Day planner has chapter and verse about a woman's life

May 08, 2007|By Susan Reimer | Susan Reimer,Sun Columnist

The morning after the night before -- when we had played that worn-out game of musical cars necessitated by yet another round of auto repairs -- my husband realized to his horror that he'd driven off with my briefcase in the back seat of his car.

He knew immediately the seriousness of this, but rather than call me, he called Joseph, our son and his ally.

"Joe," he said, somberly. "I drove off with Mom's briefcase this morning, and you know what's in it, don't you?"

Joe paused before speaking, the better to take in the magnitude of what had happened.

"You have the black book, don't you? The Book of All Knowledge?"

Better my husband had driven off with the president's nuclear codes. Better he had driven off with a briefcase full of someone else's bearer bonds or counterfeit bills or someone else's heroin.

But he took The Book of All Knowledge, leaving me in suspended animation -- stuck in the middle of the week, with no idea where I was supposed to be next.

Just about every woman has one. It is one of those black vinyl Day Runners, stained and stuffed with paper and containing every piece of information that matters.

A calendar, a list of phone numbers, and lists of things like the children's Social Security numbers and the dates of their last tetanus shots; PIN numbers and the household budget; to-do lists and pictures of the kids; grocery lists and business cards from the carpet cleaner and the exterminator.

My Day Runner includes a list of books I want to read someday; sweet notes from each of my children, sent when they were young; a list of improvements I want to make on the house, if I ever get the money; a doctor's order for a routine mammogram; and a schedule of yoga classes at my gym.

It also contains the phone numbers of my auto mechanic, the dates of our vacation and the reservation confirmation number. In this book are the dates my children will be home and the dates my husband will be out of town and the dates for the plays to which I have season tickets.

It includes dates when projects are due, when I am supposed to give speeches or when I get my teeth cleaned, my hair cut and my nails done.

The Book of All Knowledge tells me where I have to be, but it also tells me where I have been in the last year. Joe's graduation and my daughter Jessie's first day at a summer internship. Not nearly as urgent, but just as worth remembering.

Better I should lose my cell phone. People would eventually call me. But the information contained in The Book of All Knowledge might never find its way back to me.

Years ago, my friend Betsy transferred all this information to her BlackBerry, and made fun of me when I clung to my black book as if it were a well-loved stuffed animal.

"What if you lose your BlackBerry?" I said. "That would be it for you."

"What if you lose your black book?" she said, sensibly.

I used to joke that if that ever happened, I would have to stand in the middle of the street and wait for someone to tell me where to go and what to do next. I don't remember anything because I don't have to -- it is written in my black book.

When it actually happened -- when The Book of All Knowledge left the driveway and headed to Virginia in the back of my husband's car -- I was as lost and helpless as I had expected to be.

"Do you have my black book in your car?" I asked when I called him.

"I was afraid to call you," he said.

For a moment, I felt kind of numb. My brain emptied with a giant slurp, like a kitchen sink.

"That's OK," I said, mildly. "Bring it home tonight."

Then I went out into the garden to do some work. It's the only place where I don't need The Book of All Knowledge.

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