February 11, 2018

puzzle piece

Three years ago, on a mild May weeknight ....

8:22 p.m.: (Me to my kid) "Go upstairs and take your bath and do your reading, and let me know when you're done. You need a good night's sleep because you have an end-of-grade test tomorrow."
8:22 p.m.:  (Kid to me) "Okay."
9:07 p.m.: (P.J. to kid) "What are you doing up there? Are you in bed yet?"
9:07 p.m.:  (Kid to P.J.) "Um, no, actually.  I'm starting on a 1,000-piece puzzle, just to calm my mind down."
9:08 p.m.: I march up the stairs in a huff, to effectuate an immediate cease-and-desist and get the kid to bed.
9:37 p.m.: P.J. comes upstairs and finds me on the floor, helping the kid find edge pieces.



I specialize in 996-piece puzzles.  This is what happens to anyone who lives in a house with a kleptomaniacal dog.

I tend to stay away from puzzles, precisely because I enjoy the hell out of them.  A puzzle consumes my life until it's completed.  The dining room table is swept clean of the Lazy Susan and place mats and crumbs, and its four corners are then occupied by a puzzle board and its felt cover, a box showing the picture, 1,000 Ravensburger pieces meticulously turned right-side-up, some separated into trays, and a coffee mug placed precariously on the edge beside the board, responsible for moral support.  Displaced family members can go suck an egg.  Meals are eaten elsewhere, plates held in laps, until such time as the puzzle is completed.


A puzzle, for me, is a foray into a brief but intense life experience of frustration, deep breathing, teaching Lille not to throw things, squinting, activating atrophied brain centers, fortitude ... and at last, perseverance, punctuated by finding my way around the sore-thumb four missing pieces and the acceptance of imperfection, because life never shows us the full picture, does it?  (Did you know Chester's full name is actually Chester God-Damn-It?  He frequently gets called by his full name.  We're formal around here.)


My current puzzle indulgence is Merlin's laboratory.  I am working this puzzle in spite of the large owl, which I am tolerating because it is looking elsewhere.  I have an Owl Thing.  When I was very young, we lived in an old house in which the bedrooms were upstairs and the bathroom was downstairs.  I was scarcely out of toddlerhood, and faced the nightly fear of a 2:00 a.m. obligation to go pee.  I would stand at the top of the staircase looking down, squirming and crossing my legs, at the owls hung on the wall at the bottom of the stairs.  My parents had come across a set of four Richard Hinger paintings at a yard sale of these vicious, threatening killer owls, black-on-brown rendering of piercing stares, challenging me to walk by them, if I dared.  To this day, I fucking hate owls.  





My co-worker in the next cubicle, as the Universe would have it, is an owl fanatic.  Her cubicle is decorated with owl pictures, owl paraphernalia of the craft shop type, and a large brown macramé owl that glares at me each time I walk by.  If there is a god out there, he's a sadist with a sense of humor even more twisted than mine.

The rats in the puzzle, on the other hand, don't bother me in the least.  I went and fetched this old rubber rat toy from Chuck-E-Cheese's that I knew was still in one of my son's toy bins.  It's a white rat, so old that the black had worn off of its eyes, giving it a cold, dead, white stare.  I drew the eyes back in with a black Sharpie, and now he's a cute little mascot for my puzzle.  P.J. would think I'm crazy, but this has already been established, so she just shakes her head, and sometimes places the rat in different positions around the puzzle for me.


We won't discuss the monkey or the beetles.


I'd make a lot more progress on the puzzle if I wasn't spending so much time writing in this blog and re-reading some Terry Pratchett.  My priorities are all wrong, and my family would like to eat at their dining table again.


In preparation for my visit to my old church tonight, I'm going to work on the stained glass window now.  And maybe put something a little stronger than creamer in my coffee.  I'm nervous.


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