By: Jen Shoop

We’ve been talking a lot about my daughter’s upcoming sixth birthday in our home. What style of cake she wants (ice cream!); the rolling list of RSVPs to her party (she checks in daily after Nora); what she’d like (a robe; the Brave Barbie). Somewhere amidst these shuttling logistics, I asked Mr. Magpie, over a plate of steak and salad and crispy potatoes: “Do you remember the day Emory was born?” Emory turned to him expectantly. Mr. Magpie busied himself with the potatoes, cleared his throat, took a drink of water, shifted in his seat, cleared his throat again —

Overcome, I could tell, by the impossibility that we have come from that cold March morning in Chicago to here, at this dining table, with this clear-eyed, witty, misses-nothing, strong-willed, big-hearted, determined girl.

She asked me, then, what she was like when she was little.

In a cinematic flash:

I think of her laughing at the sound of the pulsing food processor, around five or six months of age. She was sitting in the Bumbo seat on our counter, erupting into belly laughs. We’d make the sound over and over again, and we’d double over with her each time, delighted anew.

I think of the hours and hours I spent nursing her in a green striped armchair in her gingham wallpapered nursery in our first home. Nursing was challenging for me, and I strained myself to make it happen, and even though I said, before my second, that I’d been a little loony to have contorted as much as I did to keep it going, I regret nothing. The way her fingers would move idly along the placket of my shirt. The way her eyes would scan the room, eventually settling, then going unfocused, as she’d drift off to sleep. Her complete lack of self-awareness in front of me. I’d be staring straight at her face, memorizing the curl above her ear, and she’d carry on as though alone. A mother’s treasured view.

I think of the adventures we took her on — the ambitious kind you take as first time parents. The aquarium when she was five or six months! Art museums, where we’d attempt to focus her on installations! So many meals out! A dinner party, where she was handed around the table. The time I ran home with her in my arms from my neighbor’s home because I’d pushed it just a little too long.

I think of the phase, between the ages of one and one and a half, where we’d bring her into our bed each morning, and she’d have a bottle of milk laying alongside us. Do you know how autumn is a feeling? Not so much a season as a mood? Those mornings were a feeling, too. They were a cocoon: tender, warm, hazy, quiet, squibbly and soft around the edges. We were a huddle.

I think of when we moved to New York and were staying in a hotel with no bath tub. I would get down to my skivvies, sit next to her on the cold tile of the shower floor, and pour tiny cups of water over her body. After, I’d put her in Jacadi and we’d walk around Soho, pondering our new status as New Yorkers.

I think of taking her with me to Church every Sunday at Blessed Sacrament on West 71st. Miniature patent leather mary janes; smocked dresses and 4″ hair bows; fistfuls of goldfish; crayon marks on the missal; walking up and down the vestibule; the way she’d leap off the step of the small chapel in the back over and over again.

I think of taking her to “pre-ballet” on the Upper West Side. Tiny tutu, tiny pink feet. Her chipmunk face eating an apple in her stroller on the way home.

I think of her on the Subway, walking dutifully through the 34th Street stop to switch lines, on the way to school. The way she’d wave at the conductor. Her chirpy voice remarking on every number in her line of sight.

I think of the long, slow mornings we’d spend together before we had a full-time nanny, before she started school. Sometimes getting from 9 to 12 was a stretch. We had our circuit: grocery, library, sometimes a shared $10 smoothie or $6 muffin (groan), playground/splash pad, home for lunch. I had my chosen perches at each playground: the one bench or anchoring corner that always felt like home base. Strange, how those hours dragged by at the time, and how, now, they seem to have slipped right through my fingers. As C.S. Lewis put it: “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when we look back, everything is different.”

Oh, I think of her — and I think of her — and I think of her —

And I could go on and on laying the feuilles of this pastiche with significance to no one but myself. A reminder, this exercise, that we carry all of the ages of our children with us. They are not gone: they are inside. I need only throw a rope down to pull up the treasure.


+Motherhood is a surfeit.

+Practical advice on preparing for motherhood.

+Mini is my other heartbeat.

Shopping Break.

+This gorgeous caftan/dress is on its way to me.

+Cute everyday pants in great colors. Love the silhouette.

+This cardigan is SO fun!

+Love the color of this running jacket.

+A great styling accessory for a bare corner of a room, or a makeshift cocktail table.

+Love this black everyday dress. More everyday dresses here.

+How cute are these silicone snack bowls for littles.

+Perfect white tank.

+This Etsy shop has the cutest rattan animal decor for a child’s room. Even dinos!

+Adorable jelly sandals for a little love.

+Obsessed with this fringe ottoman.

+Happy little rug.

+Slip hair ties, 50% off!

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6 thoughts on “Treasure.

  1. Oh how lovely for your daughter that she will have a record of these thoughts here.

    I received a letter from my mother as part of a retreat once. One of the passages in that letter I find myself thinking about all the time was my mom describing her time with me in the “early days”. It is one thing to *know* that you are loved but to read about how you were loved before you can even remember is so, so special. I absolutely treasure having that in writing and I know that your daughter will too!

    1. Love this, Molly! So sweet of your mom. There is something so deeply reassuring about that thought you mention. I remember when I matriculated to my Catholic high school, the nuns told us they’d been praying for us since the day we were born. I was — and still am — so moved by that concept, that I had NO IDEA, but a whole fleet of women were praying for me on a daily basis my whole life. Wow.


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