Jigsaw puzzles. What’s not to love? A favorite at preschools and nursing homes. And one of the few ways to gather a family of four around a card table without any battles, scoring, tears, game-piece assaults or flat-out accusations. Usually.
Every year I try to pass on my love for “jigging” to the children. It is only in the depths of winter that this is possible: when the novelty of snow has run its course, when there’s a blizzard raging or when they are sick of everything else on earth.
“Who wants to jig?” I ask.
I get out the puzzle, ignore their ignoring me and put on a small party all by myself while sorting pieces. I celebrate each find. I keep a close eye on my prey. I note they are marginally interested in the scream I let out about a zebra’s tail.
Set-up is crucial. I must first find all of the outside pieces. It will set the tone for the rest of the puzzle if the outside comes together in a beautiful rectangle of possibility.
On the other hand, one or two missing outside pieces and it’s the start of wild handfuls of gray-backed pieces sifted over gray-hued carpeting. I will have threatened them before we have even begun.
Finally I have my outside inventory completed. I have piqued their interest and, smartly, given them a 15-minute warning that their games are about to end and the real fun is about to begin.
“Guess what time it is?” I holler. Groans erupt. “Time to jig!”
I pound my flat open hands on the card table to make the pieces dance. They look in awe at my daring. If they were to do this, I would knock their blocks off.
They settle in, one child on each side, port and starboard. I’m in the stern, the driver’s seat, and the world, as they know it, is oriented to their mother for a change. My husband, if he can be guilted into it with one long look, will take the bow.
Our living room is about the size of a couch, a footstool, a chair and a loveseat pushed into a square. There is exactly, and I mean exactly, the size of a card table left in the middle. When we are jigging, the living room is shut down from normal operations. Remotes remain remote, feet remain unstooled, popcorn remains unpopped.
Instead, we have another old favorite on—the radio. A radio with a little antenna that is not connected to a surround-sound anything. I like to remind the children from where they came. In this case, a CD player.
Our favorite right now is Garth Brooks and his covers of country classics. When I hear Kendall sing a Conway Twitty song, I am pleased. Nay, giddy.
So, there we are. All wedged into a square, the TV off, the radio on, 500 pieces up for the taking. We aren’t actually looking at each other but there is bonding going on. There are pieces hammered in where they don’t belong, there are pieces dangling from sweatshirt sleeves and there are cats jumping on the table, wanting to be held
for the first time in a year and a half.
But in the end, in just two nights’ work, we have a beautiful, glossy, bumpy finished puzzle of baby jungle animals.
After a little admiring, I give them the joy of destruction, letting them crumple it into a pile again.
Then I suggest we donate the puzzle to school.
“Mom,” Nelson pauses. He has bad news to break. “Kids think jigsaw puzzles are lame.”
I suppose you have bad news about Conway Twitty next? I want to ask.
Then Kendall, throws me a bone: “But maybe it’s a little better than Clash of Clans.”
A little? I’ll take it. Now let’s go jig!