A notebook is a promise

Simple spiral notebooks. School size, thin or fat, wide line or narrow. I look for sales; I buy them 50, 70 at a time. Why? They are our family's friends.

For our children, a real treat is a new notebook with a new pen, a box of fresh, pointed crayons, or a bright set of markers. Always special is the notebook.

A notebook is a promise - all those blank pages to be filled with words, drawings, plans, essays, lists of things to be done - of who can be in the club, of what one wants to get, to buy, to do. Of plans accomplished, of places visited, lists of friends.

Bobby's drawings are really stories. One layer goes over another as the action builds, pirates take over the ship, cannons explode, until finally the whole page is almost black. Clearly, the drawing is secondary to the telling.

Mary fills her pages with ballerinas, babies, castles, I love you letters to Mom and Dad.

I, a high school Spanish teacher, give notebooks to my students. ''Un regalo, '' I say, ''de mi'' (a present from me).

''For us?'' Amazement in the classroom. ''You bought this with your own money? For us?'' We set to work, one theme per week. What unity of purpose; a chore becomes a treat. How satisfying for me to see their progress. Page after page, all in Spanish, a record of a year's growth - from nothing at all to real stories, essays, line after line of unfolding ideas.

Our first home business was started with notebooks. Having no experience, I found notebooks became my teacher. Daily I jotted down every idea that came to me, every contact made, every sale accomplished - date, phone call, prospect, anything at all that happened. Soon I had records, expenses accounted for, and a system of most effective procedures.

On trips the children are given fresh notebooks with Scotch tape, pens, and pencils. Diaries are kept, menus, brochures, and postcards are taped in, drawings are made of places visited. These are great for school reports, or family reading before bedtime later in the year.

Saved notebooks are easy to label, stack, store, and locate. Throwaways are gone without regret; sometimes the act of filling the pages is the only goal - the pleasure being in the process, not the product.

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