Perfect puzzles

           My mom tells the same story every time someone mentions doing a jigsaw puzzle. “Reminds me of the time,” she starts, smiling as she talks, “that we had the card table set up in the family room. You left for school and I sat down and thought I’d put in a couple of pieces and the next thing I knew, the bus dropped you off!”
            She goes on to reminisce how when the puzzle was out, housework went out the window, and nothing went into the oven. “Just one more piece,” she said.
            A person who enjoys puzzles of all sorts (and who comes by it honestly,) I have accrued a number of them over the years. It seems people who love me thought I would enjoy them, not realizing that as a busy mother of three young children I was lucky to find clothes that matched let alone the time to assemble 1,000 tiny pieces of cardboard. That is, if they weren’t lost or if not consumed by greedy and curious tiny hands. Or the dog. Not to mention that every square inch of flat space in my house was overtaken by something that wasn’t supposed to be there.
            But as the children grow, their toys get fewer and smaller, and I have been able to slowly reclaim parts of my home that had been previously surrendered. True to my roots, I set moved a number of plastic bins that hold plastic pieces of plastic toys and set up a small table in our front room. In the hopes for winter, I chose a puzzle from the closet with snowman decorating a beautifully lit tree and set it out one busy day, unable to even open the box.
            That night I came home late from a meeting to find the front light on, tween music blasting from a tiny speaker and all three kids and my husband pouring over the puzzle from every side.
            “We’ve been in here all night,” he said. “I can’t believe how much fun the kids are having.”
            And so it has become our latest and greatest family hobby, this assembling of a giant picture slashed into hundreds of pieces. It takes no batteries. It makes no sound. One does not need to ever charge it. It is multi-player, mulit-sensory, multi-houred fun on the cheap.
            I have found myself waking up early and tiptoeing out of bed to make a silent cup of tea and settling in for, you know, “just one more piece.” As expected, I have skipped cleaning and other responsibilities because of this thing. I almost missed picking up a kid from school, but in fact I love those little people so much, I let my daughter put in the last piece of the Christmas tree.

            Then we ripped it all apart and got out another box.

Originally written 12.6.15


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