I've always been in awe of those people who finish their holiday shopping by the time the first of the autumn leaves begin to change.
Throughout the year, these overly organized people walk around with their lists of gift-worthy friends and family members, efficiently checking each name off with a Sharpie as they serendipitously stumble upon the perfect presents while conducting their daily lives, like walking down the street in New York City, where you can, in one fell swoop, pick up a gorgeous "Rolex" watch, "Chanel" bag and "Burberry" scarf all for well under budget and months ahead of schedule.
In an effort to "stress less" (one of my New Year's resolutions, along with limiting my watching of back-to-back episodes of "The Real Housewives"), I decided that 2013 would be the year that I shop early.
And I began fulfilling my mission on a springtime trip to Italy, which my husband and I took to celebrate our mutual big-number midlife birthdays.
Things started out well in Milan, where I purchased a multitude of gorgeous handmade leather goods.
Then in Florence, I successfully scoured the stalls in the San Lorenzo market for some silly souvenirs, and in Venice I picked up several extraordinary pieces of hand-blown Murano glass.
Our trip was a big success (except for the extra 70 Euros I had to pay to schlep the stuff home), and upon our return to Norwalk, I was feeling quite self-satisfied as I painstakingly unpacked and put away dozens of gifts.
Just days into April, and almost all of my holiday commerce was complete. Take that, September show-offs!
What I neglected to consider, but soon became obvious last week (when I went to locate a few souvenirs to hand out to my little cousins at Rosh Hashanah), is that there's a downside to shopping early and squirreling away your purchases.
Because when you get to be my age, you're lucky if you remember what you ate for breakfast, never mind where you put the bottle of Limoncello that you'd bought for your Aunt Lorraine.
I panicked at the thought of all my shopping being in vain and after synagogue last Thursday, I searched the entire basement. But the only things I found were two hidden Game Boys (circa Hanukkah 1999) and an expired passport.
Interestingly, though I can't recall where I put the following: the gifts I purchased in Italy, my extra set of car keys, my good pair of sunglasses, the Post-it note I wrote to remind myself to pick up the dry cleaning, etc... I can always remember where I hid my stashes of chocolate.
Though I've harbored chocoholic tendencies throughout my entire life (inherited from my father's side of the family), they were greatly increased a few years ago when I caught an episode of "The Doctor Oz Show" where he touted the health benefits of regular (modest) consumption of dark chocolate.
Naturally, I took the good doctor's advice (choosing to ignore his suggestions about eating beets and kale), and began buying bags of individually wrapped Dove dark chocolates. Knowing that if I put them in an easily accessible place like the pantry or a kitchen cabinet, I'd consume much more than the recommended piece or two a day, I started hiding them in strange places around the house.
And amazingly, I never forgot where I put them. So for example, if I woke up in the middle of the night worried about my son's looming college costs, I'd remember that the chocolates were in the third drawer of the dining room breakfront, behind the napkin rings. Or if at 2am I was being pawed by my pooch because she needed to go out, I'd figure, hey, while I'm getting her leash, I might as well have my daily dose of chocolate, which I had put on a shelf in the mud room in back of the pet supplies.
Now I realize that my seemingly selective memory is not good news for any of you on my holiday list, as it seems pretty unlikely that I'll ever locate your hidden gifts. But hopefully, just knowing that whatever I had picked out for you was lovely, heartfelt, and handcrafted by artisans in Italy (and in the case of some of the schlockier souvenirs, China) will be enough to put a smile on your face. If not, stop by and I'll find you a piece chocolate.
Layla Ann Silver is a freelance writer who can't remember where she stashed her early-purchased holiday gifts for her friends and family, but can somehow recall the name of the dog from "The Brady Bunch" (Tiger), and where her biggest stash of chocolate is currently hidden (top shelf of the linen closet). She can be reached at email@example.com.