Judy and Jenny
I met mother Judy, 54, an entrepreneur living in Manhattan and her daughter Jenny, a blogger living in Brooklyn, at a bakery in Greenpoint. When they arrived for our interview, Judy was bleeding from both knees.
Judy: The stairs at Jennifer’s apartment are broken. I was walking in these big shoes….actually I was running in them…I fell.
As Judy sat down, Jenny went off to find napkins and bandaids. “Mom, you want coffee?” she shouted over her shoulder as she made her way to the counter. “Milk and sugar” Judy replied, removing her oversized sunglasses. When Jenny returned with the cafe’s first aid kit, Judy had already begun sizing me up. “How old are you?” she asked directly, “what’s this all this about?” Jenny tended to her mother’s cut knees like a young mother might fix up a child’s playground injuries. It was a sweet moment, the role reversal all daughters must experience at some point, should their mother live long enough. But the way Jenny had the bandaids on within seconds and had picked up the coffee before I’d even put my camera down, made me wonder if she hadn’t done this before.
Judy: Jennifer was hugging my leg her whole life. She’s always been with me.
Jenny: Like, up-your-butt with you.
Judy: She’s lived in every neighborhood in the city with me, from the Bronx to the village. At 13 she hung out downtown, she was a "vampire." She was actually more of a "raver princess." To this day she’s notorious amongst the younger raver kids of New York.
Jenny: But I don’t do that anymore mom.
Judy: Yeah, but they still talk about her. Actually, they still talk about all of us because the raves were usually at our house. We had a 7 million dollar townhouse that we turned into a party house. It was great because, you know, I was young when I had the kids. It was really fun. Wasn’t it?
Jenny: Oy vey….This is when we were living on the Upper East Side and I went through a funny stage, I was a raver, I was gothic, I was a candy kid. I hung out with the weird kids downtown and I brought them all to my house and they became friends with my mom as well.
Judy: They all ended up living with us.
Jenny: Yeah, they all lived there, we had such a big house. They had to fight for a mattress at night. It was really wild back then, but now it’s been much more quiet. My mom wasn’t doing too well back then so she would just let me do what I wanted.
Judy: There were always gangsters in the house.
Jenny: That’s how we ended up getting a lot of complaints, so we were raided.
Judy: It got raided three times.
Jenny: Then mom started hanging out in Harlem and I was eventually sent overseas to Israel.
Ruthie: Who sent you overseas?
Jenny: Oh, um, social services. Initially, they placed me with my Grandmother in New York. My school said that they would let me complete the year as long as I lived with her.
Judy: She wasn’t supposed to live with me, but every night she would sneak back.
Jenny: After that I moved to Israel with my Dad. I had a really chill life over there, I was riding my bike and going to the beach. It was a normal life. But I missed New York and eventually came back over here for school and we took mom to rehab...
Judy: People think we’re making this up. IT HAPPENED!
Ruthie: How did you cope when Jennifer had to leave the country?
Judy: Oh I got her back. I went to court.
Jenny: Wait, but that was before-
Judy: Oh yeah she got kidnapped earlier by her father-
Jenny: That was another time mom.
Ruthie: But when you were separated for those years when Jenny was in Israel, were you in touch?
Jenny: No, we weren’t really in touch. Mom was doing a lot of weird things for a while and then when I got back over here that’s when we decided that we needed to make things normal.
Ruthie: And how did you do that?
Judy: Well, we’ll never be normal, but my mother died a year ago and so playtime was over. I took over the family business. In between all the craziness I always ran businesses. I had a clothing boutique, it did very well. I’m also an interior designer, so I hand-painted the whole store. It was in Tel Aviv. I think I want to open a new one called ‘Two Brooklyn Girls’. Latex, Doc Martens, 90’s stuff.
Ruthie: So you were in Israel too, Judy?
Jenny: Yes she was. My childhood took place in Tel Aviv with my mom and dad and then I moved with my mom to New York when I was about 10 until I was 17. When I was 17 all the chaos happened and I went back to Israel.
Ruthie: Did your siblings move with you?
Jenny: Yes except my older sister Cheri. She stayed there. She always had a simple life. Graduated high school, went into the army, went to college, got married and had children. She’s very 'by the book.'
Judy: The other three are just crazy.
Jenny: Because we grew up with you!
Judy: Cheri is like the ‘Mom’.
Jenny: She was the responsible adult. Now I’m like mom’s parent. I tell her, “Mom you have meetings, you need to get dressed” and she’s like “leave me alone, you’re not my mother!”
Ruthie: How do you think you two are similar and what are your differences?
