Sunday, July 23, 2006

Puzzle Pressure

A few months ago, Mom cleared off one end of the dining room table so she could work jigsaw puzzles there. She used to be a jigsaw puzzle enthusiast years ago but hadn't worked one in a very long time. We all jumped in to get her started back into this renewed pastime. I bought her new jigsaw puzzles; Louise brought her some she had stuck back in her closet; LeAnn sent her one for Christmas. I even bought her a new office chair that she could swivel to the right height since she believed she was having difficulty working her first puzzle because our dining room chair was too low to oversee the pieces. I even got a little bit interested myself since the puzzle is right beside me as I sit at the computer. Every now and then, I would plunk down and try to find a piece or two.
Mom probably has half a dozen puzzles now but let me tell you, neither she nor I will live long enough to get them all done. It took us weeks to finish the first one which we chose deliberately because of its simplicity. Periodically, John would come over and immediately pick out two or three pieces we had shoved into the wrong places. Both Mom and I have tendency to convince ourselves that if a piece doesn't quite fit in the spot into which we believe it goes, it is because the puzzle manufacturer cut the piece slightly wrong and not because we are trying to force it where it doesn't belong.
After we finished the first easy kitten one, we started on one of four Thomas Kinkade season puzzles. We began with Summer in the winter but it became summer while we working on it. Usually, the quickest part of a jigsaw puzzle are the sides. You can, of course, distinguish them by the perfectly straight edges. But, we even had trouble with the sides of our Summer puzzle, moving on to the middle with one of them left incomplete, much to John's dismay. "You have to get the sides done first," he claimed, "it's the puzzle law." We ignored him.
Meanwhile, Mom struggled with the sky while I concentrated on the flowers along the path at the bottom. I would sit for an hour trying to find one piece of a poppy while she tried to decide if her piece of sky had a little bit of cloud in it that just might match up with the merest drift of cloud in another piece.
I finally got sick of flowers and tried my luck on lighted windows of which there are many in Thomas Kinkade's cottages. Little blocks of gold-lit window that all look exactly alike so that there is no way to distinguish between the windows in any particular cottage. And until I began working on a Thomas Kinkade jigsaw puzzle, I never realized that there are 432 shades of gray. Slate roof gray is slightly different than sidewalk gray which is slightly different than chimney gray which is slightly different than woman's skirt gray. All the grays made me want to sweep all the puzzle pieces off into the floor in a fit of impatience.
I finally had to give it up. It was either that or ask my doctor for a prescription for high blood pressure medication. I have enough stress in my life without allowing Thomas Kinkade to add to it.
Mom forged on though. She probably averaged finding one piece every other day or so which means she would have completed her 1000 piece puzzle in roughly three years. We told everyone how hard Thomas Kinkade puzzles were and we believed it too - until my cousin and her husband came to visit us for three days and while they were here, he finished the puzzle!
We were astounded that anyone could do something in three days that we'd been working on for three months with only about 1/4 of it complete for all our struggles.
Once it was done, Mom put it back in the sack and poured out the next season, Autumn, but somehow her heart doesn't seem to be in it. It's been three weeks since Nancy and Rick left and she has one corner done. I haven't even tried to work on this puzzle although I did notice that while there isn't much gray, there appears to be about 888 shades of yellow.
Now and then, Mom will say, "well, I think I'll go in and work on my puzzle," but then she'll sit down at the piano instead.
So if you come visit me this year, next year or the year after that, I expect you'll still see Thomas Kinkade's Autumn taking up one end of my dining room table....unless Rick and Nancy pay us another visit.