Musings + Essays


By: Jen Shoop

My parents, fully vaccinated, came to see us in early March. When I opened the door to my mother and father, we embraced and cooed over one another but, much to our collective surprise, did not cry. Instead, we clipped right back into place. It was as if the previous 15 months of separation evaporated, and we were immediately talking about what size mini wore in clothing, and how nice that painting they’d given us looked in our dining room, and whether they’d already had lunch? We talked around our dining room table for a couple of hours and then reunited around the dining room table in the suite of their hotel on the UES a couple of hours later. Conversation flowed. We caught up on the everything and nothing of our daily lives and most of it was, honestly, material we’d already covered in our nightly conversations with one another over the past year and change. We planned for a family reunion, raved about “Ted Lasso,” strategized around logistics for our upcoming move, compared notes on the homes we’d seen online that they have been graciously scouting for us back in D.C. They take an afternoon drive every single day — a prophylactic against the feeling of entrapment that they have kept up with since the dawn of the pandemic — and often those drives are in the neighborhoods in which we hope to live. They send us street addresses, notes on the curb appeal of new listings, suggestions. We discussed all of this, and little things, too — the necklace my mom was wearing, the elegance of the suite, the steep incline on my father’s running route through Central Park that morning. And then my father stood up to refresh our wine glasses and I looked across the table at my mother and I burst into tears. It surged out of nowhere, a shock of sudden emotion. I was suddenly overwhelmed by the sight of her. I walked around the long wooden table and we hugged for a long time. She understood what was happening and we just held each other without saying anything. Or maybe we said something – I can’t remember. I was too absorbed in the total release of pent-up emotions I was experiencing, the familiar smell of her perfume, the way she never lets go of a hug too early. My mother. Mommy.

It is unbearable for me to imagine going 15 months without seeing my children, smoothing their hair, holding their hands. It strikes me that perhaps this period has been more difficult on our parents than it has been on us. Of course, we haven’t lived with our parents in some time — have in fact lived a meaningful distance from them for the past nine years. We are accustomed to keeping tabs on each other from afar. And my parents stay busy with projects and exercise, read prolifically, keep great company with one another. They have fared beautifully through this pandemic. They have been positive and reassuring when my spirits have waned. They have accepted our new realities with the kind of resignation borne of decades of living life’s vicissitudes. But still. It has been a long, dry stretch for them, isolated from their children. Meanwhile, we have the distraction of little feet and prying fingers and incessant commotion, and full-time jobs, too. The days are long but full. But oh–I don’t know. You’re never too old to need your parents. It has been agony not seeing them.

I feel fortified by their recent visit. Encouraged, too, by the increasing number of anecdotal reports that people in my network are being vaccinated. There is now talk that in New York, we might be eligible for the vaccine next month. Onward we go. And it is an unspeakably beautiful gift to be able to finally hold hands with our parents en route.


+Aren’t we lucky to be children?

+Chanel vibes for less. I can’t stop thinking about this blazer. I feel like it would be a mainstay in my wardrobe forever — throw on over an LWD, or with jeans and a tee, or with an elegant blouse.

+Another adorable pair of scalloped shorts for a little lady.

+I’m really feeling this oversized linen popover with white or light-wash denim. (Some great denim finds here.)

+These pants, in the green. I have a similar pair from eons ago from J. Crew that I’ve already worn a few times in the last few weeks with Supergas or GGs and striped tee.

+I hope I am this kind of parent.

+Sweet embroidered top.

+Under-$20 spring dress for a little love. Love the black tie in the back. Would go great if you were wearing this!

+Speaking of mommy-and-me coordination — your little lady might need this.

+A fantastic, versatile dress, as is this one (under $100).

+Love the ruffle trim on this swimsuit for your little love.

+A simple, well-priced spring bag in great colors. (The mint!) And it can be personalized with hand-painted shadow lettering! Wow!

+Am loving all of the gingham beauty from Tory Burch — this dress! this bag!