Jenny: Oh I know! I got a lot of my style and music tastes from her. The artsy side of me is definitely from my mother. Growing up, my mom reminded me of Jenny from Forrest Gump. She was always going and coming back, going and coming back. I thought she was the coolest thing ever. So, in a way, a lot of the mistakes I made were influenced by her.
Judy: I literally handed her the torch to the East Village because that used to be my old stomping ground.
Jenny: When I was younger she would take me to St. Marks Place and she would wear leather. She once bought me this blue backpack with pom-poms on it. I still remember it. That was a really cool day for me. When I saw her doing all that wild stuff, I wanted it too. I guess if I grew up with my father I’d be more like Cheri. I’d have a simple life. I would have gone to school.
Judy: We both loved musicals though, remember? She’d always play the parts I played when I was younger. The sluts and the bitches. Rizzo in Grease, Anita in West Side Story.
Jenny: When I went back to Tel Aviv they would call me “Little Judy.”
Judy: She was the weirdest child. She looked like Wednesday Adams. She’d sit in the woods by herself. I loved it, I embraced it.
Ruthie: And so how are you different?
Jenny: Different? Okay. I think at a certain point, I matured and she stayed 18. Would you agree with that mom?
Jenny: She’s a lot more carefree than I am. I think because I didn’t have structure growing up with her, I seek it out now. I have things to do and I have to have everything in order. Everybody likes her so she gets by. She’s very social, I’m more contained.
Ruthie: Have you been through any hard times within your relationship?
Jenny: Well, when she was misbehaving-
Judy: Well you misbehaved too!
Jenny: It was hard, but we understood each other. She let me make mistakes and I’m happy she let me do that because I got it out of my system early on.
Judy: I watched her and she was honest with me. I said “Jennifer if you ever take drugs, tell me so I can watch you.”
Jenny: I was partying at 14 so by the time I was 19 I was like, "Okay I want to go to school and be normal now."
Judy: I won’t let her settle for less. Any of my kids. Her brother is an accomplished musician, he went to the Berkley School of Music. Her sister is a lawyer and the younger one is in school. So for all my craziness my kids were the most important thing to me ever.
Jenny: When mom was all over the place on drugs, I got alcohol poisoning this one time. I drank a whole bottle of vodka. I was living in my own apartment in the West Village at 19 years old. My grandmother rented it for me because mom was…somewhere. I woke up in the hospital and I really did not expect my mom to be there, but I opened my eyes and there she was! She took me home and made me a sandwich.
Judy: I love my kids, that’s why they don’t hate me.
Ruthie: Do you shop together?
Judy: Yes! We love to shop. I like brand like Dolls Kill and Tripp Clothing. Jenny finds cheap stuff everywhere.
Jenny: I still love the East Village for vintage.
Judy: I lived in a squat there.
Judy: I went to get coffee one day and left my boyfriend at home. When I came back the place had burned to the ground.
Jenny: He died!?
Judy: Ach, I didn’t really like him anyway.
Judy: I went to rehab in California. In Los Angeles, that’s where you meet everybody.
Jenny: Yeah she called me and said “there are so many cute guys here Jenny, just come and say you’re addicted to something.”
Judy: And she was like, “I’m addicted to donuts.”
Ruthie: Do you have similar tastes in men?
Judy: You know, I like a guy that can "take care" of the family.
Jenny: But what does that mean?
Ruthie: Bump somebody off if needs be?
Jenny: I don’t want that! That scares me. I just want a cute boy who’s normal.
Ruthie: I guess I finally discovered where you guys differ then.
Jenny: Ha yes.
Ruthie: What do you admire about each other?
Judy: She doesn’t take any shit. Like the time the house got raided and I got arrested and Jenny was like “okay mom I’ll see you when you get out, I’m going to bed.” She’s a survivor. She takes care of herself. I adore her.
Jenny: She’s annoying, but I love her.
Judy: I never worked a 9 to 5 job. I always opened my own businesses.
Jenny: She never had to answer to the man. She was the man!
Judy: I ran a business, went to school and raised my kids. Back then you had to go to school and you had to work. I gave that to my children too. I’ll do anything for you, whatever you want, if you’re in school and you’re working.
Ruthie: Do you remember a time that brought you together?
Judy: When we were in Chelsea.
Jenny: My grandmother cut her off for a while. Mom was a student at the time. We lived in a tiny apartment in Chelsea. My little brother was sleeping on an upside down coffee table with a mattress on it. We drew drawings on the wall. It sounds sad, but it was so much fun. It was humble. I don’t remember needing anything. I just really wanted to be with my mom.