• Oh-6-Ate-Ate-Oh, Jerri

Neighbors: Jen Tooker

There are people in my town I’ve known for years on one level, but have only recently had the privilege of going a bit deeper with them.

Jennifer Tooker

is one woman I’ve seen around Westport for ages, but because of life differences we’ve never had a chance to really talk until recently.

I first met Jen she was one of the early participants in the AWARE portrait project. She came to my living room and filled it with her laugh. We talked about it possibly being her first time in the home of a black person in Westport. She’s in town government and it is a truth that we both recognized.

Since then, we’ve stayed in touch and I’ve seen her being an ally in a way I don’t even think was intentional, but just her. She reached out a few months ago for a headshot session and she was a first in my new studio. It was there, that we really started to talk about what makes our town great, what needs to change, and how we are going to move forward.

Our conversations have also been ones that hurt and I wish I could wave a wand and make it all better. In her eyes that are usually bright and shiny, I see more strength, but also the sadness of a daughter caring for two aging parents in the middle of a pandemic. I also saw and spoke with a woman attacked for doing her job, but not fast enough or in the manner some would like. A little bit of the light of her heart was diminished by unkindnesses directed her way. I cried for her. It’s what I do. I’m good at it.

This town I live in is rather special to me. My friends from the other side of the political lawn (it’s Westport) aren’t the monsters we are seeing on TV. Our divide is a GAP (the one on Main) and one that I hope will become smaller as we reach towards the commonalities of our hearts and souls and not agendas.