+This post sharing nine dresses under $50 has been very popular. I think we will all be twinning in several of these dresses this spring!

+Cute blue and white caftan for poolside lounging. (And great swim here.)

+A personal beatitude.

+Running against the wind.

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15 thoughts on “Reunions.

  1. This brought tears to my eyes! It hasn’t been quite as long for me — I last saw my parents in September — but I miss them so much, and it has been so hard to be away from them over these past several months. I’ve been feeling additionally emotional over the past few days because my brother and sister-in-law just had a baby, and I want to go visit, but I don’t know if it’s too risky since I’m not yet vaccinated, and at the same time I feel SO sad that I’m not there, even though I could easily drive to see them and stay with my parents (they all live 4 hours away and I own a car). I just worry about getting my loved ones sick, somehow, even though I have been extremely careful throughout the pandemic. Ugh, it’s heart-wrenching! I feel so adrift … 🙁 🙁 🙁

    Anyway, this comment has gone off the rails — ha! I am so glad that we’re all moving in the right direction, though. NYC seems to be really rolling out the vaccine, at least from what I’ve heard from friends & seen from acquaintances on IG. It gives me hope!


    1. Hi! Oh I so feel you. I have been feeling similarly about my sister’s upcoming due date (she’s due this month) and have been daydreaming about how I might be able to come down, even briefly, to help for a night or two just after the baby is here. This is for sure one of those slender griefs we have talked about — all these things we feel we have missed out upon in the shadow of COVID 🙁 I think it’s totally fair to mourn them. I’m mourning with you!

      BUT! I am optimistic you will soon be getting your vaccine and we can put this behind us.


    2. Thank you so much, friend! Your message really lifted my spirits … AND I was able to schedule my vaccinations today, so I have a clear light at the end of the tunnel now! Even just making that plan made me feel better. Thank you for setting me on the right path 🙂


      1. Woohoooooooo!!!!!!!


        I am on cloud nine as I just got my first dose this morning and want to cheer from the windows!


  2. Oh, Jen! I was tearing up, reading this. What a relief to be able to see and hold your parents! I totally agree that we’re never too old to need them. What a testament to their parenting!

    I miss my parents in the Philippines terribly. They used to visit us every year. They were here for my daughter’s birth 3 years ago and stayed with us for 6 months to help me. And they visited again for her next 2 birthdays before COVID. It has been hard having this constant worry in the back of my mind about their health knowing their pre-existing conditions (although they both stay healthy and swim laps almost every day). Last fall I was in a bit of a panic when I had a writing project to do sans child care. Without missing a beat, my father asked, “should we fly there?” as though there were no pandemic raging. I totally relate to how you burst into tears as that is exactly what happened to me. I declined, of course, despite how much I would have loved them here, but it was too great a risk with the surge in cases in the fall and winter. No matter what, our parents will always be our safe space, and I aspire to do my best as a parent so that my daughter will feel the same way — that I will be her safe space no matter what age she is.

    1. Oh gosh – I love your Dad! “Should we fly there?!” I remember my dad saying something similar when things were really rotten in NYC during the peak of the pandemic: “you can always come here, Jen.” Almost willfully ignoring that we really couldn’t. I could tell his paternal instinct was to try to smooth over whatever he could however he could, the specifics be-damned. It was so loving.

      Hoping for a reunion with your parents sooner than later, my friend. It looks like we’re heading in the right direction.


  3. This one got to me! I am expecting my first child any day now in California, and have not seen my own mother or grandmother in 14 months. They have never seen me pregnant, have never touched my belly or strolled the baby aisles of Target with me. They are both safe and healthy in Georgia and for that I’m grateful, but I’m also mourning what this pandemic has robbed us of in shared experiences. I don’t know when our special reunion will come but I have a feeling I won’t be able to hold the tears back for any part of the day!

