March 23, 2015
The other day, my brilliant oldest daughter Dylan dumped puzzle pieces from their box. “It’s been a while since we’ve done a family puzzle,” she said.
“You’re right. The last one was that “Wizard of Oz” monstrosity.” That puzzle’s complexity had left miniscule puzzle pieces littering our table for weeks. We laughed as we turned each cardboard bit of this present work to its shiny, colored surface.
“This one looked like it would be easy,” she said.
I considered the box depicting a rather steampunk-influenced Cinderella. Lots of blue and white and the pieces, though only 550 in number, were small. I didn’t say anything.
We called the others to join us. Alexis was busy with teenaged pursuits and declined. Matthew and Sarah tried to be of help, but their skills lacked. They quickly grew bored with simply sorting according to small clues and colors and abandoned us to play something else. Even picking a family activity proved puzzling.
Dylan and I evaluated our progress. Gaps made us believe there were missing edge pieces. Cinderella’s single eye seemed to imply, “Well, are you going to get on with it?” Most of the pieces lay scattered across the dining room table. Dyl shrugged. “I thought it would be easy.”
I smiled. Nothing ever is.
“I need to make lunch. Hungry?” I asked.
She stayed to continue the puzzle while I prepared the meal. While plating, Alexis walked into the room, stiff with teen-aged distress, arms crossed like a barrier before her stomach.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
With reluctance she revealed her latest dilemma.
I listened and offered what help I could imagine.
Tears danced in her eyes but never rolled over her cheeks. She shook her head. “No, you don’t understand!” She stormed to closet herself in her bedroom.
I slumped against the counter. “Never do, it seems,” I thought. I called the kids for lunch. Alexis’ attendance required calling, knocking on her door, and then finally demanding she eat. She did so with sighs and slumps and reluctance.
As we chewed, I thought how like a puzzle each person is. I focused on Alexis, with her guarded posture and secretive ways. Alexis, who never used the words “I love you.” Alexis who distrusted friendship and pushed it away for fear of further heartaches. I searched for the missing pieces, considering empirical knowledge and emotional language as I sipped my soup.
After cleaning up the lunch things, I rejoined Dylan at the table. The puzzle looked different. The border pieces formed a complete rectangle.
I asked, “Did you find the missing pieces?”
Dyl fitted a bit of the design into a wide, white swath. “No, we had things wrong. I moved that to this part, and this over there.”
I nodded. I appointed Cinderella’s face with a nose and another eye framed with upswept blonde locks bound with blue ribbon. Each piece I chose fit with ease.
Dyl experienced similar success.
“Maybe eating lunch helped?” she said.
“Or stepping away from it refreshed our perspective,” I said.
Cinderella’s secretive smile shone from the broken picture while my words echoed through my thoughts. I contemplated the little distance, time, and perseverance required to complete a puzzle. How much more complicated was life?
I pushed back from the table, hoping enough time passed so that I could better approach the puzzle that was Alexis and her latest situation.
The key was to never give up, to try every combination until it all fit.
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