DEAR MISS MANNERS: As a young child, I was given a trinket by a lady who knew my mother. I hung onto it, and several decades later discovered that it was actually a collectible worth several thousand dollars. I have discovered that the woman is alive. Is it proper to offer to return the gift, and if so, how would I phrase it tactfully?
GENTLE READER: Returning a gift is generally an insult and therefore best done only if that is your intention. In the situation you describe, it is both unnecessary and, because of the possibility of misunderstanding, unwise.
Although the trinket turned out not to be a trinket, Miss Manners believes that the value of a gift is measured by its meaningfulness to the recipient -- and therefore notes that its value was always high.
It would be charming to write a second thank-you note mentioning how much the item means to you even after all these years -- if you can promise Miss Manners that you will not mention the current bidding at online auction sites.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)