Circa 1968: Mississauga, Ontario
To help celebrate the arrival of a weekend my Mother would occasionally come home from work on a Friday night with a brand new and unopened jigsaw puzzle.
Sometimes they would be as large as two thousand pieces.
It would be delegated to the kitchen table and opened immediately after dinner.
Then the fun will begin.
Even as a young child I was allowed to participate.
My first task on the Friday night would be to find all of the end pieces. End pieces consisted of a jigsaw puzzle piece with one or two totally straight sides and these pieces would make the outside frame. Corner pieces, were especially prized.
I performed this task efficiently and I performed it well.
That evening, I would always go to bed content because all of the outside pieces had been found and set in place as well.
We would meet up the next morning to work on the puzzle over toast, cereal and coffee.
It was then that I was put in charge of finding all the blue sky pieces.
The puzzles that Mother chose usually consisted of a beautiful mountain scene with a little village on the side.
Now that I think about it I have always been fond of mountain vistas.
Maybe this is why.
My father was usually the one who put together the sky pieces. He seem to have the meticulous nature that it took to do so. Further, he had the most patience.
And so we spent the day around the kitchen table.
At some point in the afternoon a bowl of potato chips would be introduced.
If I had been happy in my place as a useful participant, I was now extremely happy and well snacked too.
If anyone came to the door as sometimes happened, they were invited to sit down and join us.
And they did.
After I had found all the blue sky pieces I would then be asked to separate the rest of the colours. There would be brown and green for the mountains, white for the clouds, royal blue for the water, and the red and yellow pieces usually denoted tiny little houses and chalets.
By the time I went to bed on Saturday night I would usually cast a weary eye at all the pieces that yet remained unsorted. Would we be able to get them all put together by Sunday night’s dinner?
Hopefully, we had not lost any pieces.
Tomorrow would tell, I thought as I headed towards the stairs to go to bed.
We resumed at the table Sunday morning.
Sometimes, conversation, housework, laundry or a long phone call would put a hold on the puzzle’s progress much to my chagrin.
I wanted less talk and more puzzle action if we were to finish.
And it last…
…and always before dinner the last piece of the puzzle was finally placed and we all breathed a sigh of relief.
Then we would ceremoniously transfer the puzzle to the spare upstairs bedroom where we kept Father’s movie projector, reel to reel tape recorder and Mother’s fat burning jiggle machine.
Of course there were a great many other finished puzzles that we had already completed on the desk, on the floor and on the couch.
Last May while my Mother was in hospice during her last days, the Interval House kept a beautiful puzzle on the table by the front window in the parlor.
I welcomed being able to sit there and maybe find a piece or two during the moments that the medical staff were tending to Mother’s needs.
It was such a comfort.
The last day that I stayed at her apartment right after she had died I found another puzzle table near a back door entrance of her apartment building.
I can’t help but wonder if Mother ever knew that it was there.
Had I known it was there I might have spent some time sorting out a few pieces rather than sitting alone in her apartment.
About two years ago I rediscovered jigsaw puzzles, except these were the downloaded apps for my iPad. They have a tremendous assortment of scenes and themes.
It’s a good feeling to know that I can never lose a piece.
To be honest, I really miss the old-fashioned puzzles, like the feel of the little cardboard piece in your hand and the comforting little snap when it’s put in place.
I look forward to the day when I have the time and space to sit down with a real jigsaw puzzle again…
And make even more puzzling memories!