Monday, February 22, 2010

Come Together

“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.


  1. What a sweet story, and how funny about the "tear our family apart" joke. I'm happy to see that your family can come together like that. Very inspiring. :)

  2. Thanks, Shelley. I have a feeling that the next time we visit, there will be a puzzle waiting for us. Knowing my daughter, she'll assume there will always be a new one for the family to tackle because when she does something once, she believes it's a routine.

  3. I like how your daughter doesn't "believe in beginning with corner pieces." How funny! Such a sweet story.

  4. I had an experience like this once during a borning holiday where we all took turns reading a Discworld novel to each other (commenting on another blog a few days ago made me think of this... at least I *think* it was a different blog! Apologies if I'm repeating myself). It turned out to be what got my mum reading fantasy novels again...

  5. Oh jigsaws are so addictive. You can't help but stop and put a couple of pieces together. Suddenly a few hours have slipped by!

  6. Tiffany, she'd rather begin with a part she likes rather than corners, which drives me crazy. It must be the age.

    Hampshireflyer, you're not repeating yourself. Reading together sounds lovely. One time, we took a long car ride listening to "Hatchet" on CDs. It wound up being something we all enjoyed.

    Niki, they are addictive! That's why I observed the puzzle piecing instead of participating. I have posts and manuscripts to work on.

  7. I loooove puzzles! I was tempted to buy a box of puzzles at Walmart a few weeks ago. It was about $15, for several different puzzles. They were individually bagged but came together in one big box. I can't imagine not believing in starting with corners though. I always complete the perimeter first.

    I can't wait for a chance to use "____ is tearing our family apart!" So funny. :)

  8. Awwwww!!

    How lovely!! And you all did it! How wonderful. It's so good to know that even the telly couldn't .. erm.. tear your family away from the puzzle! Excellent.

    I've had a cat puzzle (100 pieces) that I've been trying to start for over a couple of years now. The pic on the box looks good!


    Take care

  9. Wasn't there a line in "Rebel Without a Cause" where James Dean yells out, "You're Tearing Me Apart!!!!" It's funny how with all of our high-tech entertainment gadgets, the traditional things are still the most fun. I'm not a puzzle person, but I love board games. I still get together with some old high school friends to play these same types of games that we played back in the old days before we had responsibilities. We are actually getting together again in a few days. Good times. Great story.

  10. Surfie, I find the corners, then work on the perimeter, and go from there.

    Old Kitty, I'd rather do puzzles of impressionist paintings than landscapes with a lot of dark spots. My daughter would love doing a cat puzzle. You should do it!

    Paul, I haven't seen "Rebel Without a Cause" in years. I know my son hasn't seen it. That's funny that the lines are similar.

    Have fun playing board games. My daughter has been playing "Operation" with me these days. Remember that one? I'm just as bad at it.

  11. We do the total outline when we put puzzles together. Then work our way in.

    Makes me want to pull a puzzle out now. LoL.

    P.S. there is an award for you on my blog.

  12. Aw, what a nice story! The 'tearing our family apart' line had me giggling!

  13. Quixotic, puzzles are addicting. I have a feeling that the next time I'll be as obsessed as everyone else. My mother-in-law e-mailed me earlier to tell me that she finished the puzzle.

    Kat, thanks for the comment.

  14. I love doing puzzles with my kids. We have a set of four, one depicting each season, and I like to get these out in December and work on them through the month. I don't know why December - tradition, I guess. It's just hard because it ties up the table that my kids use to draw on, and we can't leave it out downstairs because the dog would eat it. :(

  15. Susan, I agree that where to put the puzzles is tricky. My husband put it on a box that just held it, so if anyone kicked it, the puzzle would've been a mess. My father has a large folding table that he uses for puzzles.

  16. I am going to use that line. You should probably trademark it. ;)

  17. I'm too impatient for puzzles, but this is such a sweet story. : )

  18. Rebecca, I give you permission to use it.

    Kinberly, thanks for the comment.

    Kathleen, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  19. Sheila, do you have one that you're working on?

  20. "Cursive is tearing our family apart!" I love it! And I love how you used it as a recurring theme to bring your family together.

    We have one that we use on birthdays, holidays, big gatherings, etc with all our kids. When it seems like stuff happens to threaten ruination, someone will shout, "This is the worst Christmas EVER!" or "This is the worst birthday EVER!" And we all laugh, pressure is relieved and it's back to fun and games.

  21. Karen, I love your story! That IS a great pressure reliever.

    My son has also used, "This is the worst..." when he's upset, but we haven't diffused it with humor like your family does (Something to think about). And to think my daughter has the reputation for being dramatic...

  22. The story is nice. I could relate him to my daughter.

  23. Phil-Am OSI, thank you for the comment. I'm glad you could relate to the story.

  24. Hi Theresa, Yes, I could relate to the story. Thanks for the response. You're nice!

  25. I fondly remember putting puzzles together with my family when I was younger. We'd have a puzzle in progress on a table in a room and just take a few moments away from the day to add some pieces. When it was done it was an achievement for all of us. It was great.

    Your post came at a great coincidence when I was talking about puzzle memories with friends and mentioned and linked to this post from my own blog. Thanks for sharing your memories.

  26. Tim, thanks for sharing your story. And thank you for linking my blog to your blog.

  27. I really loved this wonderful blog. Please keep up the good work.