Monday, January 14, 2013

Puzzle Peace

There's just something about a puzzle.

Something about a puzzle reminds me of childhood--my mom often spread out landscapes jigsawed into nearly unrecognizable colors and forms.  I would stop and try to place a piece or two, but I never really had the patience to sit and work at it.

During our New Year's trip to Utah, Brad's mom, Janie, always had a puzzle out on the card table, and those puzzles drew me like the bird feeders outside her windows drew the woodpeckers.  I couldn't resist the pull every time I walked by to see if I could find just one piece.  And that would lead to just one more, just one more, until I had spent an hour sitting in the drafty window seat, struggling to match shapes and colors.

What I loved about the puzzle was how it not only drew me into its mystery, but it drew in most members of the family at one time or another.  With no technology or extraneous noise, we puzzlers would have actual conversations as we worked.  One evening, I spent a few hours with Brad's sister Katie, fitting and guessing and talking about nothing in particular. I had the same experience with my newest sister-in-law, and it was a good opportunity to get to know her a little bit better and spend time with her. On another night, with raucous games of Rummikub and Scum echoing from the kitchen, Brad's stepdad, Greg, and I found sanctuary at the puzzle in the living room.

The small kids were intrigued by the puzzle as well--they would stop and look, exclaiming at the progress since the last time they'd bothered to interrupt their cousin time.  Eve would try to move pieces around, thinking she was participating in this very grown-up ritual, only to be reprimanded and the pieces removed from her small hands.

One member of the family even attempted to hold two handfuls of pieces for ransom--the fee being time away from the puzzle to play games as a family.  Brad later found the pieces on top of a cabinet, and calm was once again restored.

It was our last night in Utah, and I once again found myself seated at the puzzle, wondering how many more days it would take the family to finish it.  It seemed so far from complete, and of course all the hardest pieces were left to place.  I was initially joined by Greg, then Janie, and finally by Brad.  All the kids were in bed, exhausted from a week of staying up late every night and eating junk food whenever possible.  All the local siblings had returned to their homes, getting kids calmed down for school the next morning.  It was just the four of us, and we were on a mission.  Time passed, and pieces found homes.  More than once, one of us would utter, "I need to get to bed," but none would leave the puzzle. 

After almost two hours, we were nearing our goal.  Pieces were placed in a frenzy, with a satisfied tap given to each new fit.  I had been working on one area of yellow window, and I could tell that one of the pieces had been lost during the week.  I was so annoyed that, even after we placed every piece, one would still be missing. 

Ten pieces left.  Nine.  Eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two.  And just the final piece of window was left.  With a mischievous smirk, Greg reached into his palm and placed the final yellow piece--the piece he'd been holding to be guaranteed that he would finish the puzzle. 

I live this busy, noisy, technology-overloaded life every day.  Sounds like I need to invest in a few puzzles to bring my family back to what is important--quiet time, figuring out mysteries and challenges together.

Maybe when Evie is old enough not to take the pieces away.  Give me another year.


  1. we always did puzzles growing up too!!! we would go on vacation to mendocino california and we weren't allowed to watch tv the entire week. we had a kid puzzle going and a grown up puzzle going the entire week. there was a fish one that almost killed all of us it was so hard. i think we framed it b/c we didn't have the heart to take it apart. and we played a lot of monopoly too.

  2. Awesome. I'm like that with a puzzle. Can't leave it alone.

    What was the finished product?

  3. Our family has a puzzle going every time we get together. I rarely work on it (because I am horrible at it and get frustrated), but I often sit there at the table just to get in on the conversation, especially late at night.

    In our family, Ryan is a puzzle magician. He can spot them in seconds...on a 1500-word puzzle. It's crazy.


  4. I love working on puzzles and I really love how Brad's family works on it together. It's really cool how a single puzzle could bring family members together like that. I'm the only one in my family who plays with puzzles. My dad, sister and brother occasionally do them too, especially if there is one that I'm working on. Unfortunately, we don't bond or converse when working on them together. It does feel nice to be able to sit in comfortable silence with each other though.