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Now where did I hide that gift?

It's always nice to come across a great gift for someone well ahead of an upcoming birthday.

You buy it, bring it home and, if the recipient happens to live there, you sneak it into the house and hide it.

Then, if you do what I recently did, you forget where.

A few days before the birthday, I started looking in all my usual hiding places. Nothing. I looked under the beds. Nope. In the trunk of the car. No luck.

The other gifts were all in one spot. But my early purchase -- a tank top and earrings -- were not to be found. The loss was not a big financial one. The top had been reduced to less than $5 on a clearance rack. The earrings were inexpensive as well.

But it drove me crazy.

I looked in my dresser drawers and hanging garment bag. I looked in the drawer in the den where I keep the gift bags and ribbon I'm forever reusing.

Had I accidentally tossed it? I doubted I had. But, sadly, I gave up the search. The birthday came and went.

For some reason this reminded me of the time my mother decided to surprise my father with a bicycle-built-for-two for his birthday. As a way to present it, she sent him, via a series of clues, on a wild goose chase to locate it.

If he was to get this gift, he had to work for it.

The clues eventually led him to a neighbor's garage -- nothing like getting an entire community involved! And there he found the bike.

My search for the missing birthday gift was no game, however. But if it was, I was losing.

I've gotten myself into a pickle with other gifts, too. Rather than mark a gift with a person's name, I sometimes come up with some sort of code so they don't know that a particular gift is for him or her. Even a first initial is too obvious. I choose something far more incomprehensible.

So I might scribble a little "S" in the corner of one wrapped box and an "L" on the back of another.

Weeks later, I wonder, what the "S" and "L" stand for. Small and large? Shirt and leggings?

I'm not alone. A friend of mine tells me that she is forever finding little inexpensive gifts she had purchased for her grandchildren and forgotten about. Coloring books. Puzzles. Flash cards. Packs of glue sticks.

They might be tucked inside a dresser drawer or stashed behind something on a closet shelf. Once she comes across one of them, she tosses it into a catchall bag in the closet for the future.

So the other day, in the mood for spring, I went to my own closet to grab a lighter-weight coat. The coat was on a hanger and so was a little bag -- hidden by the coat.

Inside the bag? You guessed it.

Too bad that for this particular March birthday, I had selected a bright green tank and shamrock-shaped earrings.

Better late than never, I say.

e-mail: smartin@buffnews.com

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