The Sun Still Rises.

In late March, I contracted coronavirus and spent the subsequent 22 days entirely within the confines of our small Manhattan apartment. I did not write about it then and cannot bring myself to write about it now–there is not yet enough daylight between. No one has been untouched by the circumstances in which we are living; I am one of the luckier ones. I share this today because I feel the need to asterisk my posts on the subject of coronavirus, many of which have been spiriting in tone because I have needed to cheerlead myself, and some of which have been self-indulgent, because I have been experiencing the full range of emotions over the illness and have occasionally needed that kind of blood-letting. But I remain — sharply — aware of my blessings. Not a day passes where I do not think about the thousands of people dying, grieving loved ones, losing their jobs or homes, shuttering their businesses, or feeling lost and alone. If I write about quarantine in a way that feels abstracted from the lived suffering of so many or seems determined to look for silver linings where there are none: well, it is because I am writing my way out of a darkness.

****

A few weeks into quarantine, our super informed us that ours was one of four or five units (out of dozens) left occupied in our building. An informal survey of my Manhattanite friends revealed that more than half had fled the city to spend time with family or rent houses upstate or out East. Three sets of friends with young children moved away permanently. So to the readers who have asked whether recent events have prompted us to re-evaluate our decision to live in New York City: yes.

Yet here we are, with no immediate intentions to leave. I’m not sure whether our outlook would be the same were it not for the proximity of Central Park, which has become an extension of our daily living space. We sojourn there for an hour or two after lunch, grateful for its sparsity, at least in some of the corners we have claimed for ourselves in recent weeks. I took the picture above earlier this week, struck by its lucid conjuring of the essence of childhood: my little scavenger with bare feet and bird-like eyes, seeking treasure in the grass, or maybe dodging a worm, or — doing something else perfectly suited to a three-year-old’s self-directed curiosity. You would never know she was standing just a few yards from Central Park West, with the blare of sirens and honk of horns her routine and unremarkable soundtrack.

If there is anything positive I can say about coronavirus, it is that it has reminded me that life finds a way. Babies are born, lovers are married, and still my three-year-old will come home in the afternoon with twigs in her hair and stories of the bee that crawled into her pink shoe.

“But mama said ‘Shoo, bee,'” she explained matter-of-factly to her father, recounting the incident upon return home, her attentiveness to this nothing of a story catching me off-guard and leaving me unexpectedly swallowing, hard, in the hallway of our apartment, the purity and narrowness of her thoughts stirring — or maybe relaxing — something in me. So too when I find myself tripped up by her incessant interrogation: “But what does a drain do?” and “Why is that car white?”, as I fumble with my mask. Her precociousness–her unflustered toddlerness–momentarily blots out the intensity of these times.

Life finds a way.

And so Mr. Magpie and I talk at length about what we want, what might be best for our children and our careers, and how to reconcile all of that with not only the presence of coronavirus but the lumbering reality of logistics. It is an incalculable math problem. How to weigh, for example, the impossible privilege of dining out at Prune (currently and possibly forever closed) and dropping by the Met and enjoying a largely pedestrian life where the pediatrician is one block (one block!!! one block!!!) away and nearly anything in this incredibly cultured and diverse city is at our fingertips, with the uncertainty around when this damned virus will die down and our current lust for a square of hedge-lined backyard, preferably visible from a squat window over a farmhouse sink, from which I can watch my two babies play in the grass while the sun sets? Is it the times speaking or am I just at that stage of life where space matters more? How often do we truly take advantage of the city anyhow? How much more would we value it if we committed to a couple of visits each year while living elsewhere? Would we visit after all? Would we find ourselves those insufferable urbanites mourning the lack of delivery options, never quite “over” our brief stint in NYC? It feels impossible to imagine moving of our own volition versus following our careers, but are we at one of those times in life, and possibly in history, where “the impossible” is prudent?

Recent life experiences have left me circumspect when contemplating the unknown. I find myself grittier — better able to fare life’s inevitable dips and twists — but cautious, especially when I find myself inclined to do something based on near-term pain.

And so we sit in this city, in our tight quarters, soaking in the small pleasures where we can find them, clinging to one another.

All to say: at 34, I wrote that life had taught me that it was OK not to have everything figured out. Specifically:

“In my 20s, I didn’t quite know who I was, but I believed I could do or be anything; I was amorphous, evolving — but the world around me felt crisp, knowable, navigable.  In my 30s, I know who I am with a kind of true blue certainty (I am somebody!!!), but feel less convinced of my agency, less confident in my grasp on the world.  It’s as if I went from being far-sighted to near-sighted; I didn’t know what I didn’t know in my 20s, and now I know what I don’t know — and so my conviction in the shape of things has shifted, shrunk, concentrated in on only the small world around me, the narrow sphere in which I know that 1+1=2.  The mathematics beyond skew.”

