The first thing I do, after I open the box, is to sort all of the pieces into two piles: border pieces and non-border pieces. Simple, yet somehow I always seem to miss a few. Then, I set all the non-border pieces aside, and work on assembling that border. There is a comfort in knowing that in the end all the pieces you need are there and everything will fit together.
Unless you got it from a thrift store, in which case, there will probably be a few pieces missing, as well as a couple from a different puzzle entirely. But that’s life–very few things fit just right. You learn to make do with a few pieces that have more wiggle than they should. And some that are outright gone.
Since my mom passed away, I don’t do many puzzles. It was mainly a special activity that my mom and I shared. She tried to instill the same love of puzzles in my sister, but it didn’t stick. My sister would get frustrated after a few pieces and wander off. The cat, on the other hand, always enjoyed puzzles (mostly the “lying on top of the pieces you’re working on” part).
My mom’s favourite type of puzzle is called a “mystery puzzle”. A mystery puzzle has a design that is completely unknown to the puzzle-assemblers, then at the end, there’s a story to read and a mystery to solve based on the “clues” in the puzzle. I never really cared for the story part. Maybe it’s because mystery stories were never my thing. Maybe it’s because solving the mystery was always really hard. Regardless, eventually we just stopped trying to do the stories and focussed on the puzzles.
I haven’t done a mystery puzzle since my mom passed, but even when I do non-mystery puzzles, I avoid looking at the box. Some people call this crazy or strange or too hard. For me, it’s just the way you do it. In fact, looking at the box feels like cheating. I don’t need to look at the box to know that the next puzzle piece is going to have a continuation of the same pattern that’s on the current piece. I don’t need to look at the box to know that similar patterns tend to be grouped together.
It’s all about the puzzle. It’s all about feeling that satisfying connection between two perfectly matched pieces. Each one is a success. Each larger group is an even bigger success. That last puzzle piece is near perfection. But, then, once the whole thing is assembled, the allure is gone. It’s time to rip it up and put it away. Not many things in life are better in pieces than they are as a whole.
I sat down yesterday to do the first puzzle I’d worked on in a long time. I didn’t even know I wanted to do one until I saw one in the random hobby store where we’d stopped. But I realized quickly that it was exactly what my heart craved. As I sat to do that familiar sorting of pieces, I felt a sense of calm and reassurance. My mind slowed, my focus sharpened. Each time I felt that satisfying connection between two pieces, I was a bit more connected to all those puzzles with my mom, all those years ago.
Life is so much simpler when you know all the pieces are there and they’ll all fit together in the end. But, maybe it’s not so bad when a few of them are absent or wiggle. It certainly makes it more of a