I try to get Mister Soandso or my family a puzzle every year at Christmas. For some reason, this feels like a good tradition to continue as both he and I grew up in families that completed jigsaw puzzles over the holidays. This year was no different. Christmas morning Mister Soandso unwrapped his puzzle and then set it aside. Several days later, it made its way to our coffee table and we started working on it.1000 pieces of various types of candy. It seemed like a pretty sweet deal. Me, the kids, and Mister all puzzling away with cups of cocoa and Christmas musical in the background.
I love puzzles for much the same reason that I hate card tricks: I like being able to figure stuff out. When it comes to card tricks and other sleight of hand things, I struggle to appreciate them because I spend the whole time trying to figure out how they are duping me. There’s something about a situation that sets out to be undecipherable that irritates me.
Puzzles, on the other hand, are meant to be figured out. It may take time and a lot of eye-strain, but they are decipherable. Or, at least, that’s how it’s supposed to go.
This was our first Christmas with our new dog, Molly. (I like to call her Molly Brown. Not just as a nod to the Unsinkable Molly Brown who needs more nods, but because we called our dog Charlie “Charlie Brown” and I like to think of Molly as his little sister.)
Molly is in need of obedience school as well as whatever form of Ritalin dogs can take. Ufdah, she’s a ball of energy. She’s also 18 months old which makes her an overgrown, unmannered puppy that’s at least half Boxer. If you know anything about Boxers and young Boxers especially, it’s that they like to chew on things. (I know, that’s a dog trait regardless of breed. But Boxers. Oh boy.)
Anyhoo, it was pure Rockwellian moments around here, filled with the joys of Christmas vacation and full days spent in our pajamas, hunkered around the coffee table putting together Mister Soandso’s puzzle.
And then Molly ate a puzzle piece. Well, I should say, she tasted a puzzle piece. Because she definitely spit it out. Apparently she wasn’t looking for that much fiber in her diet that day. Because after she chewed and slurped on it, she spit it out. Which is when I realized what she had done.
Parts of the poor desiccated and masticated puzzle piece proved it to have some orange bits. But what precise shade of orange bits was a bit difficult to deduce. However, serious puzzlers that we are, we decided to persevere. Surely we could complete a puzzle in spite of one missing piece.
Let me interject a bit of familial puzzling practices. Mister Soandso is a big fan of somehow putting together large chunks of a puzzle when no one is looking. And Middlest has been a jigsaw puzzler extraordinaire since her age could be counted in barely double monthly digits. She shares the Mister’s ability to find random pieces out of the motley pile that somehow go together. I’m a “build the frame and fill it in” sort of gal. Biggest and Littlest follow my lead to some extent as well. In other words, we all have a bit of our own style, but ultimately, often vary things up a bit when eye strain or frustration gets too great.
Surely, one piece wouldn’t stump us too greatly.
And then Miss Molly Brown ate another piece.
She’s a sneaky thing. Very casually she walks past the coffee table, which happens to be at muzzle height for her. And in a way that is both disgusting and amazing, she flicks out her tongue and then “tongues up” puzzle pieces like some odd sort of ant-eater. Or, in this case, puzzle-eater.
We all sighed and then decided to muddle through. After all, even with 2 pieces missing, we could technically still complete the puzzle.
Of course, we all know what is coming. Right? One dog, five humans…it can only go well from here. It probably would have if it weren’t for a cup of coffee set where it should not have been set.
One dog, five humans, one cup of coffee, and one dog’s tail later and we put the soggy remnants back in the box to be recycled.
Some puzzles just are not meant to be solved. I had this revelation only hours before everyone else was make resolutions.
No matter how much we search for the answer, the magician’s hands may still move faster than our eyes can follow. And even if we can keep up with the magician, we still might not be able to puzzle things into a solution. Because some puzzles can not be solved.
Puzzles like love and literacy and cancer and the meaning of life. Puzzles like these are not meant to be figured out, only worked upon.
So this year, Miss Molly Brown and I will be working on lots of things. Puzzling things out, if you will. Some of those things will be how to walk and stay and be quiet. And some of those things will be how to let go of needing to puzzle things out.