Musings + Essays

Long Division.

By: Jen Shoop

We’ve been a sick house, clouded by malaise and cough, the countertop lined with remedies and tinctures. My daughter, enduring an ear infection, lived for ten days beneath a veil of antibiotics —

“Oh yes,” the Doctor said, after the fact, “It can cause irritability.”

I’d known this before the confirmation, had sought alternate explanations for the sudden shift in mood and come up empty-handed, had studied her joyful eyes now afog, the slouch of her tiny body, her distant clamminess, had fretted and consoled and then unwillingly made a space for these visiting features. Until one afternoon

She returned to me

a few days after the regimen was complete, skittering on fawn-like legs, her radiant smile

a sunrise.

“She came from a long, long way,”

Carrying her arch asides, the wry twist of her mouth, the crescents of her laughing eyes,

As though life released from amber.

A small return, a frivolous one, to be sure,

But I am reminded all the same of the search for Persephone,

Of the way motherhood can sometimes feel like long division, interrupted joyously

by return.


+I’d written about the above experience by hand, in small fragments in my journal, and then more or less abandoned them. A week later, I took an excellent reflective writing seminar via the Smithsonian with Mary Hall Surface in which we studied the myth of Demeter and Persephone, and all of the pieces of the narrative came together. One of the texts we performed a close reading of was Carol Ann Duffy’s “Demeter,” which is well-worth a read (tactile, image-dense, form-conscious poetry — I admire the brilliant reclamation of the rhyming couplet at the end, as thought a poetic world gone intact), and the above borrows her line: “She came from a long, long way.” When I read those words, I had to stop and write them down on paper myself.

+Another poem that recently moved me.

+Transitions, two-year-olds, and the toil of mothering.

+Underrated traits.

+Focus and the fibers of motherhood.

+Things must end to begin again.

Shopping Break.

+I haven’t purchased a statement necklace in years, but I saw this shell style and had to have it. 20% off with code YOUROCK. Will look fantastic with a white tee or blouse.

+This skirt is in my cart.

+I was just reading about Hanro’s famous “sleeping bra,” which is pricey but apparently the most comfortable thing to wear to bed / with athleisure.

+A pretty $30 everyday dress.

+Target has some adorable children’s gift wrap — love these cherries, these bugs, and these trucks.

+Cute patterned rash guard for women, and adorable cover-up skirt! The skirt would look so cute with everyone’s favorite statement swimsuit (<<just restocked!)

+Still not over this perfect La Ligne dress. You can get the look for less with this Old Navy score!

+I apologize if this is repetitious, but Sunhouse Children’s latest collection (launched two days ago) was a total homerun. I bought mini this adorable striped dress (perfect for FOJ) and one of their dashwood shorts sets. Also LOVE their swimwear options.

+Finally ordering a pair of these $30 leggings after seeing tons of people rave about them as an inexpensive alternative to my beloved Aligns (<<several colors on sale here!). I plan to take on a lot more hiking/outdoor activity this month so ramping up the fitness wear arsenal. (More fitness finds here.)

+Some poetic, ethereal dresses to consider: this Sleeper and this Lu-ciee. These feel like the kinds of pieces that you spot on a girlfriend who is always impeccably, interestingly dressed.

+These TB mules are fabulous – and on sale.

+Tis the season.

+Adore this new Agua Bendita dress.

+Really fun statement earrings — love the colors.

+Love these inexpensive pocket tees for toddler boys.

+This gives me Lug Von Siga vibes for about half the price.

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6 thoughts on “Long Division.

  1. Beautiful writing, as always. I’m envious of the command you have of words and language.

    I wanted to share that you’ve inspired me to start reading more poetry! I loved the poetry unit in my AP English Lit class and I want to dive back in. I know you love Mary Oliver; any other recommendations?

    1. Thank you so much, Sarah. I appreciate the encouragement more than you know.

      In addition to Mary Oliver, I LOVE (!) Seamus Heaney. I am a newcomer to Carol Ann Duffy but am very much impressed by what I’ve read — I think you’ll find some overlap between Heaney, Duffy, and Oliver. They are all focused in interesting ways on the physical world/phenomena.


  2. Your reflection on sick children returning to themselves hits home. And a doctor’s affirmation of a mother’s intuition is uniquely gratifying <3 and I love to hear your experience back at a writing workshop of sorts. Writing (and thinking) are often so solitary, but tuning your voice among others (other writers, other texts) can be such an illuminating experience.

    1. Thank you, Susie! You are so right about the satisfying “click” of affirmation of a motherly intuition! I remember a pediatric nurse once telling me, “I always listen to the mom. The mom always knows before any of us do.” I was so moved by that. But it is true! We are so attuned to every aspect of our children’s wellbeing, from the way they walk, to the manner in which they fall asleep, to the coloring of their skin!

      Thank you!


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