“We are one big family of people, trying to make our way through the unfolding puzzle of life.”
– Sara Paddison
When my son was in third-grade, he had to learn cursive. And by had to he thought that meant forced, which was an unfair and impossible hardship. The teacher gave an entire book of exercises to practice that was due by some date in the future. My constant nagging to get the workbook completed was met with typical resistance. As the due date loomed just ahead, I told him to complete a minimum number of pages done each day. During one of these homework battles, he exclaimed, “Cursive is tearing our family apart!”
That line was too good to forget, so I told my husband. Here and there, when my son complained, we’d use that line to fit with whatever my son was stubbornly refusing to do.
“Piano is tearing our family apart.”
“Vacuuming is tearing our family apart.”
“Compost bins are tearing our family apart.”
And so on.
My son loves reminiscing way back to two-years-ago, and laughing about the ridiculousness of the statement. He even likes to use in on his sister when she’s on the verge of one of her fits, “Baths are tearing this family apart!” So that’s our running family joke. For some reason, the story came up last week, and we wound up saying the line for everything.
We just finished our winter break, and we spent the last four days visiting family on Long Island in New York. At some point my daughter decided she was bored, so my husband got the idea to do a puzzle. The kids have puzzles at home, but none are over 100 pieces and the pictures vary enough so that they’re pretty easy. The one my mother-in-law took out was NOT one of those puzzles.
This puzzle contained 500 pieces, which included: a mountain, a forest, sky, and a few words on the bottom. Except for the words and the mountain, there wasn’t much variation. The sky and water were mostly a block of blue, and the trees and land were just dark. I raised an eyebrow in skepticism that my daughter would be entertained by piecing together this puzzle. Frustrated was more like it.
Since my daughter doesn’t believe in beginning with corner pieces, my husband and she started with all of the pieces with letters. Slowly but surely, the puzzle began to take shape. My mother-in-law joined in. recalling how much she and my father-in-law enjoyed doing puzzles until the 1000-piece buffalo one with only browns and yellows did them in. Later, my father-in-law took a turn. Any time people were in the den, from one to three people quietly worked on the puzzle, while I watched on in awe. I can’t think of any other project or hobby that’s had an effect on this family.
Because many hands were piecing the puzzle together, by the morning of our departure, most of the puzzle was completed. After breakfast and packing, I ran up to the bathroom to take a shower. When I came back down, my sister-in-law was there, and one of my nephews and son were working on the puzzle. During the course of this trip, at one time or another, seven people took a turn at this puzzle.
There are always so many places to go, so many things to do. I feel like my time is spent barking out commands, even if I pepper it with “please” or “honey.” When we’re on vacation, squeezing in family and friends forces a schedule as well. But the puzzle worked its magic, making people forget about doing anything else, including watching the Winter Olympics. While some things may “tear our family apart,” a puzzle brought our extended family together.