So, a long time ago – back when my husband and I were “just the two of us” – I spent a lot of time doing jigsaw puzzles. Loving puzzles is sort of a requirement on my mom’s side of the family, so I’ve been doing puzzles my entire life. But a few years back, I had this resurgence of putting together puzzles. I was feeling homesick for Minnesota (happens every fall and winter due to the lack of fall and winter in SoCal), and the only thing that made me feel okay was doing a puzzle. So I went to Target and bought this:
It was a 1000 piece puzzle by folk artist Charles Wysocki. I finished it in one sitting. And suddenly I was hooked.
I started buying tons of puzzles of the same artist and his brother Heronim Wysocki (who has a similar folksy art style) and putting them together whenever I had free time. And since my husband – a chef – worked nights and weekends, I had plenty of free time.
I got my two co-workers at the time hooked on puzzles as well. We would swap puzzles whenever we were done with them, and one time we even cut out of work early to go puzzle shopping. We would spend afternoons looking on eBay for puzzles that you can’t find in stores anymore, like Springbok brand puzzles and their infamous “National Jigsaw Puzzle Competition” puzzles, like this crazy one:
This went on for a while, even after I left that job and had no one to swap puzzles with except for my mother-in-law, who became just as obsessed with puzzles as me. It was a fun hobby that kept me busy, kept my brain sharp, and kept me happy.
And then I had a baby.
You can pretty much guess what happened after that. All puzzle making stopped. Once in a while I would attempt one when I would feel homesick, but I would usually stop after completing the border. In the past three years since I’ve had my daughter, I’ve probably done a total of maybe three puzzles. That’s it! And this is coming from someone who used to do three puzzles in one weekend. So a few days ago while cleaning out my daughter’s closet, I looked up and saw the 100 or so puzzles that I still have and decided that I was going to do one. Not just start it, but FINISH it. So I grabbed this one:
It looked kind of fall-ish to me, and it had been awhile since the first time I did it. So – rather nervously – I began putting the pieces together.
My daughter tried to help me find pieces that go together, but being as how she’s 3, it was hard for her to grasp the whole “look only for pieces with straight edges” concept. Needless to say, I had to remove a lot of her “Look, Mom, this goes here!” pieces while she wasn’t looking.
By the way, one of my biggest pet peeves is the sudden shrinking of box size that puzzles have gone through over the years. Puzzle boxes used to be around 12″ x 12″ x 2″ (give or take). They were big enough to where you could dump all the pieces in the box and still have enough room to dig around for pieces. But over the past few years, they’ve gone down to about 7″ x 7″, giving you absolutely no room to do any digging. If you even try to dig, you will inevitably have pieces that fly out, putting you at risk of losing one.
But I’ve found a way around that. While I was digging and grumbling and complaining about tiny boxes, I asked my husband if he had any kind of large, shallow box to dump the pieces in. He thought for about two seconds, and then gave me this:
Yes, that would be a 13″ x 9″ cake pan! It was perfect! Shallow enough to where there are no dark corners, and big enough to where no pieces were flying out (except when my daughter tried to “help” me again). I was quite pleased with my husband at the moment. That’s why I married him. He knows what to do during puzzle emergencies.
Not too long after, I completed the border (except for two straight-edged pieces I was sick of looking for).
Around the same time, I also finished this:
But I was on a roll, and plain iced water was going to have to do. About an hour later – and after I decided I would do all the easy parts first – the puzzle looked like this:
Doing all the easy parts first, i.e., signs with words on them, however, means that I still have to do the crappy parts: sky, grass, and trees. And normally – that is, ever since I had a kid and decided I didn’t have the mental capacity to complete a puzzle – I probably would have packed up the puzzle and quit right there. But I didn’t! I grabbed a bag of Skittles and continued to power my way through this puzzle. Because, dammit, I was going to finish this before the day ended.
And – after resting on the couch with the kid that stole all my puzzle love, and having dinner with the husband who brought new light to cake pans, and watching a scary-ass episode of Doctor Who – this happened:
I finished! I was thoroughly thrilled, despite the fact that this also occurred:
That’s right. A missing piece. I blame everyone who lives in this apartment.
But hey, it’s cool. I was happy that I finished, and I was happy that I felt all my love for puzzles come back to me. I hope this is the beginning – er, continuation – of a beautiful relationship. In fact, I have another tiny box on the table just waiting to be put together right now. Will it happen?
Damn right, it will.