Musings + Essays

There’s Always a Light.

By: Jen Shoop

There is a heart-wrenching, gorgeous song by Brittany Howard called “Short and Sweet” that we listened to, loud — just the way Mr. Magpie likes it — one night last week after the children were asleep. The lyrics are somber. They confront unrequited love, self-harm, unhealthy relationships. But there is an exquisite line in it that captures perfectly the way we open ourselves up to the people we love:

“There’s always a light over my head for you.”

The image is perfect: a lone face in the window, waiting for headlights to turn up the drive. A dark, vacant city street suffused with the soft incandescence of a solitary bulb in the window of a ninth floor apartment.

Howard’s song thrums with the agony of waiting for someone who may never arrive: “Time will always try to kill me,” she sings.

But there is a less torturous scenario that sprang to mind the minute I heard the lyric: siblinghood. My relationships with my siblings feel elastic in the sense that we could go from a disagreement to laughing so hard we are crying in the blink of an eye. I need no preamble to feel comfortable sending an out-of-the-blue text about anything at all, be it airing a grievance or sharing a hilarious meme. I can go two months without talking to my brother and then we speak on the phone and it is as though no time has passed at all, without any of the sheepish gravel-kicking that tends to accompany lapsed friendships. My sister can be furious with me but woe betide the person who criticizes me in her presence. There is a core there that cannot be moved, a light that will never turn off. I will always have my sister’s knit brow (“she said what to you?!”) and the crook of her arm to take while teetering in heels and the firm squeeze of her hand in the pew at Church. We may shift into times where we see one another less, or talk more infrequently, but the light stays on.

Thank God for siblings, and for all loved ones (friends! aunts! cousins!) who keep the light on for us.


+It is a blessing to be needed.

+More on siblinghood.

+A stirring memory from childhood.

+Another memory from childhood.

+The sun still rises.

Shopping Break.

+This popular dress is back in a gorgeous pink. $120 and a major Easter/spring dress contender.

+Fun button earrings. Also love these tiny hearts ($50!).

+Fun cardigan for Valentine’s Day.

+Into the cut of these charcoal jeans from J. Crew.

+Marysia vibes for $30.

+I have heard such good things about this carseat/stroller fabric stain removal kit and it is currently on sale.

+Speaking of stain removal, have I already talked your ear off about this tiny fabric brush?! I use this with a little bit of dish soap and apply directly to a stain and it gets EVERYTHING OUT. Has even worked on chocolate and wine!

+Those heart earrings reminded me that Nicola Bathie just launched some fun statement rings!

+This remains my favorite everyday moisturizer. Feels great going on — lightweight, blends in easily. Just an elegant, effective product.

+Cutie mini dress.

+Scented drawer/shelf liners.

+OO this sweatshirt tunic.

+This dress = a slice of funfetti cake.

+This popular knit dress is back in stock. Chanel vibes!

+This pink coat is fabulous.

+Scalloped Liberty print top — reminds me of Horror Vacui and currently on major sale.

+Beginning to think about mini’s fifth birthday in early March. I am torn between a few different themes. She’s obsessed with Alice and Wonderland at the moment, and that could be a fun theme? But then she’s a longtime lover of superheroes, and look at this adorable invitation!

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12 thoughts on “There’s Always a Light.

  1. I am pretty sure it was my 5th (maybe 6th) birthday party. We had a fancy dress-up tea party and it was SO much fun. Everyone came dolled up (mothers and daughters). My mom hired a company to set up tables, linens, china, silver tea pots, etc. While the company talked us girls through a proper tea party, the moms got to mingle in another room of the house. The food was kid-friendly and they had lemonade and tea. Could be cute to do a fancy-ish Mad Hatter tea party for mini & her friends. Plus it gives you an opportunity to make it mom/parent friendly at the same time with some simple additions- champagne and more mature munchies.

    The photos are pretty iconic and we loved the child-size tables/chairs in the girls’ tea room.

    I am sure that with the inventions of Pinterest and Etsy since that party, you could make it even more fabulous and memorable!

    1. I love this idea and hadn’t even thought about how it’d make for a great parent party, too! Thank you!

    2. If you do go this route, I picture mismatched vintage teacups- 1 per child to use during the party and to keep as a favor!

      Also, ‘eat me’ cookies 🙂

  2. My son turns 5 in early March too and I’m so back and forth on what to do for a party with Covid. I would love to be able to go to a park, but will it be freezing? Should I have a few neighbors over? Can I/do I invite his whole class? Who would’ve thought that a 5th birthday party could cause so much angst? I am so so tired of every decision being so difficult these past 2 years. Anyway, he is my oldest like yours and I can’t believe they will be going to kindergarten this fall. Such a big year!

    1. I SO feel you, Sarah! My husband and I had a really long conversation about this last night. I think we will end up going the handful-of-neighbors-and-a-few-close-friends route, and will send in something to her class (not sure what yet — special snack or treat of some kind). But so many of my daughter’s classmates have had parties outside (in parks, etc) and I feel badly not following suit — just so tricky in the unanticipatable March weather! AHH! Just to say – I feel you.


  3. Regarding the Lake sweatshirt tunic – I have the sweatshirt dress, and it has been the most delightfully cozy and rather elegant piece to wear while spending these snowy DMV days at home, curled up with a cup of tea or glass of wine and a book.

  4. Such a comforting thought – that there are those in our lives that will always have a light on for us. My word for 2022 is, in fact, “light” and I’ve been pondering its many meanings and manifestations in my life in the past several days. Thank you for this contribution! Hope 2022 finds you all well, Jen. xo H

    1. Hi Heidi — Love the word you’ve chosen for the year, and the way it’s provoked a lot of “tinkering” with its possible meanings and connotations. Thanks for sharing that! Glad this post resonated!


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