At nearly 36, I write to let you know that I still don’t know — and in fact know less? — but that it’s still OK. After all, the mathematics in my own home still computes. Tomorrow morning, my daughter will spring straight out of bed at 6:02 a.m., pad into my bedroom, and let me know “the sun is coming up, mama”–and we’ll do it all over again.

Post-Scripts.

+OBSESSED with these retro-looking, child-friendly tumblers. I feel like I had something similar to these growing up — they evoke the best kind of nostalgia!

+More on what it’s been like living in NYC in 2020 here and here.

+I bought myself one of these elegant Smythson planners (<<on sale for nearly 50% off!) when expecting mini — such a lovely treat to organize lists of questions, baby names, baby gear, to-dos, etc! Great gift for a close friend expecting…

+Stunning striped maxi.

+Two extraordinarily cute dresses under $100: this floral ditty and this LWD.

+Outdoor summer gear for toddlers!

+Ever since a reader commented on these eye treatment pads, they’ve been on my mind. Ordering…

+Cute toy set for a little one.

+Talk about the sun still rising — can you believe Martha Stewart wakes up to this magic daily?!

+URGENT: nail the Marysia swimsuit look for only $40 with this. LOVE the color. Would look amazing with my India Amory pareo.

+Super cute sale scores at Zimmermann right now. Love this tiered stunner and this party dress.

+CUTE white top — 65% off!

+Art lives and changes constantly.

+Are Billie razors worth the hype?

+Emory currently loves this series of books — we have a bunch of them!

+These babouches are amazing!

+I know I’ve mentioned this a lot, but these onesies are the absolute best. So soft and hold up to infinity washings. Our current routine is lunch, park, bath, and then I usually put Hill in one of these onesies for his afternoon nap. So soft and breathable! (And is there anything cuter than a little baby in a classic white onesie?!)

+Hill now curls up with a DeBuci baby teddy bear (hand-stitched with his name!) at naptime.

+Mini Melissa dupes for $6!!!!

+One of my all-time favorite memories of living in New York these past few years.

+Some of my favorite things right now.

44 Comments

  1. I love how kind and wonderful your readers are! They’ve all said it so well. I’ll echo them in saying I’m so glad you recovered and so sorry you suffered.

    Not knowing you had COVID is another reminder to me that we never know the full extent of what’s going on in anyone’s world and so we must lead with kindness.

    Thank you so much for “writing into joy” — it has been so helpful. And please keep sharing – you translate your thoughts into words so effectively!

    1. Hi Emily! Thank you so much for the sweet note. I completely agree – there have been so many times where I have put my foot in my mouth not understanding the full extent of what someone has been going through. I love the expression “lead with kindness.” Will be thinking about that a lot. Thank you for your readership — I love that you have become a more regular commenter here!! xx

  2. Wow- as many have previously articulated better than me in the comments already, I extend my deepest sympathies with your COVID experience and am so glad you’re feeling better. You’d NEVER know by all of your blog posts over the past several months that you were battling this demon in tandem. Like so many others, your blog is also the first thing I read in the morning as it feels like a first sip of coffee (versus the news which often feels like having a cheeseburger at 7am- too much at the wrong time!) 🙂

    As a fellow Upper West Sider who just left NYC for a summer break after 101 days, I wish you all the joy/ space/ sunshine for your trip with your cousins in the coming weeks. Thank you for all of your vulnerable writing during this time, which has certainly made this New Yorker feel less lonely over the past several months. All the best for a more positive second half of 2020!

    1. Hi Kristen – Thank you so much for the tremendous compliments! You don’t know how happy it makes me to think of all my Magpies tuning in first thing in the morning. Thank you for reading along, friend!

      I’m SO glad you got out of the city. I can’t wait to follow suit 🙂

      Cheers to a happier end to the year!

      xx

  3. wow. This literally made me catch my breath.
    I am so sorry. My mind is spinning at how you balanced the many (very heavy) balls in the air.
    Please continue to take the best care of yourself! xoxo

    1. Thank you, Anna! I am recovered and well – we made it through, many thanks to Landon. Thank you for reading along, my friend! xx

  4. So so sorry to read that you suffered the virus. I think every comment ahead of me said better than I could thoughts on all you went through as well thankfulness that you and your beautiful family are doing well. Your blog is the first thing I read with morning coffee. Each post is informative, beautiful, thought provoking and meaningful to me. Thank you.