    1. Oh, I’m so sorry, Mallory! You are totally entitled to feel this way, to grieve all of things absented from your life by COVID. I would feel the same way. This must have been so tough for you.

      I will be cheering you from afar when you make it to that happy reunion once baby arrives! Until then, sending you all the good vibes.


  4. Even at the age of (almost!) 54, I still need my parents. We live 1255 miles apart (door to door) and have for the last 30 years. But being unable to see them – in person – was the hardest stretch I can remember. In October, my husband and I flew out for their 60th anniversary – a short, socially distanced, fully masked, outdoors only visit. At that time it had been almost a year since we last saw them. While they were a sight for sore eyes indeed, NOT hugging my mom and dad those 36 hours was even harder than not seeing them. I cried the entire flight home and felt a physical ache of not being able to wrap my arms around them. I am an affectionate and demonstrative soul (just ask all these preschoolers I love on every day!) and that experience of having to keep my distance was gut-wrenching for me. I’m keenly aware of how blessed I am to still have both of them – octogenarians that so far have weathered the isolation and risks wrought by a raging pandemic. In their town specifically it has been grim at various times with a hospital system constantly teetering on the brink of being overwhelmed. They are now fully vaccinated and we’re planning another trip – and I plan to positively smother both of them as often as possible.
    What a gift to hug your parents! You will never forget that particular hug! I’m rejoicing for your reunion and praying there are many more blessed times together for all of you. 🙂 xo H

    1. Oh Heidi — your description of being close to but not able to hug your parents really moved me. It has been a really long, hard time of isolation. I can’t imagine what it would have felt like to see them but not be able to hug them :(. Hoping the next few months fly by so you can reach that well-earned hug! What a relief to hear about more and more people being vaccinated. It is so inspiring and encouraging. We can make it!


  5. Oh Jen! “You’re never too old to need your parents.” Amen to that. I love this beautiful reflection on what it means to treasure being your parents’ child, even as an adult.
    I have been so fortunate to have spent lots of time with my parents during the pandemic. They live in suburban Philadelphia, a quick jaunt from my apartment in NW DC, and their home has been a haven for me throughout COVID. I feel even more fortunate to have spent this time with them knowing that so many have felt the loss of time with family this year.
    Yesterday, after winding down my virtual workday (I use the dining room as my makeshift office when I’m home!), I was doing a YouTube yoga class in our living room and suddenly, I was stricken with emotion. How LUCKY I felt to be so utterly loved and embraced by my parents, to be able to seek reprieve from a busy and chaotic world in my childhood home, to be surrounded by gestures of love like my dad filling up my car with gas and my mom leaving my clean laundry at the foot of my bed. I was a teenager not too long ago, and I remember well being so desperate for independence and autonomy. Now, as a young adult, I often feel close to tears when I think about how loved I am by my parents and how I can always go home to them, no matter how old I am. I am never alone and I will always have them to fall back on. It is truly one of the greatest gifts in my life!

    1. Oh Hayden! My eyes welled up with tears reading your comment. The vision of the laundry neatly folded at the foot of the bed, your Dad filling your car with gas. Such small but incredible acts of care! We are so lucky. I also have been struck recently by how selflessly parents love their children. I was watching American Idol again (ha!) and one boy wins a golden ticket to hollywood and his Dad says: “I’m so proud of you. Now take it all in. Be in this moment, son. Think about how great it feels. I’m so proud of you.” I was SO moved by the sentiment, his words expressing nothing but concern and love for his son, ensuring that he fully absorbs and enjoys this little victory. Who else would provide such thoughtful scaffolding and encouragement but a parent? So beautiful. My parents are the same way in the small and occasionally big successes of their children — just so encouraging, invested, thrilled.

      Anyway – thanks for writing in on this. We are so lucky!


  6. Love to hear about your first reunion post Covid. Touching! I love how you express your love for your parents. So direct, full of compassion and tender love.
    Ugh! Makes me want a little girl, but too late for that! God has blessed me and I am forever grateful l

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