When Simple Acts (Like Doing a Jigsaw Puzzle) Become a Way to Connect
Yes, this is a beautiful image.
It reminds me of our trip to Greece and looking at it, I think that maybe I’d rather be there.
But this is so much more.
I bought this puzzle a year ago, thinking that a puzzle would be a good distraction from all the disturbing and scary news outside our home. For a number of reasons, we never took it out of the box.
Last week, I decided to give it a go. I dumped out the pieces and got started. I got to work, and as I expected, soon had an observer. I quickly said I’d welcome help, and one of my adult children (the one who has loved these puzzles since childhood) sat down beside me. The picture began to take shape as the other two watched.
I complained about SO MANY shades of blue and soon Mom was the butt of jokes regarding the blues (I struggle to differentiate between black and dark blue). The observers were also quick to point out that pounding on pieces wouldn’t really make them fit.
We worked together for a couple hours, sometimes changing seats to get a new perspective, before turning in for the night. Over the next few nights, this was our after dinner activity (I sometimes snuck in a few minutes during the day; based on progress made, I suspect I wasn’t the only one.) Though I may have started alone, almost every night one of my kids joined me.
When I teased one, reminding him that he said he didn’t like puzzles, he replied that it wasn’t the puzzle – he was there for the company. Even my oldest, who has her own home, contributed one night when she stopped by (helping out with those impossible blues).
Many times over the week, I thought back to last summer when I spent days with my mom shortly after she began her cancer treatment, putting together a puzzle I had made for her from a family photo. This was quite an animated process as we identified family members’ clothing, hair and ears to determine where each piece went. We also switched seats periodically and teased each other as we tried to make pieces fit that obviously did not. This puzzle had a few shades of blue but TOO MANY shades of pink and orange (the original photo was taken on the beach at sunset). Within a few days, we completed the puzzle, sat back to appreciate our work, and took it all apart to complete again someday.
Somehow I keep forgetting how simple activities can be so memorable. As parents, we’ve all heard about the importance of spending quality time with our family. Too often, we try much too hard to force things, to create events that we expect will be meaningful. Many times these efforts fall flat. Though I repeatedly forget this fact, I have found that most of the time “quality time” comes when I least expect it, especially now that my kids are grown and live most of their lives beyond me.
Last night we finished the puzzle (well actually my daughter did). I’ll let it sit for a couple days before dismantling it and putting back in the box. Perhaps we’ll soon start a new one, or maybe we’ll find a new activity. It doesn’t really matter, as long as what we’re doing is done together.