    1. Thank you, Nancy!! Such a kind compliment. I’m so touched. I love the idea of you and my other Magpies starting their day with my blog — truly the greatest honor. xx

  5. I am so sorry to hear this! The fact that you came out the other side, with two small children in a Manhattan apartment, makes it an even bigger feat!

    I was part of the cluster of the first cases in Georgetown. It was surreal, as I’m sure you understand. Especially in the beginning of this pandemic, reading about myself and my colleagues and friends in the news and blog posts, was unnerving. Having to call my OB and learn I was the first pregnant Covid patient was terrifying. Being blamed for bringing Covid into my suburb (not by name, but I was the 40-year old woman!) was hurtful.
    I’m hopeful that the world is past the initial fear of the virus, but I think it may have forever changed us. I’m more thankful, more patient, and more scared than I have been.
    I’m so happy that you’ve recovered! NY will forever be my home, but it’s been a scary place lately!

    1. Wow – Kristin! That is so intense. I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that, too. I cannot imagine how nerve-wracking it would be to hear “Oh, you’re our first pregnant COVID19 patient.” Wow — my heart goes out to you. I also completely relate to the whirlwind of emotions you’ve described — I have felt so guilty for having the virus. Anyway, glad you have recovered, too. So fortunate we’re on the other side.

      xx

  6. Oh Jen, I am so incredibly sorry to hear this. I cannot imagine how tough it was for you and your sweet family and I am so glad you are doing well. Your blog is such a bright light in an otherwise very tough time so thank you as always for your lovely words and thoughtful insights. Xoxo

    1. !! Thank you for the tremendous compliment! I am so touched by all of the thoughtful and encouraging comments here today. Wow. Lucky to have you here. Thank you for the sweet words!!

      xx

  7. Oh Jen!!! I am so, so sorry you had to go through this! I can’t even begin to imagine being sick on top of working and taking care of your family with 2 littles. I hope your recovery went well and that you and your family are healthy. I have heard about that symptom of losing taste and smell — I hope things are back to normal now so you can enjoy Mr. Magpie’s and your cooking! As I remember reading from one of your older posts: “I wish you a kinder sea.”

    How you managed to continue producing such beautiful writing throughout it all is beyond me, and I’m (perhaps selfishly) grateful!

    1. Thank you, Mia — you are so sweet. I so appreciate the well wishes and sympathy – I am fully recovered and able to enjoy Landon’s cooking, a high point every single day and something I am now ultra-appreciative of, too, after not being able to taste it for awhile.

      The writing was a more than welcome distraction and spirit boost!

      xx

    2. Jen, I had to come back here because of the last statement I wrote… I was thinking about it after I hit send…I didn’t want it to sound like I was grateful for your recent circumstances under which you produced your beautiful writing! I truly am thankful to have found your blog — you really have a unique voice and I love coming here to learn about new products, new dictionary words (!!!), and your insightful perspective on motherhood and life. And I will say (ok, perhaps selfishly, ha!) that I hope you don’t ever stop writing!

    3. Oh Mia – no need to apologize! Thank you for the incredible compliments. I’m so glad you are here! Thank you for the encouragement 🙂 xx

  8. Jen, I’m so sorry that you’ve had to endure this. Praying for your healing. Thank goodness you are having better days.
    Your posts are always a respite for me, and I’m so grateful for your writing. xx

    1. Thank you so much, Shannon :). I am so overwhelmed by all of the kind and encouraging comments here today — wow. Thank you thank you for reading along and for letting me know you enjoy it 🙂

      xx

  9. Wow wow wow…so sorry that you were ill! It’s bad enough to be sick with a normal bug when you’re a mom of littles, let alone a scary new virus. Hope you are back to normal with no lingering health issues. Good for you for getting outside to the park…I’m sure it is helping with the healing, both physically and mentally!

    1. Thank you, Stephanie!! Yes, it’s been a lifesaver to spend a portion of every day outside. Restorative!! Thank you for the sweet words.

      xx

  10. Oh Jen! My heart ached reading your note about your experience with Covid. Your writing has been such a buoy amidst these trying months; it was my treasured lifeline when I was alone in my apartment for weeks. I wish we had been able to offer you a better hand up when you needed it too!! I’m so sorry for what you are having to endure. Sending love and appreciation xx

    Your post title made me think of one my favorite songs, “Another Story” by The Head and the Heart, which features the line “the sun still rises, even through the rain.” It’s an old song, but has been a good anthem for 2020- I’ve queued it up in my playlist several times in the past few months.

