Musings + Essays

We Open the Door, and the World Is Upon Us.

By: Jen Shoop

I suspect that the biggest thing I will miss about New York is the pedestrian lifestyle. Our pediatrician is half a block from my apartment, as is my dentist. I have gotten into a bad habit of stopping by a little neighborhood bistro while walking Tilly in the evenings to pick up a to-go order of fries with house-made aioli when we are craving a potato side to go with steak, or roast chicken, or moules prepared at home. I have dashed out to the small grocer down the street for milk, or bananas, or bandaids, or toilet paper what feels like every other day of the week for the past two years. The bodega around the corner has a surprisingly impressive array of flowers for any given Tuesday, but if I want to up the ante, there are two lovely florists within two blocks of my home. Central Park is one avenue away, and so my running routes are blissfully close to home and the entire circuit — from walking out my apartment door to returning through it — takes under 40 minutes and I can be in the shower and then at my desk by 10 a.m. if I am disciplined about leaving as soon as our nanny arrives. Not bad when pressed for time. We can walk to the butcher, to countless restaurants (many of them among our favorites in the city — scroll to the bottom of that post to see all our treasured haunts), to great coffee shops, to a darling old-fashioned toy store, to two amazing ice cream shops (Van Leeuwen and Big Gay), to four or five fantastic playgrounds, to my OBGYN and my General Internist, to the farmer’s market, to two kid-friendly museums (Natural History and Children’s Museum), to a lovely children’s bookstore, to the groomer, to the vet. I could go on and on. But it is astounding how completely we can live our lives without ever leaving the Upper West Side, or needing to get in a car, or even having to factor transit time into our daily errands. We open the door, and the world is upon us.

That aspect of Manhattan — its walkability — has never fallen into the taken-for-granted oblivion of quotidian life. I was delighted by this lifestyle change when I moved to NYC almost four years ago, and I am delighted by it now. I love the unfussiness of slipping into my mules and running down the block for something narrow and specific — say, popsicles for the kids or a bottle of champagne to celebrate good news — without feeling it is onerous, or a commitment, or that I should first check a few shopping lists to tick a few other items off. I can sprint down the pavement and be back in three minutes, butter in hand. There is something about the proximity of everything that makes it mentally — and physically — easier to “up and go.” It continuously suggests the art of the impromptu. “Do you feel like margs?” I can ask Mr. Magpie at 5:44 one evening and return with a handful of limes and some tequila from the corner liquor shop by six. One of my favorite pre-COVID self-care rituals back when I lived down by Columbus Circle was ending my work day at four — an hour before our nanny left — and walking over to Epicerie Boulud to have a glass of rose at the bar while reading my Kindle. I can’t say it made for great reading, but it was fun to people-watch, chat with the barkeeper, and just sort of zone out in my own alone-but-not Manhattan enclave.

I will miss this.

We are moving to a house on a beautiful cul de sac and will need to drive everywhere — to the grocery, to the school, to the doctor, to the coffee shop. But as with so much in life, it is all a tradeoff, and the best way forward is to practice gratitude for what I have in the present and stay open-minded for the future. I am convinced I will soon be waxing poetic about the virtues of living on a cul de sac with no cut-through traffic, where our children can ride their bikes in peace. I look forward to the calm of walking my dog without having to dodge — well, anything. I will not miss the density of people, or the weird things witnessed on a regular basis because of that density — everything from people spitting on the ground just inches from your feet to the horrifying incident that transpired just last week, when a man started yelling obscenities at our nanny at the playground and then told her: “I’ll be waiting for you.” She called us in a panic, and Mr. Magpie dropped everything and sprinted to escort her home. We were all shaken, and I even thought that maybe I could start sending our dog out with her? (Tilly is a sweet thing but she is also 65 pounds, with a bark to match.) I’m not so naive to think that these incidents can’t happen outside New York. I grew up in D.C. and lived in Chicago and know that these things can and will happen wherever you are — suburbs and small towns included. But the frequency of these disturbances while I have lived here — that I will not miss.

There was a moment when we were walking through our soon-to-be new home that I stood in the backyard, beneath the set of quaint wind chimes that the owners had installed on the back patio, and I felt the most tremendous sensation of tranquility. No sirens, no unnerving yells, no honking — just, quiet. Stillness. The only thing suggesting the passage of time the undulation of shadow from the clouds above. I crave that right now. I don’t know if it’s a me thing — i.e., I’m naturally inclined toward wanting something a bit slower — or because of living in Manhattan through COVID with very few excursions outside the city, or because of living here with two small children full-stop, or because I am in my mid-30s and hungry for stability and quiet, or because I am entering a Walden phase of life, but there it is. I have a feeling that I will still open my door and find the world upon me — just a quieter corner of it.


+Happy Memorial Day! Grateful for those who served.

+Other things I love about New York.

+And things I love specifically about the UWS.

+Things must end to begin again.

+We have been living through a season that is all second growth — especially in the shadow of this pandemic.

Shopping Break.

+Memorial Day sales are still rolling. I have been updating this post with all my favorite finds, and I also have a dedicated section of my shop featuring top picks!

+For enquiring minds: apparently this is the best bra ($32!) to layer under nap dresses. It works well with the necklines!

+Related: I’m still not over the magic of these seamless racerback bras. So comfortable, great for beneath shirt dresses, and so inexpensive!

+Have heard such good things about this reasonably priced candle in the spanish moss scent.

