Driving a rental car through Santa Fe last month, Chris asked me to check the contract to see exactly what time we had to turn the vehicle in at the Albuquerque airport.  The rental documents were not easily found.  Scrabbling around the glove box, yanking out papers and maps, I found an ice scraper (where was THAT when we needed it?), the bulky owner’s manual, and hey, what’s this?  A small leather notebook.

Inside was the owner’s name, contact info, many pages of neatly inked notes in a European-style hand, and the offer of $50 reward if returned.

Since this happened on January 4, Malcolm’s 12th birthday – a dreary day of driving and bickering with his brothers – I told him the reward, if and when it arrived, would be his.  As a consolation prize of sorts. 

We emailed the owner from the sterile hotel room you see above, and when we got home, mailed the notebook back to his small Caribbean island.  While we waited, we also googled him, and found that his family has been on this island for 400 years.  You can drive for three hours on their land, one blogger said, and not reach its borders.

Malcolm watched the mail, his face falling day after day as nothing arrived. We explained that letters don’t zip back and forth internationally as fast as he might expect, but still, the waiting was hard.

On the last day of January, Postman Tim knocked on the door with a registered envelope. 

And when Malcolm opened it up, it contained not $50, but a $100 bill.  Crisp!

There was also a travel booklet describing the island, and a lovely letter inviting us down anytime.  ”I wish there were more honest and sincere families like yours,” wrote our new friend.   Yes, well, I must confess out that it’s easier to be honest when a reward is involved.  

Forget Nicholas Sparks and his novel “The Notebook.”  To the five of us, “The Notebook” will always be what we found in the glovebox on that snowy birthday evening in Santa Fe. 

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