By: Jen Shoop
"My marriage is a long strand of vignettes that tell the same story over and over and over again, and it is the oldest story, Solomon 6:3. Two souls so beloved to one another there is no space between."

A few weeks ago, I went into my orthodontist’s office and was told, by my orthodontist’s sub, that she would be filing down some of my teeth to enhance the progress of my Invisalign trays. I have learned to be proactive about concerns in medical settings, as “the truth will out” one way or another and better to put it on the table early than squirm in a chair in panic.

But, this day, I froze, perhaps thrown by the absence of my own orthodontist and the presence of this stranger, and I opened my mouth, and I felt my hands and arms go numb as she filed down my teeth, the vibrations so intense I felt their aftershocks for several minutes afterward. As she elevated my dental chair, snapping off her latex gloves in smiling obliviousness to my inner agony, she asked me questions whose interrogative shape alone I remember: she might have been inquiring about the air pressure on the moon for all I know. I mumbled boilerplate in a daze, tears so close to the surface I could hardly breathe, and then trip-walked out of the office, across the street, and into my car, at which point I realized I had sweated through all my clothing, right down to my underwear.

Enormous tears streamed down my face. Despite my solitude, I was vaguely embarrassed at my own gulping cries. I called my husband.

“Everything’s OK, but —“

There was a round, watchful listening on the other end as I sobbed into the phone, and then “Oh, Jennie.” His soothing voice, his implicit grasp on the situation, which he in turn helped me draw out: I’d had my teeth filed down when I was a teen for my braces, and, at that time, the technology had been borderline brutish. My orthodontist had used a spinning metal wheel to shave straight lines down the sides of my teeth. It hurt, and it looked horrible afterward. Nowadays, modern orthodontics boast much more precise tools that follow the natural anatomy of the tooth. So it hadn’t hurt, and it didn’t look bad. My reaction was entirely tethered to another, distinct experience — a painful, stressful, image-altering unpleasantness from my tender teenage years. I was reeling from a fishing pole plunked down in different lake. This has not happened much in my adult life, as I reflect on so much of the phenomena of my life in my writings, and I give myself such latitude in which to intellectualize my own experiences, but my own reaction shocked me. I was hauling in a deep sea bass and I’d not known I was fishing.

I have been visiting with that moment a lot lately. Not so much because of the actual thing that happened, but because of my near-physical need for my husband’s reassurance after. I felt I could not navigate those waters alone. I called him — tumbled, wavestruck — and he returned me to the shore. I floated above and looked down, and I saw that we were two stick figures clinging to one another on a narrow sandspit forged by longshore drifts. I was myself at nineteen again, when he picked me up from some godforsaken date function I’d attended with an ex-boyfriend, after the night had gone sour. I was myself at twenty-five, when he stood at the altar, holding back tears, and I was myself three months after, when he’d held my hand as we sat in the pew at my dear friend Elizabeth’s wake. I was myself at twenty-six, when he’d taken me to the E.R. and I caught a glimpse of his silhouette when he thought I wasn’t looking and his chin was wobbling. I was myself at thirty-two, when my heart monitor went off the charts the moment he entered the O.R. The nurses had joked that my husband was stressing me out, but it was more that I saw myself through his eyes, strapped to the operating table, and I knew he did not like it. I saw myself crying into his shirt after the death of our niece, and laying on our backs, shoulder to shoulder, no light between us, on the roof of the first home we’d ever purchased together, in Chicago, Illinois. I saw myself standing next to him while TAPS played at Arlington Cemetery as we interred his grandmother, and doubling over with laughter when he accidentally called his boss a “perv” (long story), and fawning over the way he looked the last time he wore his tuxedo, and weeping as he pressed our minutes-old son into my arms in the Mount Sinai hospital on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. All of these memories unfold in “a love’s moment,”* pressed together like petals. It only takes the slightest provocation — the random unpleasant trip to the orthodontist — to find them accordioning out, a long strand of vignettes that tell the same story over and over and over again, and it is the oldest story, Solomon 6:3. Two souls so beloved to one another there is no space between.


*The phrase “a love’s moment” is pocketed from R.S. Thomas’ deeply moving poem, “A Marriage.” I felt like crying after I read it.

+That time my husband handed me an envelope containing the world.

+Marriage is an act of optimism.

+Our love story. A reader recently wrote to say how much she loved this post from several years ago — so much so, she commented, that she might have manifested her boyfriend’s appearance in an olive green button-down, too.

+A lot of Mr. Magpie’s early mystique related to his black Jeep: his foil and ferry.

Shopping Break.

+You all have been LOVING these wide-leg trousers with patch pockets — the coolest shade of yellow!

+Adore this blockprint shirtdress — I own it in a different pattern and it is SO light and comfortable.

+This gingham top is right up my alley.

+OK STOP – this $30 basket bag with whipstitch detailing is SO good.

+Added these freezable “oopsie” packs to my Amazon cart — so good for bumps/bruises, and no longer the problem of wet/drippy Ziplocs!

+Love Pottery Barn’s new collection of scalloped melamine for outdoor dining. More favorites for al fresco meal season here.

+Love this striped tee.

+This under-$200 strapless dress would be a great pick for wedding season.

+Into these chic and colorful woven ballet flats from Birdies! I find their footwear very comfortable.

+An attractive three-tier shoe bench for your entryway/mudroom/etc.

+Ordering my daughter these adorable blockprint sheets.

+REALLY cute tennis dress.

+OMG these matte fisherman sandals for little feet.

+This pink eyelet-trim dress is so sweet.

+A challenging spring puzzle to put out this weekend.

+Talbots coming in hot with the crochet trend — love this little cardigan. More crochet fashion here.

+Guys…is this our informal uniform t-shirt? (What are you reading?! Taking recs!)

+Love the mint color of these ballet flats, and the little cord bow is darling too.

+Rattan peacock dining chairs!

+A fab side table.

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4 thoughts on “Beloved.

  1. This is so beautiful and moving. My eyes welled with tears. Thank you for putting this sentiment into words so beautifully

    1. Oh thank you so much, Ellen — so glad it resonated. Poured my heart into these words for sure.


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