+Love everything about this white bustier dress, including the price.

+A really good navy and white striped sweater for cool evenings.

+Eyelet pull-on shorts!

+Splash pad season is officially upon us. I bought micro this popover and mini the girl version (also comes in pink, but mini will not stand for pink when her brother gets blue, as “blue is my favorite color,” as she informs me five, six, eight, twenty-two times a day). I had been eyeing them for awhile and had hoped to score them on sale but they’ve been selling out left and right, so I finally pounced. These will be great for the stroller ride / walk home from the park, and then for pool and beach days in the Hamptons in a few weeks, and then for after playing in the kiddie pool behind our home in a few weeks after that! (!!!)

+Some great pool and backyard toys here.

+In this same vein, but some extra Dock & Bay towels to keep in the basket of our stroller — I’ve written so much about these but they are great because they take up so little space compared to standard terrycloth towels and are surprisingly absorbent. Great for travel or city babies.

+For our upcoming beach/pool adventures, I ordered micro a monogrammed cover to put over a Stearns puddle jumper, and I ordered mini some water wings and these popular Bling 20 goggles.

+I’ve shared this dress a few times, but it really is perfect.

+White joveralls! So fun and fresh for summer. I like layering an unexpected blouse beneath overalls, but this rainbow stripe tee would also be fresh as an easy mom summer look. (With Freedom Moses slides?)

+On the other end of the spectrum: chic neutrals and khakis.

+These retro jelly purses are cute for a little one heading to the pool.

+Just bought this toddler camera for my niece.

+This printed maxi dress is amazing.

+A personalized fraction puzzle! So clever for a little one.

+Love this striped, Lem-Lem-esque kimono to pair with jeans or even throw on over a suit.

+The scalloped detailing on this plaid dress is TDF.

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11 thoughts on “We Open the Door, and the World Is Upon Us.

  1. I love your writing about New York. I’m so happy that you will be moving to a home and a locale that really speaks to your heart NOW, though! Can’t wait to hear more about it as time goes on. πŸ™‚

    P.S. I can personally vouch for those Skims bras w/r/t Nap Dress silhouettes β€” they really do work perfectly, esp. with the Ellie and Nesli. I bought one to match my skin tone and one in black, since I have a bunch of dark nap dresses … consider me influenced! haha!


    1. Thank you for weighing in on this first-hand! I usually wear my nap dresses sans undergarment but I am also very flat-chested…may look into this though for modesty if ever wearing somewhere I’d feel uncomfortable going without!

      And thanks for the kind words about NYC and our departure from it πŸ™‚


    2. Of course! I love wireless, bralette-type bras, even though I’m a C/D cup, and the Skims are plenty supportive. πŸ™‚

  2. Hi Jen! Lovely piece about NYC living. I lived in NYC for 5 years before ending up in Philadelphia and now moving to DC on June 29th! I’m so glad you found a place to live and I certainly feel like I am looking forward to a more suburban feel, but will miss being able to run out and grab something at the drop of a hat. We are moving to Glover Park, which has been described to me as a “suburban urban” area – ie feels neighborhoody and calm, but close enough to Wisconsin Ave to be able to run out and walk places. I am not *quite* ready to go full suburban and have to drive everywhere. I think this cul-de-sac sounds glorious and it sounds like exactly what you need! Best of luck with your move!

    1. Hi Pooja! Wow, we’re birds of a flock, eh? So fun to have other women going through similar moves at the moment. Thank you for sharing! I think you will love Glover Park. I lived there for many years after college and then when first married — you can walk places (Surfside!) and the houses are very close together (lots of row houses) so you definitely never feel isolated but it’s still a neighborhood, with slower streets and a sort of sleepy feel, especially as it sits tucked away off Wisconsin and backs up against a lot of protected park. Enjoy, and best of luck with the move!


  3. Love this. What you describe feels so incredible when we have visited nyc with our children. But I think you will love the space and more quiet with your kids!! I usually do have to drive to get most places but I comfort myself that it’s rarely very far ha!

    1. Thank you, Brooke! I agree — I will love the space and quiet and will remind myself that at the end of the day I still had to commute everywhere…just on foot, and often in the rain and with various unpleasantnesses around me πŸ™‚

      But so glad this picture of NYC resonated πŸ™‚


  4. Jen, you perfectly described all the things I so LOVE about NYC. I would visit my dear friend who lived on UES several times a year for ten years, leaving my own cul-de-sac home and the constant driving of children/groceries/whatever back and forth. The city’s walkability and spontaneity was exactly the breath of fresh air I needed back then. What a gift for you to experience such different lifestyles! I’ll look forward to hearing what you miss about NYC, but also what you love about your new quieter corner of the world. Happy summer! xo H

    1. Hi Heidi! Thank you — so glad this description resonated. NYC really does promote spontaneity…it’s even led me (typically very scheduled person) to pause and make an unexpected pit stop for lunch or a cocktail somewhere I’d never anticipated. I will miss that but also excited to experience “the other lifestyle” you reference.


  5. Thank you for this piece, I so enjoyed reading it. Like you, we are also making the break out of the city, and I like your philosophy about the change in lifestyle. I am pretty sure our trade off will be worth it, but it is nice to know that other people are going through the same thing. Good luck with the move!

    1. Hi Anna-Maria! For sure, we are on the same wavelength! Can be intimidating and scary to face the unknown and to leave a lifestyle you’ve embraced for awhile…thanks for writing in!


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