    1. Katherine! You are so sweet and believe me that all of you have been a buoy for me. One of the things I learned early into the illness was that it was worse to let other people know I was symptomatic. I could not bear the pause at the end of the line, the concerned texts, the inquiries about whether I was doing such and such or having this and that. It made things easier to isolate and distract as much as I could. So I have deeply enjoyed the distraction of this blog, the exchanges here in the comments section, the frivolity of picking clothes for my children with you all next to me. You have been a gift and lifeline for me as well.

      I’m so, so happy that my words have been a help during your time of isolation! I can’t imagine being alone for so long — I am sorry you had to endure that. This virus is a nasty thing.

      Thanks for the song rec — added to my playlist for tonight! Love that lyric 🙂

      xx

  11. Jen, so happy to know that you’re okay. And that your family is okay. I’ll be saying a prayer for the whole Shoop tribe, but I’ll add a Hail Mary just for you (I feel like Mary just gets women, you know?).

    I always love hearing your thoughts on NYC. As my husband and I start to consider life post-military, we go back and forth between New York and Washington. I feel like Washington is the best of both worlds, no? And yet, I’m dying to have at least that brief stint in New York… (perhaps, I’ve listened to Sinatra too many times).

    Have you read the NYT article about how “leaving New York” has become its own essay genre? Didion, of course, started the trend.

    Wishing you all the best,
    V.

    1. Hi Veronica – You are so sweet. Thank you. I have a special devotion to Mary, so the Hail Mary holds particular significance to me.

      Washington IS fantastic — I see its appeal even more now that I’ve lived in a few other cities. It’s leafy and low-profile in an appealing way — more approachable, less flashy than New York and even Chicago, both of which have impressive skylines that make you feel small. By contrast, parts of D.C. even feel suburban, or forested, or jungle-like! It feels so livable. And for some reason it has always felt to me that New York and Chicago are these enormous clusters of energy and that it takes a good 1.5 hours to get outside that congestion to enjoy something quieter, greener. In D.C., you can drive 15 minutes to Teddy Roosevelt Island, parts of the Potomac/Rock Creek Park, Glen Echo, etc and feel like you’re worlds away from anything resembling a city. Even Georgetown feels small-town…

      I hear you on the desire to live in NYC. And honestly I encourage you to check it out! It’s an incredible and bizarre and beautiful place to live. I still pinch myself — do we really live here? It feels like a dream. (Right now, slightly more on the nightmare end of the spectrum – ha!)

      I need to read that NYT article immediately! Thanks for the heads up 🙂

      Hope you are well, too, Veronica!

      xx

  12. Oh my goodness, I can’t imagine how stressful that must have been. Completely understand why you haven’t shared, but I would be interested to hear more about your experience if you get to the point where you can talk about it. So glad you are on the other side!

  13. Oof! To go through that experience… I’m glad you’ve come out the other side, with hopefully few (if any) lingering physical effects. Sending my best wishes to you and yours during this difficult time xx

    Onto more frivolous matters – we love the Little People Big Dreams books too, and recently my daughter has gotten into the Ladybug Girl series – worth a gander, if you haven’t already heard about them. (And TBBC is doing another pink party sale – only 30% off sale prices this time, but in case there were a few more items you wanted to pick up…)

    1. Thank you, Jen! And this, coming from a woman nine months pregnant in the midst of a pandemic on the brink of a cross-country move! Saying “oof” right back…

      Thank you also for the recs! My mother just sent Emory one of the Ladybug Girl books — an instant hit. I didn’t even know it was a series! Thank you!

      xx

  14. Hugs to you. No one in NY has been untouched by this virus. I’m so glad that you’re okay but it is not lost on me how scary this has been (and continues to be!) Whatever you end up doing long term, weathering this storm in NY is not for the faint of heart.

    (FWIW, I grew up in Westchester and loved having a “small town” experience but also loved being able to hop on MetroNorth in middle school with my friends on fall weekends and gallivant around the city…or really the east side because at 11 we pretty much stuck to destinations accessible from the 4/5/6! The downsides? Not much racial or economic diversity in my public high school. Things close at 9pm)

    1. Thank you, Molly! So true — everyone has been touched by this pandemic. Aside from still feeling too shaken by my personal experience to talk about it, it also seems like my story wouldn’t add much to the mix except remind people that we’re living in a pandemic and, well, everyone is living out their own dramas and miseries related to it.

