Puzzling … With the Family

posted in: Family 9
I like that in this picture, listed under “puzzle” in WikiCommons, the cookie and milk are the stars of the show. Image: Wikipedia.


And now, an interview I conducted this evening while sitting on the hardwood floor in the hallway, a few feet away from where serious jigsaw puzzling was taking place. Present and puzzling were my mother, my step-dad Mark, and my brother-in-law, Jack; my sister Rebecca sat on a bench nearby. There were glasses of wine on the table, as well as a bowl of Cheetos. My questions in boldface.

Note: In my family, we have a reception desk bell we put out when we do a puzzle. Every time someone finds a piece, they get to ring the bell.

So, gang: What do you like about puzzles?

MARK: Everything.

JACK: For me, a puzzle is appealing because it’s a closed system. It has an answer. Most things in the world move toward entropy and chaos. Puzzles are the opposite. They’re one of the few things in the world that start off as chaos and become whole.

MOM: With a puzzle, you get immediate gratification with every little piece, every bite — and zero calories!

JACK: Well, if you’re eating Cheetos, it’s different. (Ding!)

Do you have a particular method or approach to beginning a puzzle?

MARK: Well, sure. (Ding!) Most people approach a puzzle the same way: Do the frame first. Because the straight edge pieces are easy to find and fit together. And having the outside edge then gives you a structure. After you get your edge in place, you move to your subassembly: Pick a color or shape within the puzzle and take it one bite at a time.

JACK: “Subassembly.” I like that.

MOM: I pick up a piece and find the location on the picture, then I place it in that general vicinity. If it can’t fit anywhere … Well, then, sometimes I put it back down.

Mother, you said earlier today you didn’t like puzzles. 

MOM: I think they’re a waste of time.

JACK: The plot thickens. (Ding!)

MOM: One could be making something useful, like a quilt. Putting a puzzle together is the antithesis of making quilt. But I will admit, it’s nice for a little relaxation during the holidays. You sit together and eat salty snacks and drink alcoholic beverages. It works.

REBECCA: I hate puzzles.

You hate them?

REBECCA: Make ’em and break ’em. That’s all they are!

Can you say more about that?

REBECCA: Puzzles are boring, for one thing. And the satisfaction of finding a piece is never enough, it never lasts long enough. Besides, there’s this weird … Like, everyone’s searching all the time. (Ding!) Then, when you finish a puzzle, you’re like “Cool, we made something that looks exactly like the picture on this box. Now let’s break it.” And if you’re doing a puzzle on the dining room table, it’s like, “Oh, we can’t eat at this table because there’s a puzzle here.” And then there’s the horror of finishing a puzzle and seeing there’s a missing piece.

MOM: I found a puzzle piece up at Sunrise Cottage. I couldn’t figure out which puzzle it went to, so I taped it to the puzzle cupboard with a sticky note. One day when I’m dead and gone, a grandchild of mine, maybe a great-grandchild will find where it goes and they’ll say, “Oh, Gramma Fons. She was so caring, so thoughtful! Just think, she cared about where this little puzzle piece would end up.”

JACK: Yeah, like, “Gather ’round, kids. Do you know what OCD is?”

(Everyone laughs. Ding!)

Last question: How many puzzles do you think we have in our family?

MOM: Oh, we give them away. We never do a puzzle twice.

But like, over time. 

MARK: Probably a hundred. Probably more. (Takes sip of beer and then almost spits it out.) Geez, what’s a puzzle cost? Twenty bucks? Think of that money! My grandfather thought puzzles were the devil’s work. He just couldn’t stand them.

MOM: That was his mother’s side of the family. His father’s side of the family — what a bunch of no-counts!

MARK: Honey, that side of the family was no good. Horse traders, every one of ’em.

Can I put that in the interview? 

MARK: (Ding!) I don’t care.

MOM: Mark’s the first to say it!

I’m glad we had this talk, you guys. 

MARK: Yeah, puzzles. It doesn’t make much sense. But it gets in your blood.

[end of interview]

9 Responses

  1. Lindsey
    | Reply

    I love jigsaw puzzles. Not only do they challenge my brain, but they represent a total lack of anything needing to be done at that moment. They can also be a good procrastination project. I have fun doing them with my daughters and grandchildren. We all love them except my husband. Mostly we do them during the darkness of winter. Mark’s correct -it gets in your blood.

  2. Judy Forkner
    | Reply

    The cookies & milk in the picture look like yummier treats than the Cheetos!

  3. Jen
    | Reply

    I love puzzles too! And I do them on my quilting cutting mat, so I can move them off the dining table to eat! 🙂

  4. Elita @ Busy Needle Quilting
    | Reply

    Our family (roughly 17 people) does at least one complex one during a week at the beach in the summer. You’ll usually find at least one person at any point during the day working on it at the big square coffee table in the middle of the sitting room. After dinner, there’s a bigger crowd of 4-6 people, all searching. I don’t think anyone does them any other time of the year for all the reasons your family noted. I find it distracting for a small amount of time and then I want to do something more long-lastingly productive. Like knit. Or quilt. 🙂

  5. Kerry
    | Reply

    Love jigsaw puzzles. I always had some at my grandparents for the rainy days. Same ones. One year I got a bit fed up and turned one over – now that was a bit more difficult and boring – no colour! My favourite was a tiger in the snow and it just fitted a tray that my grandfather had made – wasn’t for me – but I nabbed it every time I was with them. I had a few at home but once I get my eye in, they don’t last long enough – even with thousands of pieces. The one that did give me a bit of a challenge one Christmas was a Winnie the Pooh – or rather Winnie the Poohs because it was Pooh bear all over! Small in size, but very enjoyable.
    I do think they are good for the brain most certainly. Sudoku is another one for logical minds.
    My father also enjoyed puzzles – his last one was Singin’ in the Rain (his favourite film) and he also did swaps with another person who’s mum had dementia and the one thing that she liked to do was make puzzles. That way they both had different puzzles to do.

  6. Helen Lewis
    | Reply

    I do the online jigsaw puzzle;s. I have three cats and those puzzle pieces would never stay on a table. They are like hockey pucks to cats. I do the puzzles or online solitaire when I am just too tired to quilt (or totally frustrated by have to rip that seam twice!).

  7. Brenda King
    | Reply

    I too, have never really cared for puzzles. They seem like a waste of creative time, and I don’t like them taking up space for prolonged periods of time. I’d rather read, sew, quilt, cook, or watch TV, esp. during Winter months. In Summer, we’re all way too busy to play with puzzles. They are enjoyable for my grand children. Really enjoyed your family interview tho’, Mary!

  8. Pat Hicks
    | Reply

    Our family will do one puzzle when we are together
    We love to play cards akso. We OD on cards and puzzles to last until next time we get together.

  9. Barbara
    | Reply

    I like the ‘ding’ thing. Must try it with my granddaughters. I think they would get a kick out of it!! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, Mary. (actually, I got a kick out of reading this, I think I like your family).

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