Friday, December 9, 2011


This weekend, a friend of mine is coming over to help me purge through my house.  Despite having seen my house, I don't think the poor guy knows what he has signed himself up for and I don't know why he is so looking forward to this project-why he even cares.  But I have known for a long time it needs to be done and it's too overwhelming when I try to tackle it alone so I'm grateful for the offer.  I feel I need to move the past out so the future can move in.  Not just my past with James, but my past period.  I have things I've been carrying around for far too long that there is simply no reason to continue to hold on to, like my very first purse which I will never use again (though it is from the 80's, so it could be in style again here shortly). 

My friend has told me he's going to be a Nazi about the purge process and I get one bye but anything else needs justification in the form of a research paper.  Knowing there's a good chance he's serious and that my puzzle collection could be a source of disagreement, I have written the following.  No, it's not the scientific research he had in mind; rather, it's research of my heart and soul:

I was five years old when my grandmother gave me my first jigsaw puzzle. As I was younger than the recommended age on the box, my mom wanted to put it away until I was older. Knowing that I was an inquisitive and determined child, however, Grandma did not see any harm in letting me try to put it together.

I wasn’t sure about this at first wondering why Grandma had given me a broken toy. Mom had to show me what this puzzle business was all about-how all the pieces were supposed to fit together to make the picture on the box. I was skeptical but I gave it a shot. Mom was skeptical as well, convinced I would never finish it.

Naturally, I finished the puzzle. And then I took it apart, turned the pieces over and put it together face down. And then I put it together again the correct way. So I was given a second puzzle. Again, I put it together correctly and then face down.

After this, puzzles were a given on my birthday and Christmas wish lists and my collection began to grow, with my preference for those picturing houses and/or boats. We had a spare room in our house in Davenport, and it was not uncommon for me to have one puzzle in progress on the floor of that room or my bedroom and several put together. I like to admire them after they are completed before I tear them apart and put them away. The back room was very cold and drafty (possibly haunted, though that’s another story), however, and my bedroom wasn’t much warmer, so Dad brought home a “puzzle board” for me so I could work on my puzzles in a more heated (but carpeted) part of the house, which I thought was the greatest thing ever. This first and subsequent puzzle boards are more commonly known as plywood-pieces big enough that I could easily fit two 1,000-piece or one 2,500-piece puzzle on-as I got older, so did the piece count of my puzzles as my dad tried to make them more challenging for me.  Despite being nothing more than plywood, we always called them puzzle boards.

As I grew older, I never outgrew my love of puzzles. To this day, I am drawn to them like a magnet. If I see one in progress, it is so incredibly hard not to go over and work on it-which not everyone appreciates! Friends and family fully support this habit. My friend and I occasionally get together and catch up while putting one together. She gives me hers when she is done with them. Her mother also picks them up at garage sales for me. It does make me easy to shop for and allows for a little mischief-a few years ago for Christmas, my brother and nephews sent me a three-pack of puzzles in which they mixed all the pieces together. They were pretty distinct and easy to sort out so for my birthday they sent me a 10-pack. Again they mixed all the pieces together, in effect giving me a puzzle with over 7,000 pieces, which I accused James of doing. To this day, I am still not 100% convinced it really was Mike and the boys who did it. This took me a bit longer to sort out. And yes, they have been a source of contention. James’ only complaint was I came with too many puzzles. When we moved back from Arizona, he told me anything that was not unpacked within 6 months was going to be given away. Knowing how he felt about the puzzles, I unpacked them first.

I don’t remember a time in which puzzles were not a part of my life. I love how finding one piece can change the entire look of what’s already been put together. I love the challenge of finding that one piece. I love the calming effect they tend to have on me. I love the sense of completion and satisfaction that comes with snapping in the last piece. I love that no matter how many I do there’s always one waiting-that I will never run out of them. I love that I have this hobby to help me when I need an escape to take my mind off of other things or when I need a distraction so my mind can quietly work out things it is trying to process.

The puzzles stay.