Let Your Heart Be Light.

By: Jen Shoop

My sister and I have a special connection to the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” We have always loved “Meet Me in St. Louis” (the film in which the song originally appeared, sung by Judy Garland), and I can distinctly remember watching it with her on many occasions, including once, well into our early twenties, when the viewing suddenly felt more about nostalgia than it did the actual movie. I remember looking at her on the sofa next to me and thinking, “We’re adults now.” It was a bittersweet milestone, a marking of “the befores” from “the afters,” the kind of turning point you might experience discovering cigarettes in a parent’s car, or some other vestige of a private life you knew nothing about. Not sinister, but just — a re-framing. I remember exactly where she was reclining on the leather sofa in my apartment in Glover Park, and I recall thinking that I wanted to cling to her forever.

One snowy December night in upstate New York a year or two later, we clung to each other while processing a family tragedy. We both felt strangled for words. Afterward, we tried to stream “Meet Me in St. Louis” in a bald attempt at comforting ourselves. We ended up not being able to watch it for a technical reason — a glitch I now see as profoundly metaphoric, as there was no solace to be found that night — but I hear the song, and I think about the way we instinctively sought out that movie and those lyrics in the face of grief.

And a few years after that, at her winter wedding, she had the song — Judy Garland edition and all — played in my honor on the dance floor.

“For Jennifer,” she said, standing behind her chair, looking resplendent in white, shining like a pearl on that happiest of days, and I was deeply moved by her small homage to our secret sister connection on an occasion that was not about me in the least.

The song, then, is as much about sisterhood, about a sibling love that abides, as it is about anything else. Which fits, if you think about it, since — in the movie –Judy Garland’s character sings the song to console her younger sister.

This year, a lyric to which I’ve never given much thought has jumped out at me with persistence:

“Let your heart be light.”

I love its grammar: the gentlest of imperatives. The kind of command only a sister can issue without soliciting frustration. Permit the joy! Shed what weighs you down! I hear the words and I imagine releasing my heart into the air, as though a previously-tethered balloon. The words could not befit my sister more. She enters a room and fills it with color.

This year, I am dialed in on this directive:

Let your heart be light.



+Have you ever surprised yourself?

+There’s always a light.

Shopping Break.

+I just ordered this matte vanilla eye shadow stick. I cannot do powder this winter — my skin/eyes are SO dry and I only want cream-based product. 32,000 positive reviews can’t lie — and love the price point!

+Serena and Lily has a big clearance sale running and you must know about these bar stools — originally $820, now $250. That’s an incredible price for a stool from S&L. This pinecone wreath is included in the sale for under $200 (orig almost $500) and is kind of brilliant in that you never need to buy a front door wreath again. These chic trimmed shams have been popular with Magpies all year — originally $130/pop, now $29?! And these crib sheets truly are the best quality and somehow only $20 right now. Finally, drumroll please: this chic daybed, originally $3K, is now under $1K. Run!

+LOVE these boots. They remind me of a much more expensive style by Khaite.

+A $33 long puffer coat. I saw this and thought it might be perfect if you’re in a place that’s only really cold a few days of the year.

+Fab, versatile black trousers. I’m imagining with a festive top like this or this.

+More festive tops: this velvet puplum top is so chic. (Upgrade pick: Damaris Bailey.)

+Cute quilted lounge set for under $35.

+Pair with my dream puffer coat for a true hi-lo moment.

+OK, this tartan maxi dress is pretty fantastic.

+This sherpa bag was restocked!

+With a dog and two young children, we have needed our carpet cleaner more than I care to admit.

+This chic leather crossbody sold out earlier this season. Crossbodies are my favorite style of bag these days.

+A great card game for even really young kids. We discovered this while visiting family over the summer and I’m putting it in my daughter’s stocking.

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22 thoughts on “Let Your Heart Be Light.

  1. I swear by the Julep eyeshadow stick in Putty! It’s a gorgeous, subtle cool-toned pink that looks good with everything!

  2. Was reading this while listening to a “Christmas Classics” playlist on Spotify – and what should come on immediately next but the EXACT Judy Garland version you’re writing about! Felt like a little God-wink for a good holiday season intention 🙂

  3. I love this story of a specific shared meaning with your sister <3 the last time I watched "Meet Me in St. Louis" was December 2020, Do you recall how meaningful those lyrics were in 2020??

