The older I get, the more I begin to realize that quite a few things in my life have turned up missing, disappearing without a trace. And I'm not just talking about my youth.

I've had my trouble with this problem throughout my life. I think I spent a good part of my youth running around the house looking for my baseball mitt. I strongly suspected that my junior league coach was breaking in to hide it, so I wouldn't show up for practice.

Be that as it may - and it may - I never wised up to the reality that asking my Mom where my glove was was futile for me and aggravating for her.

I made it sound as though she had misplaced it after she and all the other stay-at-home moms in the neighborhood got done playing a 9-inning game of baseball while we kids were at school.

(She might have been a bit cranky because her team lost in extra innings, but I suspect that it was silly questions that got on her nerves.)

The older I was, the more items I acquired and almost immediately lost or misplaced. Car keys were the bane of my existence after I got my driver's license.

This seemed to happen whenever I went to grab the keys to take the family car, known as "the Bullet," for an afternoon drive to lay a heavy, smoky exhaust contrail wherever I was going.

I was forced to search our home - and sometimes the neighbors' homes - for the keys. By the time I found the keys, it did me no good because, with a junior license, I couldn't drive after midnight.

The worst part of these expeditions in search of missing items is that they began and ended in two clich├ęs that stated the obvious.

"Well, where was the last place you saw it?" someone would inevitably ask. Of course, if we knew that, we wouldn't have to search for the missing item.

The successful search gave me an opportunity to spout the traditional, "It was in the last place I looked." I suppose I said this to reassure everyone that I would not continue the search after I had located the item.

This problem of missing items has not gone away with the passing years. I have not pulled the same trick that my Aunt Penelope used to by wandering around the house looking for her glasses while they were where she put them - pushed on top of her head.

I did spend quite a few hours looking for contact lenses while I was wearing them, but at least I didn't find them pushed to the top of my head.

My main problem with missing stuff does not have to do with material goods; it has to do with an entire season of the year - spring.

My memory of the distant past is about as shaky as my writing, but I vividly recall that there once was spring. Now, spring lasts about as long as the average New Year's resolution.

One day, everybody is complaining about how cold it is and whining about the long winter. The next day, people are complaining about the heat and whining about how soon the summer will be over.

Spring is something that is quickly passed through when the temperatures rise rapidly from bone-chilling cold to sun-shining hot.

When I was a kid, spring would roll around suddenly, but it had the common courtesy to stay and visit for a while.

This meant that instead of staring out the windows in Miss Frumpwaggle's classroom at the bare trees, I had a month or two of staring at the trees that had turned over hundreds of new leaves.

The arrival of spring was almost as joyous as the advent of the new school year for our moms because it meant that we kids would be getting outdoors and annoying the neighbors and not just them.

It was, however, a bit bittersweet for the neighborhood mothers because they knew that after eight weeks or so of spring, we kids would be released from school and they would have three months before the new school year began.

When spring arrived, we kids didn't miss being able to throw snowballs at each other because we were too busy running around, falling down and putting holes in the knees of our jeans - and our own knees.

The irony is that we spent nine months of the year wishing we were anywhere but school, but when spring arrived, we spent just about all our free time after school on school grounds.

The school was in our neighborhood, so its grounds became our all-sports site throughout springtime.

One primary activity involved baseball games on the world's narrowest field, where about 15 feet separated first from third base. The other was Blackie, a nighttime version of hide-and-go-seek that involved the school's nooks and crannies.

Thinking it over, I don't know what I miss most - the springs of today or the springtime of my youth. Either way, at least I don't have to worry about coming down with spring fever.

(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes "Walt's Way" for each Sunday edition.)