There are puzzle people and there are puzzle people. Eric and I are the latter. I started doing puzzles with my sister a long time ago, but our puzzling was sporadic. We’d do one, look at it for a couple hours, box it up, and then it might be six months before we’d do another one. When she moved in with me the last year of her life, we resuscitated our interest in puzzles and even designated our dining room table as the “puzzle table.” From there out, there was always a puzzle going. Corina didn’t like the TV because she found it energetically disruptive. I think she enjoyed puzzles because they’re play as you go. No pressure to finish within a particular time constraint, unless you self-impose one. You can listen to music, or have a conversation, or just get lost in thought.
I steered clear of things Corina and I did together for at least the first six months after she died. To this day, every time I go past the freeway exit that took me to the last house she lived in before she moved in with us, I think of her – and I never go that way. But the puzzles were a different story, for some reason. In fact, I went the other direction and became something of a puzzle maniac. I got so good at them I was doing a 1,000-piece puzzle every other day, at minimum.
I bought most of them at the thrift store, opting for $2 to $4 per puzzle, rather than upwards of $20 each. This is a risky enterprise if you’re a puzzle purist, however, in that you never know whether all the pieces will be there. One puzzle I got for less than a dollar – a picture of crayons – must have been missing 20 pieces. It was rather comical, and I always thought that was part of the fun. Not so with my friend Andrew Greess, who lost a single piece from one of his favorite puzzles and actually painted a piece of cardboard to fill in the spot. As it turns out, Eric informed me there’s a company that will do this for you! Of course, there’s an enormous amount of trust involved, as you must send all of the surrounding pieces of the actual puzzle to The Jigsaw Doctor so they can make a mold for the replacement piece and match the colors as closely as possible. I didn’t check the price because I’d never bother – but clearly there must be enough people who will bother for them to have built a business around it.
My biggest solo puzzle, to date, has been 1,500 pieces. I have maybe two or three 2,000-piece puzzles, but I haven’t started any of them yet because I’m not sure my old puzzle table is large enough. And, I haven’t done a puzzle since moving into our new house, because I know the addictive nature of the things – and I’m not sure I want to go down that rabbit hole again. I see them in the garage every now and then, though, and I’m always quite tempted.
Eric’s biggest solo puzzle was a 9,000 piece beast. He said it took him nearly 10 years to complete it, but he made a big push on the last half over one six-month period. He has his eye on another one, similar in size. He’s just waiting to live in a space large enough to accommodate it. The map of the world is still on the floor in a spare room adjacent to his parents’ garage.
Who knows what will happen after I return from my trip, as far as my own puzzle practice goes? I’m sitting at the kitchen table in the house where my son grew up. Kathy is out on the deck. The dog is at the groomer. Bruce is a the dentist, and Eric and his girlfriend are still sleeping. The puzzle we started yesterday afternoon – probably the hardest one I’ve ever done, personally – sits on the dining room table about three-quarters finished. It’s the blue sky that’s the problem – with no clues other than shape to go on, it’s a matter of trial and error, trial and error, trial and error until you get one piece. Then repeating that process with the next piece. This puzzle came from the local thrift store – and so far all of the pieces appear to be here. We may yet meander around and find a newer, easier – more fun! – puzzle, or we may move on to a board game.
Regardless of what we do, I’m amazed and grateful and blessed to be sharing this time with Eric and his family. I don’t know if he gets how special it is. He’s very communicative, but not terribly demonstrative, so it’s a little hard to read him.
I love watching him with Meaghan, though. They are cute together – and, I believe, good for each other. There’s no visible competition – just cooperation. I bought them each these metal puzzles – the goal is to pull them apart, and then put them back together again. Meaghan solved both of them! The infinity one had all of us going, at one point. I went into New York City to see a Broadway show with a friend from Phoenix, and received a text from Eric while I was at the show: “Meaghan got it!” He was eager to share her success with me – if there had been that ugly competition that sometimes brews between couples, he never would have sent that text.
Through the puzzles and games, we’re getting to know each other a little bit better and just spend some time together. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
The New York City skyline puzzle was completed about 5 hours after this post was published. Thank goodness all the pieces were there! Eric glues and hangs the puzzles he likes – I feel privileged that this one passes that test! Now, we’re onto a 1,500-piece job, albeit perhaps a somewhat easier one. Goal is to finish before he takes off for Boston on Friday morning at 10.
Puzzle #2 was NOT easier than the first one. Just difficult in a different way. We got it about 3/4 complete before we moved it onto a large poster board. Eric promises to finish it next time he’s home, which should be next weekend. We shall see…
Laura Orsini is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.