Can Door

At Jerry Michalski‘s retreat this weekend, I received a book from Jerry’s lovely wife, Jennifer. It’s called Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and it’s supposed to be about writing, but I think it’s about life.

The inspiration for the title is a lesson on writing from Anne Lamott’s father, a professional writer, like Anne:

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. [It] was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead of him. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around his shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

She tells a story about her own son.

My son, Sam, at three and a half, had these keys to a set of plastic handcuffs, and one morning he intentionally locked himself out of the house. I was sitting on the couch reading the newspaper when I heard him stick his plastic keys into the doorknob and try to open the door. Then I heard him say, “Oh, shit.” My whole face widened, like the guy in Edward Munch’s Scream. After a moment I got up and opened the front door.

“Honey,” I said, “what’d you just say?”

“I said, ‘Oh, shit,'” he said.

“But, honey, that’s a naughty word. Both of us have absolutely got to stop using it. Okay?”

He hung his head for a minute, nodded, and said, confidentially, “But I’ll tell you why I said ‘shit.'” I said Okay, and he said, “Because of the fucking keys!”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s