obsessionThere 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?

Check out the vast array of grays on the whimsy pieces

Check out the vast array of grays on the whimsy pieces

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.


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