Operating Instructions

Moms…. Put the “Baby Wise” book down and walk away slowly. I am a reader too. I love the “how to’s” of mommy hood just as much as the next person. But I’m re-reading a book that I wish all moms everywhere, new and old, would read. It is one woman’s journey through the first year of her son’s life. In this crazy and mixed up season, it has helped me to feel sane again. When I read it yesterday, I cried because once in a while something this this whispers to my heart that I’m not alone in the dark.

“I have a friend named Anne, this woman I’ve know my entire life, who took her two-year-old up to Tahoe during the summer. They were staying in a rented condominium by the lake. And of course, it’s such a hotbed of gambling that all the rooms are equipped with these curtains and shades that block out every speck of light so you can stay up all night in the casinos and then sleep all morning. One afternoon she put the baby to bed in his playpen in one of these rooms, in the pitch-dark, and went to do some work. A few minutes later she heard her baby knocking on the door from inside the room, and she got up, knowing he’d crawled out of his playpen. She went to put him down again, but when she got to the door, she found he’d locked it. He had somehow managed to push in the little button on the doorknob. She he was calling to her, “Mommy, Mommy, “and she was saying to him, “Jiggle the doorknob, darling, “ and of course he didn’t speak much English—mostly he seemed to speak Urdu. After a moment, it became clear to him that his mother couldn’t open the door, and the panic set in. He began sobbing. So, my friend ran around like crazy trying everything possible, like trying to get the front door key to work, calling the rental agency where she left a message on the machine, calling the manager of the condominium where she left another message, and running back to check in with her son every minute or so. And there he was in the dark, this terrified little child. Finally she did the only thing she could, which was the slide her fingers underneath the door, where there was a one-inch space. She kept telling him over and over to bend down and find her fingers. Finally somehow he did. She they stayed like that for a really long time, on the floor, him holding onto her fingers in the dark. He stopped crying. She kept wanting to go call the fire department or something, but she felt that contact was the most important thing. She started saying, “Why don’t you lie down, darling, and take a little nap on the floor?” and he was obviously like “Yeah, right, Mom, that’s a great idea, I’m feeling so nice and relaxed.” So she kept saying, “Open the door now, “and every so often he’d jiggle the knob, and eventually, after maybe half an hour, it popped open.

I keep thinking of that story, how much it feels like I’m the two-year-old in the dark and God is the mother and I don’t speak the language. She could break down the door if that struck her as being the best way, and ride off with me on her charger. But instead, via my friends and my church and my shabby faith, I can just hold onto her fingers underneath the door. It isn’t enough, and it is. “

— Anne Lammot “Operating Instructions”



  1. theblossoms said,

    September 21, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    One of my top 3 books. Amen.

  2. abbie said,

    September 22, 2010 at 3:02 am

    Yes. Love you. And proud of you.

  3. September 26, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    I love me some Anne Lamott! Nothing like reading her books when I want to laugh and be shocked and inspired all at the same time.

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