By Rick Houser –
Even though it was the heart of the winter, I always had chores to do on the farm. Some days it would snow and I might get in some sled riding. After obtaining my drivers license, I would head to Felicity and hang out at Swope’s Drug Store and listen to gossip or go over to Old Man Adams’ Pool Hall and shoot some pool or play some cards. Even though I did all of the above, it was still safe to say on winter days and especially long winter nights, I still had time that needed to be occupied.
The first thing that comes back to mind for me was how much I loved to work jigsaw puzzles. From the time that I was a little boy until my children had grown up, a jigsaw puzzle was always on the dining room or card tables. For anyone who has not seen or worked one, it is exactly what it says it is- a picture most often of a nature scene or landmark is photographed onto a cardboard type of thick surface and then cut into pieces that are then cut into different and odd shapes. Sounds simple enough and quite frankly the concept is.
First thing, take a 500-piece puzzle and spread the pieces out on the table, set up the box lid so the picture on the puzzle can be seen, and begin. This is where the simple concept can draw your attention to the fullest. The concentration can become mind shattering and best of all, hours will pass by faster than most any time you have ever spent on any other thing you have ever done.
My Mom once bought me three 450-piece puzzles to work. I found that I loved working jigsaws and I assembled those three a lot quicker than my Mom expected. I asked her when could we get some more and she said that it might be awhile. I asked her what I was supposed to do in the meantime. She smiled at me and said, “Try working them again?”
So I did. As a matter of fact I worked them many, many times. Finally I said I had worked them so much that I could assemble them blindfolded. Mom asked, “Have you tried doing them backwards?” So I turned the puzzles upside down and numbered the pieces and then assembled them. When my Mom saw that she gave in and next time in town she bought another puzzle and I think it was about 750 pieces and the scene on it was more than just one color, making it a lot harder to finish.
Again, I must remind you all that winter days and nights move slower and last longer. So what I have just explained filled only a small amount of my time, but I must say my urge to work jigsaw puzzles continued from that point on. It wasn’t just me at our house that liked to do a puzzle. The whole family would spend some time at the table searching and discovering pieces to add to the main body of the puzzle. Of course the biggest thrill of working the puzzle was being the one to install the last piece and being able to declare it finished. There were two sides to that though. Yes, you found the one that made it a whole picture but you were also the one who found the piece that ended the entertainment.
When I graduated from school and my cousin Walt and I began our five years of bachelor living, we almost always had a jigsaw in progress on a large table in the living room. One major change was we had advanced from 750-piece puzzles to over 1250-piece puzzles. We both liked working them. An interesting note is that as we would have friends stop by to visit and maybe plan to only see if we were going up town that night, they would almost always stop and begin to look for puzzle pieces to install, and this in turn caused later arrivals to town. I think the truth was in my days as a teen, night life in a small town was limited and not all that excitin. so missing an hour or more of it was never considered a great loss.
Even after I married and had children, my wife and I would keep a jigsaw puzzle on a card table and would spend some of our winter nights at that table looking for a special piece to install. When our children grew to the age of puzzle interest, they too would look and hunt for a piece to install. (Remember it is very important to look constantly at the boxes cover to memorize just where the leaves on the tree changed colors.) I believe that working these puzzles will sharpen your focus to details and solving what at first can look impossible to figure out, and solve it feeling that it wasn’t so hard after all.
We can easily compare the working of a jigsaw puzzle to how we might look at life. I see it this way. No matter the size of a puzzle and the number of pieces, we can’t really say we have seen how it is going to be solved until that last piece is put in. Our lives are a lot like that as individually we have to look at all the pieces that make us who we are and only then can we look and say, “Now I see where this is headed.”
Some puzzles are too difficult to finish and that one never gets to the conclusion, and that can be said about our lives. I know I must be a super huge puzzle with lots of pieces as I have been working on solving it for a very long time now. As a matter of fact, I am beginning to feel like I have about solved it. Now I look forward to the last piece to go in and when I find out I will let everyone know how I turned out. That should be a surprise to us all. Until then stay puzzled and move past some of these long winter nights.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. If you would like he may be able to speak to your group. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.