    Someday soon we all will be together
    If the fates allow
    Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow

    etc.! We did muddle through, somehow, and I think the song will always have that meaning to me now.

  4. I highly recommend checking out the new Christmas album from the Backstreet Boys! My favorite song is their version of Last Christmas which happened to be #1 on the adult contemporary chart recently.

  5. I think the really rich emotional texture of the Christmas season that you allude to here is what I love the most about this month- yes, it’s full of happiness and cheer and parties and fun, but woven throughout that fabric are these rich veins of nostalgia and even melancholy. What has been and what could be- the subjunctive mood. Now I want to rewatch Meet me in St. Louis!

    1. Yes, exactly — there is something particular about this season that draws out not only nostalgia but the pastiche of memories (sad, happy, everything) that define family life.

      Definitely recommend a re-watch of “Meet Me in St. Louis”!

      This is not what at all on topic but I just watched “The Holiday” last night and I guess I haven’t paid attention to it (or maybe skipped it?) the last few seasons but it was a ROMP. I did not remember it being so cheesy? I mean, definitely fun but I almost blushed/winced at how treacly some parts of it are. Jude Law, though. Wowza.


  6. I love “Meet Me in St. Louis” – partly because of how colorful the settings and costumes are, partly because of the songs and dancing, and partly because I have warm memories of watching it at my grandmother’s house when I was a child. I’ve always thought of “let your heart be light” as letting your heart radiate light out for others, but I like your thoughts about letting go of what weighs you down.

    I bought the Julep Cushion Complexion Concealer + Corrector + Foundation at TJ Maxx and have really been liking it! It’s so easy to apply in the mornings and doesn’t seem to bother my sensitive and reactive skin. I’m curious about the eyeshadow now and may see if that’s also available at TJ Maxx.

    1. Hi Sarah – I love that so many of us have a connection to this song, and this movie, and your note about a slightly different interpretation of the lyric reminds me why I absolutely love to discuss books, poems, songs, etc. The good stuff is prismatic. Thanks for bringing your reading to the table – I now have another layer to contemplate.

      Good to know about the Julep concealer/corrector/foundation! Have never tried this brand but officially intrigued. The price point is right, too!


  7. I LOVE the image of our hearts as balloons! Thanks for sharing this, I love that song, too. Never seen the movie though – maybe this year?

    1. Thank you!! The song is just perfect. Definitely worth a watch this year! Parts of it are so kitschy and dated, but the music is incredible and I love the costumes.


  8. I have been reading your blog for a couple of months and want to thank you for what has become a nice little routine for me each morning. I appreciate the prompt to stop and reflect on life experiences for a moment, and I really appreciate your lovely clothing suggestions at lots of price points. I have bought several things and found new brands. Thank you so much!

    1. Oh gosh, Amy, thank you so much for taking the time to write such a sweet note! You’ve made my day. I am so delighted my meandering musings have resonated. Glad (lucky!) to have you here, too.

      Happy holidays!

  9. Ooooh, may I share “Let your heart be light” with you this year? I need a year of light. This has been a very difficult year and I’m ready to move into some light.
    I purchased the Julep eye stick earlier this year and liked it. My favourite is still the Bobbi Brown eye stick, but I think they are VERY similar. Hope you like it.

    1. Yes, please share that intention for the new year! Wishing you calmer seas in 2023.

      Thanks for the intel on the Julep stick! Can’t wait to test.


  10. What a beautiful song and memory. This reminds me of a scene in the 2005 Christmas movie “The Family Stone” in which the sisters are watching it on the couch late into the evening.(Spoilers if you haven’t seen it!!) Rachel McAdams has fallen asleep and her older sister is watching Judy Garland very teary eyed contemplating next Christmas without their mother, Diane Keaton. Heart wrenching and nostalgic all the same. Worth a rewatch for sure.

    1. Oh my gosh, I haven’t seen that movie in ages and didn’t recall that scene. I don’t know if I can bear to re-watch that movie – I remember it gutted me the last time I watched it, and now thinking about this personal connection to the movie might push me over the edge. But, the sentiment stands, and it’s a lovely one — the feeling of being together and spiriting one on no matter what we’re facing in the hopes of happier futures!


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