Read Some Assembly Required Online

Authors: Anne Lamott,Sam Lamott

Some Assembly Required

Some Assembly Required



Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith


Hard Laughter


Joe Jones

All New People

Crooked Little Heart

Blue Shoe

Imperfect Birds

Some Assembly Required


Anne Lamott with Sam Lamott


a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

New York



Published by the Penguin Group

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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Copyright © 2012 by Anne Lamott and Sam Lamott

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed
in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in
or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the authors’ rights.
Purchase only authorized editions. Published simultaneously in Canada

The authors acknowledge permission to reprint the epigraph verse,
which is copyrighted by Susan Stauter.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Lamott, Anne.

Some assembly required : a journal of my son’s first son / Anne Lamott; with Sam Lamott.

p.  cm.

ISBN: 978-1-101-56116-4

1. Lamott, Anne—Family. 2. Novelists, American—20th century—Biography.
I. Lamott, Sam. II. Title.

PS3562.A4645Z46    2012    2011047579



Printed in the United States of America

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2


While the authors have made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers
and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the authors
assume any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication.
Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any
responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

Penguin is committed to publishing works of quality and integrity.
In that spirit, we are proud to offer this book to our readers;
however, the story, the experiences, and the words
are the authors’ alone.

For Amy with profound gratitude

In the midst of the chaos

When the wind is howling I hear

the ancient song

Of the ones who went before

And know that peace will come


Table of Contents


In the Beginning



by Sam Lamott

hen my mother first approached me about this book, after her editor suggested the idea to her, she spoke to me over the phone in an unsure voice, her Worried Mommy voice, and her tone made me brace myself for what seemed to be a tough question. But when I realized she was asking me about whether I was okay with her writing a sequel to
Operating Instructions
, my shoulders dropped with relaxation and I shouted, “Yeah! Of course… Why didn’t I think of that myself?” To this day, that book is the greatest gift anyone has given me; I have a very special relationship with it. When I read any of my mom’s books, I hear her voice talking as if she were in the room right next to me. But when I read
Operating Instructions
, I hear and
my mother’s love for me, her frustration and dedication, her innermost feelings and
favorite moments of my first year with her. I will always cherish these memories of our funny family and our friends, and I will always be able to come back to them, even when my mom is too old to remember them herself. (Sorry, Mom.)

Jax, when you read this one day, I want you to know the love, laughter, and endless messes of the most memorable, astonishing, and incredible year of your mother’s life and mine so far. I can’t wait for you to be able to understand what quirky, loving, loyal characters make up your family and friends; how much we adore you, and how much we mean to each other. It is an honor and a pleasure to be your dad; I don’t know how I got so blessed to get you as my son. And I wanted you to have a book like
Operating Instructions
that is all your own.

In the Beginning

y very young son became a father in mid-July 2009, when his girlfriend, Amy Tobias, gave birth to their son. They named him Jax Jesse Lamott, Jesse after Amy’s beloved grandmother Jessie, and Jax because they liked the way it sounded. Amy was twenty when she delivered, and Sam was nineteen. They’re both a little young, but who asked me?

Sam’s birth, on August 29, 1989, was by far the most important day of my life, and Jax’s was the second. Sam and I are quite close, and I’d always looked forward with enthusiasm to becoming a grandmother someday, in, say, ten years from now, perhaps after he had graduated from the art academy he attends in San Francisco and settled down into a career, and when I was old enough to be a grandmother. I was a young fifty-five. Maybe a medium fifty-five. Let’s say a ripe fifty-five, with a child just one year past his majority.

The day before Thanksgiving 2008, I had heard that Amy was expecting, when I got a call from Sam, in despair.

“Mom, I’m going to be a father,” he said.

I was silent for a time. “Oh, Sam,” I said finally.

He and Amy had been together, tumultuously, since his birthday a year earlier, but they had split up a couple of months before—although not, I can see now, in the biblical sense. Amy is beautiful, tiny and Hispanic, with her roots in Chicago and her parents now living in North Carolina. She had arrived in our lives on the morning of Sam’s eighteenth birthday, to attend cosmetology school in San Francisco: they had become friends at a camp on the East Coast, stayed in touch by phone and text, and begun a long-term relationship, which I hadn’t heard about. One day Sam told me he’d offered her his living room couch until she found an apartment. “Right,” I said when he told me this plan: I was not born yesterday.

“God, Mom,” he had said. Like, get your head out of the gutter.

She had moved off the couch by lunch that first day. They arrived for Sam’s family party at my house at four that afternoon, very much in love. My brother Stevo, his sunny six-year-old daughter, Clara, and his fiancée, Annette, were there, as was our beloved uncle Millard, our aunt Eleanor, our best family friends, including Gertrud, a ninety-year-old German who’d always served as Sam’s paternal grandmother,
and a scattering of cousins. We were all trans fixed by this beautiful girl who bounced into the house, in tiny shorts that would fit my cat—she is around four-foot-nine, and weighed ninety pounds at the time—with long black hair, huge brown eyes, and a perfect smile; and my first thought was, “Whom did I invite who has a teenage Hispanic daughter?” I thought she might be related to Annette, who is also Latina. Then Sam stepped inside, smiling sheepishly, and introduced Amy to me.

A little over a year later, Amy had terrible morning sickness that lasted a few months, and she spent a lot of time taking naps on my couch, and nibbling bird-sized snacks. I was happy all the time at the thought of Sam’s being a father, and my getting to be a grandmother, except when I was sick with fears about their future, enraged that they had gotten themselves pregnant so young, or in a swivet of trying to control their every move, not to mention every aspect of their futures. She and Sam had moved back in together, into his tiny studio apartment on Geary, two blocks from his art school. Although Amy’s parents were contributing to her expenses, I was paying Sam and Amy’s rent. Amy frequently escaped to my house in Marin, mostly for companionship, as Sam was in school full-time, but also for the sun and relative peace, as their apartment was dark and loud. By the time the morning sickness passed, her belly was huge, especially because she is—or rather was—so tiny. She had an elaborate
space-age ultrasound at four months, which indicated that the fetus was a boy: the technician printed out Jax’s picture for us. He looked like a bright, advanced baby.

They moved into a one-room apartment a few blocks from the old studio, and created a nursery in a corner of the bedroom.

Sam was woozy with pride and scared to death. Amy was clear, calm, and fiercely into becoming a mother. She did things the way she wanted to, even when it made me unhappy. For instance, two weeks before her due date, she skipped a routine doctor’s appointment for some youthful, willful reason, and I spent several days pacing around my house, trying to make peace with the idea that now the baby would almost certainly be born with some degree of disability. I cried. Sam tried to protect Amy from my neediness and anxieties—i.e., they purposely didn’t call or text me for days. And they fought routinely. Amy would threaten to move back to Chicago, which made me crazier than anything, but I would not interfere, and Sam would call in despair, and I would stay neutral, with undertones of suppressed rage, and they’d come through their conflict, and I would get to be the beloved tribal elder for having stayed impartial.

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