Before there was such a thing as a “mommy blogger,” there was writer Anne Lamott, whose 1993 confessional memoir “Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year” — which detailed all the messy and joyous ins and outs of having a baby — was a huge best-seller. Now, 19 years later, she’s written (with help from her young son, Sam) a follow-up of sorts: “Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son,” about the first year of her grandson Jax’s life.
Lamott says she thought of writing “Some Assembly Required,” although “not in any kind of meaningful way,” and that it was her editor and Sam who pushed her to follow through with it. “I thought, ‘I don’t want to do it, I’d already done it,’” she remembers. “But when I mentioned it to Sam, he had so much enthusiasm for it. ‘Operating Instructions’ made such a difference to Sam’s sense of self — he says in the preface that he can feel my heart when he reads it — [and that] made me want to do it.”
“Operating Instructions” is a love letter to Sam, and the same can be said for “Some Assembly Required” and Jax — the little baby is very much at the heart of the memoir. Like any first-time grandparent, “I fell so desperately, pathetically in love with him,” recalls Lamott. Accordingly a big component of “Some Assembly Required” is her struggle with letting go of control of Sam and his girlfriend Amy’s parenting process. “They get to do what I did,” she says, “which is raise my kid as I see fit. But if I got to, I’d either run alongside Sam and Jax or I’d be behind them in my car trying to throw them off my scent, with a newspaper between me and the wheel. But you don’t get to; you really have to let them go.”
A new (surprise) arrival
The arrival of Jax was a surprise to everyone involved, and Lamott says she had to comes to terms with being a grandmother a lot sooner than she expected. “Sam and I are quite close, and I’d always looked forward with enthusiasm to becoming a grandmother someday, in, say, 10 years from now,” she writes in the preface. “Amy was 20 when she delivered, and Sam was 19. They’re both a little young, but who asked me?”
How Sam helped
Sam’s contribution comes by way of his mother interviewing him, or through e-mails he would send her. “A lot of the interviews were natural,” she says. “He’s very sweet. He’d call to check in and I’d say, ‘Wait, wait! Let me get my laptop!’ and I’d start scribbling notes and get it verbatim because it would be, to me, very profound.”