A puzzling misery
This is the first time I’ve written a “Blonde” since the world shut down because of COVID-19. Not because I’ve been too horribly busy – quite the opposite, in fact. Like everyone else, I’m either at home, at the office, or planning my big weekly trip to the grocery store. Everything else went right out the window. I have only been outside the township to pick up newspapers from the printer’s and collect a kid from university. And I am not complaining. At all.
I feel pretty confident in assuming that I am not the only person who is maybe, perhaps, just a little bit revelling in this monstrous shut-down of society. All my kids are under one roof, I’m cooking more, we’re walking together, laughing together, working out together – and doing puzzles.
It’s no secret that, since the pandemic really took on steam and forced us all into our homes, puzzles have become a leading source of family entertainment. In fact, according to a recent piece on CTVNews, Ravensburger, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of jigsaw puzzles, has seen an astronomical rise in the number of both kids and adult puzzles since around March 14.
“In North America alone, the company reports a 370 per cent increase in organic sales year-over-year. ‘What we saw in the last couple of weeks is a surge in demand that is equivalent to the likes of a Christmas surge, and that’s really unprecedented for this time of year,’ Stephane Madi, head of Ravensburger Canada, told CTVNews.”
I received a 1,500 piece Ravensburger puzzle featuring an inviting, warm, relaxed photo of a tiny bay in Cinque Terra, Italy, about five or six years ago. I casually started it on a large board on a coffee table, popping in a piece here and there during the long winter months. But it took up space that I needed, so I got a puzzle mat, rolled up what little of it I had completed (the edges, of course, or what my eldest likes to call “The Crust”), and tucked it into what I considered was a fairly safe place. I often looked at the mat and the box containing the unfinished puzzle as I vacuumed around it, constantly saying to myself “I really must take that out and finish it one of these days.”
One of those days happened to come sometime soon after March 14. I announced my resolve to restart the puzzle, and my husband cut me a new large board that I placed on top of my piano in the living room. The light was good, and I would have to stand to work on it, so it seemed the perfect spot. I rolled open the mat, turned all the little pieces right side up, and set to work.
We (myself and whoever happened to wander by and help) managed to get “The Crust” reassembled, and quickly realized that we were likely missing some pieces. My middle daughter tagged out then – she couldn’t handle the incompleteness. I even sat down one day and went through every single piece just to make sure we hadn’t overlooked any edge pieces. We hadn’t. But on we forged.
The puzzle quickly took on a nickname – the F%&*^$!puzzle. No spaces, no emphasis, just the F%&*^$!puzzle. “Where’s Mom? Oh, she’s working on the F%&*^$!puzzle.” No one was reprimanded for foul language – it was just a name, like John or Karen.
The F%&*^$!puzzle started to take over our lives. It made dinner late. It made workouts get skipped. It made early bedtimes non-existent. It made delicious glasses of wine go unnoticed, untouched. It made us all miserable.
But I was determined. No puzzle that I had held on to for six years was going to get the best of me. Every day I’d walk up to it and, while trying to find a piece of waterfront, I’d calmly repeat “I hate this puzzle.” My daughter threatened to flip it and burn it when I wasn’t home. In a blind F%&*^$!puzzle fury I told her I’d disown her. It had crept into my very soul, its happy coral-pink buildings with their green shutters mocking me when I tried to sleep at night, its lazy, Mediterranean vibe emanating scorn and contempt at me and my loved ones as we tried to put its dissected face back together. I needed to exorcise it from my brain, my being.
On Thursday, May 7, at approximately 8:30 p.m., I slid the last piece of the F%&*^$!puzzle into place. I loudly announced to all within earshot “The F%&*^$!puzzle is done!” Everyone rushed into the room, and we all hugged, jumped about and cried together, rejoicing in what this meant, not only for me (they’d finally get dinner), but for the universe (it just didn’t need all that negative energy).
In total, it was missing 17 pieces, which I know would send many people screaming. I figure the pieces just got tired of waiting for placement and escaped up the vacuum cleaner to a better life.
I’ve since started a new puzzle, in the same place, and am enjoying it so much more. It doesn’t even have a nickname.