Musings + Essays

A Regret.

By: Jen Shoop

This might sound ridiculous, but one of my biggest regrets in life is not toasting my brother at his wedding. I was in my early 20s and terrified of public speaking at the time, but even then, I knew I was unattractively shying away from something important in the name of self-preservation. At the last minute, my four sisters and I banded together and clomped up to the front of the room to huddle around the microphone and offer up platitudes. I wept and mumbled, “I love you,” which — to be fair — would have been the principle message in an even more rehearsed and articulate pass at speechmaking. But still. There are so many things to say about my brother, there is so much to love and admire, that I cannot believe I declined the opportunity to share even one anecdote or thread of thought.

I suppose I mistakenly believed at that age I would have many other occasions to praise him, many other nights with knives delicately clinking the edge of champagne flutes and twinkling lights overhead and the polite scraping of chair feet on the ground to mark the start of toast-making. I was guilty of envisioning life as a sequence of Nancy Meyers parties. But the number of reasonable opportunities to tell someone how much they mean to you, how they have defined and shaped your life in meaningful ways, stretch threadbare across decades. Occasions to do so in public run even scarcer. (And in this particular case, my brother and I have lived across the country from one another for many years and are now separated by an entire ocean, and so the logistics mount an increasing barrier.)

A visit from one of my brother’s childhood friends last week drudged up these woes. We were sitting on the back porch of my new home in Bethesda, catching up on life and talking books but mainly swapping stories about my brother. This particular friend has known me since I was nine years old, in pigtails and school kilts. I still remember meeting him for the first time in the breakfast room of my childhood home, which had those old-fashioned white and black checkerboard floors, and I think for that reason, I imagine the entire exchange in black and white, too, as if a scene in a movie that doesn’t belong to me. I was sitting at the table eating Ritz crackers and cheddar cheese after school and in he walked, on the heels of my brother. He was “Black Irish”: fair-skinned, dark hair, and exceptionally tall. My sisters and I immediately took to calling him “the Jolly Green Giant,” and he immediately took to looking out for us — in the years following that meeting, in the hallways of our parochial school, and later, during my brother’s epic house parties over the course of his high school years, when he and some of my brother’s other close friends would cluster in the kitchen to keep an eye on us, and even later, in crowded bars, where he would occasionally give would-be suitors “the business” as he would tower a good four to six inches above most of the guys we would date. It is true, I think, that “you are the company you keep.” My brother’s own goodness shines through all of the kindnesses his friends have extended me.

We revisited all of this, my brother’s friend and I, sitting outside my home last week, and at some point, he said: “You know, I saw your brother this summer for the first time in a long time, and I had to take the opportunity to let him know how much he’s meant to me.”

So maybe it doesn’t need to be the dais. Maybe it doesn’t need to be in tears or dramatic gestures. Maybe it can just be sitting down over a glass of wine on a Tuesday, or via an unprompted email, or in the simplest turn of phrase.

I am old enough to know that life is short. I have lost friends and loved ones. I have missed countless opportunities to tell the people I love and respect most how impossibly good they are, how improbably lucky I am to walk through life with them.

So let this note be a reminder, if you need it,

To tell him you love him.


+Thoughts on siblinghood.

+Things to say yes to.

+On doing small things with great love.

+A belated attempt to toast my brother.

+On being one of five children.

Shopping Break.

+Ooo this saucy gingham number is perfect for a fall cocktail party.

+My favorite facial cotton is 15% off.

+How on earth did I miss this shirt in my roundup of fab denim shirts/dresses? The white trim is so good!

+Just ordered myself a fresh pack of Le Pens. The best pen on earth. The tip is ultra-fine — perfect for tiny handwriting like my own — and I love having different colors. The blue is a great, saturated mid-blue color. It’s the little things!

+Another desk accessory I can’t live without: note pads. I’m a leftie so note pads are functionally useful to me, as well — no binding to contend with. I love the ones with my initials on it, but I also buy these plain white ones in bulk. I love doodling, making lists, taking notes this way.

+This tiny brown crossbody is so luxe for the price! The “belt” detail reminds me of Hermes or something.

+These hand-embroidered napkins are absolutely exquisite (just swooning over these ones). A thoughtful gift for an MIL who loves that kind of heirloom-quality detail.

+For enquiring minds: I ended up buying this costume for Hill this Halloween. I couldn’t pass it up. Too, too cute. More costume ideas here!

+And I ordered these Halloween jammies for my children. Hanna Andersson just marked down a ton of their Halloween prints, too!

+Adore this khaki colored Superga for micro!

+This crib, this skirted bench, and this rug are so chic for a nursery — currently 20% off.

+So into coupes at the moment. I love sparkling wine, especially bone dry cavas, and it is so fun to drink it out of a coupe. My sister also sometimes serves for dessert a scoop of sorbet with a little float of champagne on top. SO delightful, refreshing, fancy!

+We have officially gotten into Halloween mode in these parts. This weekend, we’re going to make Halloween rice krispy treats (dyed orange or purple), wrap them in these individual cello bags, and attach eye stickers to the front before passing out to neighbors.

+I am also trying to conceptualize a big Halloween sensory bin with these and these buried in there. (Lots of sensory play ideas here.)

+One last note on Halloween — mini has been loving this $4 book! We have read it at least a dozen times. It has a great rhythm, incorporates subtraction, and has a clever premise mini loves to “catch.”

+Love this rustic copper pitcher — imagine whipping up a batch of moscow mules or serving fall-spiced sangria in it!

+Fun fair-isle knit cardigan at a good price.

+CHIC child’s chair.

+Perfect cardigan for a little one. Love that it is unisex and can be passed down to siblings!

+This dress is just spectacular.

+This elegant travel jewelry pouch would make for a great gift.

+I ordered these $13 gold hoops on a whim and am crazy impressed with them. Great buy for a size you might not wear every day!

+I have been wearing my denim overalls with statement blouses a lot so fall this far. Have been eyeing this one as a future style to pair with them!

+Another great wedding guest accessory, especially in the marigold color to coordinate with a fall color palette!

+This bed, with the blue frame, would be SO chic with bedding like this (20% off right now!) in a little one’s room.

+J’adore these fall statement loafers in leopard or a kilim pattern.

+If you love a cat-lover, you must check out this Etsy card shop for an upcoming holiday.

+But aren’t these jammies sweet for a fall baby?!

+LOVE the shape of these jeans with suede boots.

+La Ligne look for less.

+This necklace reminds me of Cartier!

+This white blouse is absolutely perfect for this season.

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3 thoughts on “A Regret.

  1. Catching up on a few posts today – this one is especially timely, as I have a Zoom scheduled tonight with my best friend/co-MOH as we prep for our speech next week at our other bff’s wedding (the third part of our 25 year strong little trio)!

    The way you write about your reflections on your brother, your relationship as siblings, and the nuances of how those have impacted you are exactly what I hope to capture and toast to next week. Perfectly timed!

  2. So many takeaways from this, but mostly…
    you say you knew, even then, you were unattractively shying away… So that’s really a present tense emotion? All this to say, friend… please give yourself some Grace. A lot of it, while you’re at it.

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