It’s Puzzling!

If you’re looking to read a revelation, please go no further. You’ll be disappointed. But if you want a change of pace, an interlude, continue on.

Someone once told me that my affection for jigsaw puzzles was a waste of time. I beg to differ.

Once we started a puzzle, usually a thousand-piecer, Ray and I would spend an hour or so nearly every day until it was done. We always chose a picture that had some significance to us. Sometimes a landscape of a place we’d been or a place we would like to go. Sometimes it was a master, like Van Gogh’s Irises. We did a farm scene once that reminded Ray of his youth, baling hay and driving an old farm truck at the ripe age of 12.

We have a beautiful puzzle hanging in our living room. It’s a thousand pieces of remembrance. I was 14 when my sister was killed. After struggling through the funeral and a lengthy and emotional court trial, my dad took off for a while. It was just mom and me. She invested in a puzzle. She washed and ironed other people’s clothes to make ends meet but still splurged on that puzzle. The puzzle shows four young children dressed in 18th century clothing, gathered around a birdcage. One little girl’s sock is sagging around her ankle. Mom always said that was me. Their faces were passionately focused on the bird in the cage. Like nothing else existed in the world but that bird.

Mom and I would make time to work on that puzzle because it took our minds off other things, things we didn’t want to think about but things that usually dominated our thoughts. Horrible thoughts. Painful thoughts. Looking for the right pieces seemed to make the rest of the world go away for a while and allow us to be close without saying a word. Yes, it was an escape—an escape from reality. It got us through a very rough patch of life. Mom saved her pennies, and, with the kind and generous help of some neighbors, she got that puzzle pasted and framed. Sixty-plus years later, it still brings me close to her spirit. She loved those four sweet children, and I loved that little yellow bird.

Now, I gaze often at that picture. I see another lesson in life. Not much of life’s pieces ever really feel like they fit together. So many things are left with loose ends, so many dreams never reaching reality. Don’t get me wrong. Many of my dreams have come true. I’ve been blessed with good people in my life, most joining me in my journey when I least expected and in so many different ways. My dear Ray, one of those precious people, has made many of my dreams a reality. Others have appeared through unique circumstance. Some are not even human—my pets have been gifts of joy, with their departure as painful as losing a human.

If we’re careful with our jigsaw puzzle, no pieces are lost, and, in the finish, they all fit together perfectly. It’s a lesson in life. If we’re careful, we find people who fit in our lives, who help complete the ever-evolving puzzle of the big picture. I know life never allows us to totally fit all the pieces, so I find it comforting that a jigsaw puzzle actually gives me the feeling of completeness. All the pieces fit!

I have bared my soul about politics and social issues. I’ve bitched about those who take advantage of others and praised those who have stood up for what they believe. But sitting down and concentrating on finding which piece fits where is an action that takes me away from it all. It gives my often-hemorrhaging brain an overdue rest.

I’ve discovered through my puzzle experiences that the only sad part about putting a puzzle together is pressing that last piece in its place. It’s closure, but it’s also final, like the end of a great book or movie. It’s over, and a tiny part of my soul wants it to keep going.

After that last piece fits neatly into place, I can take my rejuvenated brain cells in another direction, with a renewed energy and fresh focus.

Thank goodness for the puzzle-makers of the world. In some cases, it’s better therapy than a shrink! Not a waste of time at all. More of an inexpensive exercise to retain a bit of sanity in an ever-increasingly crazy world.

Give yourself a break. And thanks for reading!

© 2019 Dee Armstrong All Rights Reserved

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One Reply to “It’s Puzzling!”

  1. Kelleigh Nelson

    Awww, Dee. Nice. We have one of my sweetheart’s Daddy’s puzzles, and it’s a keepsake. Thank you for making me tear up, which I seem to do more as I age, with fond memories of my own.

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