoming president one day.
I say this because, as women, we don’t experience the kind of discrimintion that my Aunt Judy, and so many others experienced…to the extent that they’ve suffered. Women today forget that it hasn’t even been 100 years since we were unable to vote (1919). My great-grandmother was the first woman in my family who was able to vote as an adult…only four generations ago.
In honor of Judy, and her service to equal rights, I implore you to become involved in the upcoming presidential election. I don’t care who you vote for, but you better damn well vote. Things that go unused become devalued. We, as women, can’t afford for that to happen. Teach your daughters, that their freedom is still young. Encourage them to be fierce, independent, and just. That’s the priceless legacy my Aunt Judy leaves us all.