      Anyway — so cool to imagine being a teen gallivanting around the city. You must have the best stories from that! I like the idea of being able to straddle the best of both worlds: space and quiet, culture and noise.

      xx

  15. Jenn,
    I am so sorry to hear what you’ve been going through for the last few months. My heart aches for you! Life can be so hard and can throw you a curve ball when you least expect it! Like I said to you when you first moved to NYC…just breathe! One minute, one hour at a time. You’ve got it all in control!
    As a long time reader/ “groupie”, let me assure you WE are all cheering for you. You give so much to us every day and we will ALL keep you in our prayers.
    Love

    1. Ahh, Mama Cynthia! Your comments always reassure me. Thank you! One minute at a time is right. Thank you for that reminder. And for the cheering! I see you and I love you for it 🙂

      xx

  16. Thank you for sharing. I am curious if you were tested or are there widespread antibody tests available in your area? I mentioned here before I also got it in mid-April exactly three days after my only in-person grocery visit to prepare for Easter. For weeks I went through all the stages grief daily. Why me? How? I was so careful. Who gave this to me? But in the end, I chose gratitude. So thankful to be safely on the other side with my family, as I imagine you are as well.

    To Anna’s point above, and one of the pieces of advice I have carried with me for years, I try not to make big decisions in a time of emotional upheaval. But I feel things shifting within me. My disappointment in our school district, the distaste I have for the way others are treating this pandemic or racial issues, etc. I allow these feelings to flow through me, acknowledging them and quietly reminding myself, “all in good time; be patient.“

    1. Hi Amy — Yes! I remember you writing that you’d had COVID19 and feeling less alone because of it. Thank you for sharing that. I know what you mean about the stages of grief. I have also had a crippling guilt over getting it — I keep thinking, “I must not have been careful enough” and feeling sick to my stomach that I exposed my loved ones to such a nasty virus. Blech. As I said, too early for me to write about that. It leaves me with a pit in my stomach the size of Mars.

      I completely agree on deferring big decisions until things quiet down. Otherwise, we would all have hideous bangs right now. Ha! I, too, am taking careful ledger of the various observations, disappointments, frustrations during this time as I think toward the future.

      xx

  17. I’m so glad you recovered well from COVID-19! How terrifying. Echoing what others have said in the comments — wishing you strength and fortitude as you continue to navigate these deeply unsettling times. Sending love! xx

  18. I also had COVID in March, right at the very beginning of All of This, and it wasn’t until a positive antibody test in early June that I actually learned what that 1.5 weeks of no smelling or tasting actually was. I am also staying put in the city for now, because I know that making permanent decisions based on temporary feelings/conditions rarely ends well. Sending love and strength to you and your family as you continue to navigate all this.

    1. Hi Anna — I also lost my taste and smell! It wasn’t the worst symptom but it was cruel! So glad you have recovered and are standing here on the other side with me. COMPLETELY agree with not making big decisions in moments of crisis. Better to work our way through and — in my opinion — enjoy some semblance of stability when a lot of other parts are moving. xx

  19. I’m reading along from afar and in awe of the challenges facing everyone experiencing this virus in New York City and other similarly crowded spaces. I spent a mere two days awaiting the results of a Covid test (negative), so I have only the faintest idea of how scary that time must have been for you. And logistically difficult, sharing a small space with small children. Thanks for continuing to write and share.

    1. Hannah — thank you for the encouragement and empathy. You hit the nail on the head: I felt horrible, but the worst part was the children. I was worried sick over them and could not care for them as I wanted to. Poor Landon, terrified for his wife and at the same time caring for two small children and somehow pulling off a full-time job. Oof…!

      Thank you for reading along, my friend! No matter how far out of the city you are, these are scary times for everyone.

      xx

  20. Jen, I immediately burst into tears after reading this. Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m so glad you’re on the other side of coronavirus and I’m grateful for the reminder that life does find a way. Your writing has brought me great solace over the last few months–through the ups and downs of having a baby, quarantining with two kids under 4, and job loss. You’re one in a million. <3

    1. Oh, Maura! Big hug to you. I actually had several readers email me to say the same thing — I think we all need a good cry right now together. You’ve had no cakewalk: new baby and a job loss on top of quarantining with small children. Wow. I am so sorry. These are really tough times. Thinking of you friend!!! Maybe eventually one day we’ll end up back at that coffee shop in Columbus Circle shooting the breeze…

      xx

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