A Heart on Stilts.

By: Jen Shoop

A Magpie reader once asked me for advice on marriage, and I felt ill-suited to the task. Perhaps all couples feel this way, but our relationship feels so…specific to us, and I can’t imagine extrapolating from it to counsel anyone else? I also feel that our marriage, our relationship, is greater than the sum of the two of us, and I can’t put my finger on why. Yes, we are gentle with each other, and we give one another space to pursue our own interests and be our own people, and we prioritize time together, and we are practiced at letting things go and assuming the best of intention, but there is some force beyond our own contributions that seems to guide us. I have no explanation for this. But it feels something like kismet. The only bit of tactical advice I can offer is to return to your origin story, and frequently. Remember what it felt like to fall in love? (A bit like standing on Mars, in my experience.) Revisit that experience. What was it like when you got one another’s numbers? What was the first flirt? (I still remember Landon’s, extended while standing in the door frame to my first-year college dorm, but am keeping the specifics for myself.) The first date, the first kiss, the first “I love you”? We talk about these moments often, and feel hazy and happy.

This morning, doing just that: revisiting the early days of our relationship via a re-published love letter to my husband (from the archives).


I realized the other day that I have been in a committed relationship with Mr. Magpie for the same number of years of my life that I have not. That is, I am 38, and I’ve been dating my husband since I was 19. I wrote awhile back that we are so close to one another that “I am only half living when we are apart. The other half is suspended in anticipatory conversation, waiting for the moment when I can fill [him] in.” He is a permanent filter. As I move through my day, I am not only responding as myself, but also with him in mind, pocketing the observations and bibelots I know he will enjoy to present to him later. Sometimes I go out of my way to retrieve them, deliberately driving by the construction site for the new butcher shop he cannot wait to open in order to report back on progress, or glancing at the price of halibut at the fishmonger so that I can shock him later on. There is a passage from Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (which I am currently reading and with which I am madly in love) that runs: “She didn’t know if an idea was worth pursuing until it had made its way through Sam’s brain, too. It was only when Sam said her own idea back to her — slightly modified, improved, synthesized, rearranged — that she could tell if it was good.”

I saw in this a strain — a slightly balder, less romantic one — of the lived truth of my relationship with Mr. Magpie: the web of intricate and invisible ties between us that we have been knotting and re-knotting for nearly twenty years. Often, I go to him with a half-thought — a shell idea for an essay, a strange interaction with a friend, a fleeting insight related to one of our children, a tidbit from the news — and just know we will together form it into something of shape, laminated by his intelligence and curiosity and the striking way in which he can still surprise me, even twenty years later.

The early days of our relationship are a source of constant wonder for me. We did not know it then, as we ran suntanned and barefoot through Virginia, that we were laying a foundation for the most important achievement of our lives. We did not know it then, as we laughed and went to date functions and listened to Tim McGraw and held hands crossing the railroad tracks behind The Corner and stole kisses behind his Jeep such that his friends would not see us, that we were beginning to build the elaborate web that would forever hold us. We were young and in love and had nothing but each other. When you are 19, you have no career, no wealth, no impressive set of connections, no substantive experience under your belt, no status to speak of. Or, at least, I did not. I was only a heart on stilts. Despite the many years we have now lived together, I still return to that vision of us, the one where we are more or less stick figures with enormous, balloon hearts, living the lyrics of one of my favorite songs:

“I can’t give you anything / but love.”

Not a bad place to start.


+Marriage is an act of optimism.

+How to stop time.

+I won’t soon forget

Shopping Break.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through the links below, I may receive compensation.

+I did a roundup of MDW sale finds here, in case you’re looking for good promos!

+Chic and well-priced linen shorts. So good in the black or white with a classic white top?

+Oo, I really love this striped bathing suit — and it’s under $100. More great summer swim here.

+I own this skirt in a different pattern and absolutely love her. I usually style with a simple white tee and raffia sandals.

+This terry cover-up is SO cute!

+Did you see that Loewe did a collab with On?! Crazy splurgey but how amazing are the sneaks?!

+Chic lounge shorts and matching sweatshirt.

+London-based children’s boutique Heidi Rose has some seriously cute dresses and swimsuits for children.

+I do not need more sandals this summer…but I am so tempted by these Gabriela Hearst denim fisherman sandals while marked down!

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8 thoughts on “A Heart on Stilts.

  1. I remember reading that post about your relationship with Mr. Magpie several years ago — it perfectly captured how I feel about my husband! I was nodding along throughout that entire post and through this one as well. This sentence particularly stands out to me: “As I move through my day, I am not only responding as myself, but also with him in mind, pocketing the observations and bibelots I know he will enjoy to present to him later.”

    My husband and I have been married for 5 years and together for 11, and I do the exact same thing when we’re apart. I love the feeling when we’re reunited and I finally get to fill him in on all the minutiae of our time apart, and sharing the little tidbits I know he’ll appreciate or have thoughts on!

    1. Love this – yes! Like a little burr collecting this and that as I go through my day to present to him later.


  2. several replies for you! A) Your thoughts on Mr. Magpie always warm my heart. Love abides. B) I’m so happy you’re enjoying Tomorrow, Tomorrow and Tomorrow (it was my favorite read of 2022) and just! wait! You’ll be underlying more and more lines. C) I was in St Tropez this summer and popped into ba&sh. The saleswoman was training a new employee and the two of them were helping me with several outfits. The new employee brought out that cardigan for me to try (with a navy silk skirt and white blouse, both of which I bought) and I had to attempt to explain to her in bastardized high school french that because of my blonde coloring, I can only wear bright white, not cream. The saleswoman had to further explain to the new employee “elle est tres, tres, blonde! le blanc cest bien, le jaune– non!” while holding up different shades of white and cream to my face to teach her, haha. Such a charming shared moment, language barrier included. Also, the cardigan was gorgeously cut. I recommend to anyone who can wear cream!

    1. Haha! “Le jaune — non!” I can just imagine it! Thanks for sharing that! Intrigued by that brand. How does the sizing run? I’ve never purchased anything from them but might need that cardigan. I also am blond, but not “tres, tres blonde.” Hehe.


  3. This post is so lovely and just in time for the season of love in February. I’m happy you are liking Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow. There’s something so magical about their friendship. Your post also reminds me of the couch scenes of couples in When Harry Met Sally and this other film with Anne Hathaway I think…I want to say One Day or something like that. This couple/friends meet up each year on the same day or something like that. It is a book too I think. I saw this back in 2012 in NYC when I was living in Rochester. Ah NYC and upstate NY. A lifetime ago.

    1. Thank you so much! Love all of these stories that capture lifelong, through-thick-and-thin friendships. So moving!


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