There is just something about a jigsaw puzzle that pulls you in and slows you down. There is no competition, no rush to completion, no obnoxious music, no possible way to cheat.
I got hooked two weekends ago, when Mike and I were together with our daughter Melissa and two of her friends in New Hampshire. Without much snow to speak of, the kids and I spent a ridiculous number of man hours working on puzzles, drinking craft beer and eating home-smoked salmon in front a glowing hot fire.
As soon as the kids left, leaving two completed puzzles in their wake (they are a wild bunch, for sure), I felt a desperate need to start another.
I called Toad Hall Book and Toy store, one of about 10 retail shops in town.
“Do you have any jigsaw puzzles?” I asked the young woman who answered the phone.There was a very long pause while she presumably thought about the question.
“…I know this may sound like a little weird,” she finally responded, “but can I ask you a question first?
“What’s the difference between a jigsaw puzzle and a regular puzzle?”
“It’s a subcategory,” I answered, suppressing the “sarcastic bitch” tone that somehow emerges when I think I may have a dumbcluck on the phone.
“Puzzles can be lots of different things,” I continued. “I’m asking about the kind of a puzzle with little pieces that you put together to make a picture.”
“Oh yes, we have a whole wall of those, come on in!” she answered happily (everyone in New Hampshire is nicer than I.)
At the store, my eyes fell upon a puzzle called “Emperor’s Ball” -1000 pieces, fairly monochromatic, just 40 penguins hanging out on an iceberg. “They could have named this one ‘50 Shades of Gray,’” I thought, and chuckled.
Then it crossed my mind that my son, who loves penguins, would want to help with the puzzle when he came up North with his girlfriend (what WAS I thinking?)
Then I noticed that the box stated, “Ages 8 +,” so I thought, “how hard could this sucker actually be?”
And what sealed the deal (no pun intended- no seals, just penguins) was that the puzzle included 100 “Whimsy” pieces. Who doesn’t love whimsy?
I went up north early this past weekend so I could work on the puzzle without anyone bothering me. I literally had to tear myself away to eat, to work, to get out for an hour to cross country ski. Just one more piece… just one more piece…
Yesterday, while I sat on my ass contemplating penguins, this is what Mike did:
He hung a flat screen TV, set up a new wireless printer, went up and down a ladder several times to repair water damage in the ceiling. He spackled. He used something called “Kilz” that came in a can. Then he repainted.
He vacuumed the living room, to my cries of “OMG STOP DOING THAT! I MAY BE MISSING A PIECE AND YOU’LL SUCK IT UP!”
He replaced a leaky faucet in the bathroom, reinstalled the switch for a ceiling fan, stoked the fire, opened my beer, and wiped the marks off the wall with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (I kid you not.)
Every once in a while, I would yell out, “Hey, are you sure you don’t need my help?” And reluctantly I’d get up from the puzzle, join him for a minute or two, and say, “Now it’s open. Now it’s closed.”
I resented the interruptions, but I faked it. Sort of.
But at least I made progress on the puzzle. I finished the part with all the penguins-except for one piece right smack in the middle of the puzzle, in the center of a front facing penguin’s belly.
I’ve got to tell you, if he he vacuumed up that piece, I’m going to f%*king Kilz him. I’m already a little pissed that he hasn’t spent any time helping me with the puzzle.