A Heart on Stilts.

By: Jen Shoop

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.

+Apparently this knit cardigan sells out every time they release it. Run!

+The $100 caftan we all need.

+These perforated ballet flats are chic — a perfect neutral.

+Been lusting after this Venetia dress from Thierry Colson for multiple seasons. I LOVE the prints it’s available in this season and think I need one for the upcoming warmer weather.

+Inexpensive scalloped wicker baskets!

+When did your children start showering? Mini will be six in just over a month and we decided the time was right. She was not thrilled by this (she loves her baths) but I bought her this fun loofah and her own shampoo and conditioner and promised her she could listen to Taylor Swift on her HomePodMini and all was right with the world.

+Love this pearl-trim basket bag.

+How cute is this heart-print apron for a tiny baker? Would be so cute for a Valentine’s Day baking project. (More Valentines finds for little loves here. If you assemble a little VDay basket for your littles, these are cute!)

+I’m not usually into graphic tees, but this would be really cute for a little boy gift on VDay. My son loves Buzz!

+The CHICest ribbed cardigan. Love the texture and buttons!

+This embroidered shirt dress is gorgeous. So versatile, too.

+Fun scalloped brass switch plates. Like jewelry for your wall!

+Absolutely love this quilted tote. (Under $250.)

+This baking mitt set is so cute!

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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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