The Prayer of an Unconventional Family

Anne Lamott’s shared prayers of thanks in The New York Times series Draft:

Thank you for a dad who got up at 5:30 every morning, rain, flu or hangover notwithstanding, who taught me the habits of writing: that you sit down at the same time every day, and you just do it, scribble away scratchily on legal pads, tap tap tap away on the old Olympia. You had to slide in a sheet of carbon paper between the original and the copy, and you didn’t whine. No one was making you do it — it was a privilege, for the few, we happy few.

My parents’ unhappy marriage would turn out to be the stuff of most great literature. They’d started out with a quest. They had wanted to be lords of their own castle, free of their parents finally, grown-ups together. And they had this magic time where everything worked, all that beauty and youth and brilliance and hope and sex. But the differences and wounds grew too big, and the specter and bright promise of having children brought them only a temporary state of unity.

All those parts and pieces of them spiked out and imploded, and nightmare parts banged, lurched, dove and floated all over the small apartment and then the small rental homes, and then the first and only home they ever owned. But through it all, there were books, and wine. Eugene O’Neill said that man is born broken, and the grace of God is glue. Books and wine were our glue, and so also our grace.

Thank you for parents who read to us every night — Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, Louisa May Alcott — and who limited TV, which we three kids were completely bitter about back then but which turned us into voracious, lifelong readers. The rustle of pages was our family’s most sacred sound, our hymns, about wolves, and pioneer children, the little Japanese peach boy, the talking animals of Aesop, and then, oh, my God, Dr. Seuss….

Our family was always broke, but my parents always shelled out our version of a monthly bar bill for Scholastic paperbacks. Thank you, Astrid Lindgren; when you gave us Pippi Longstocking, you gave me life. I read the book like I read the first issue of Ms. magazine 10 years later. The experience was like Helen Keller breaking the code for the word “water.” I wanted to race around spreading the good news. I could breathe again, forever. There was going to be a spot for me in this joint, the earth, after all. It was never going to be a great match for someone as bright and strange as me, but books were going to make it survivable.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

(Read Anne Lamott’s whole article here)

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