Posted by on Apr 4, 2011 in anne lamott, memoir, new mom, operating instructions | 9 comments

When I was pregnant, Mike bought me a book called “Operating Instructions: A journal of my son’s first year.” (Anne Lamott) It’s the memoir of single mom raising her infant son, Sam.

I read maybe the first 30 or 40 pages. I couldn’t get into it. The baby was colicky. The mom struggled, she felt lonely. Parenting didn’t sound fun. Quite frankly, it worried me about what was ahead. So I put the book down and let it collect dust for the remainder of my pregnancy.
A month or so ago, I picked the book back up on a whim. I read a few pages and was instantly hooked. What once sounded depressing and lonely and dreary was now blunt and real and beautiful and at times even funny.

Take this passage, for example:
“Before I got pregnant with Sam, I felt there wasn’t anything that could happen that would utterly destroy me. Terminal cancer would certainly be a setback, but I actually thought I could get through it … In a very real sense, I felt that life could pretty much just hit me with her best shot, and if I lived, great, and if I died, well, then I could be with Dad and Jesus and not have to endure my erratic skin or George Bush any longer. But now I am f*cked unto the Lord. Now there is something that could happen that I could not survive: I could lose Sam. I look down at his staggeringly lovely little face, and I can hardly breathe sometimes. He is all I have ever wanted, and my heart is so huge with love that I feel like it is about to go off. At the same time I feel that he has completely ruined my life, because I just didn’t used to care all that much.”
“Now I am f*cked unto the lord.” Ok, that’s just funny. She’s a very spiritual woman, she regularly attends church, and she said “f*cked unto the lord.” I love it.
Also, the general sentiment bounces around my head constantly. Before having a kid, there were things that I knew had the potential to devastate me. But now? The thought of losing Ryan? It takes my breath away. I don’t think I would ever recover. And now when I read the line that he has “completely ruined” her life, I know she doesn’t mean it in a I-wish-you-were-never-born sort of way but rather in a you-have-changed-me-for-the-better-times-a-million-and-now-I-really-really-need-you-forever sort of way.
And then there’s this:

“His hands are like little stars.”

Little stars… yes. Why didn’t I think of that? Now I see stars whenever I look at Ryan’s hands.

Or how about:

“He’s figuring out little concepts all the time these days, like that if something falls out of his hands, it is not instantly vaporized but just might be found somewhere on the floor.”

Last night, Ryan threw his stuffed Octopus off the side of the changing table and then in dramatic, over-exaggerated fashion, flung the whole top half of his body over the edge to try to spot him. And boy was I proud.

And I had to read this line to Mike:

“I still look at him and think, Where did you come from, little boy? How did you find your way?”

We say this all the time. We point to Ryan and say, “Where did this little guy come from?” Because he is such a joy. He is so sweet and easy and funny and we can’t imagine how we are responsible for his existence.

So, my point is: It was a good book.