I couldn't think of anything. Jewellery is a language I simply don't speak. When consulted for advice the eldest daughter said "Well, she's always wanted one of those custom-made bags from Very Expensive Bag Shop." The pair of us went to VEBS and inspected the options. They were very impressive. Even I could tell that. I asked how long it would take them to make one of these bags and get it monogrammed. "Between two and three months," said the lady. It was days until the birthday. It wouldn't do to turn up at the birthday dinner with an I.O.U.. We beat a retreat from the shop and thought again. We couldn't come up with a better idea.
I rang a female friend of the family and put my dilemma to her. She had no hesitation. "Get it," she said. "She won't mind the wait. Matter of fact she'll enjoy the anticipation." Now this advice flew in the face of everything I've ever thought about buying or receiving presents. I don't know a single male who can bear getting a present that he can't rip open and over-use on the spot. But that's males.
I ordered the bag, paid for it and got in return a beautifully embossed envelope with a nice written promissory note inside. I presented this on the evening of the birthday. It went down better than I could ever have hope. Two months later the shop rang to say the bag was ready for collection. I rang the wife, who works near the shop. "The bag's ready! You can go and get it tonight!"
She didn't get it that night. Or the next night. Or the one after that. A week later, when the time was right, she picked it up and brought it home in one of those bags big enough to carry a car in. She's unwrapped it, fondled it, hugged it to her and shown it to a few close friends. She hasn't taken it out yet because the right occasion hasn't presented itself.
Anticipation. It's a foreign language. I wish it hadn't taken me this long to learn it.
P.S. I told my wife that her eldest daughter had suggested that she had always wanted one. "I never said a word about it to her," she replied. This may indicate that the daughter has even more patience.