Jigsaw Conversation

Leslie finishing 3000 piece jigsaw puzzle_DSCF0628Ah, Christmas. We’ve looked forward to it all year. There’s a crackling fire in the fireplace while snow softly carpets the ground outside. Stockings are hung, presents are wrapped, cookies are baked. Carols play quietly in the background while the succulent turkey browns in the oven. Best of all, the family is gathered together, perhaps for the first time all year.

And everyone is staring at their smart phone.

Not quite the family moment you’d envisioned? I have the perfect solution. It costs under $20 (sometimes half that), requires no batteries, and is guaranteed to bring the family together around the table. No, It’s not the turkey. It’s a jigsaw puzzle.

Did I mention some assembly is required?

I learned the secret of the jigsaw puzzle back when our girls were in high school. Like typical teenagers, they’d come home, grab a snack, and make a beeline for their bedrooms. My “how was school?” earned a “fine-gotta-go-call-my-friends-love-you” and the door would close. Mind you, my kids were amazing kids. We happily escaped the sullen resentment, rolled eyes (at least while I was looking), and curled lip. I loved having teenagers. It’s just that hanging out with the ‘rents was low on the priority list, especially once boyfriends showed up.

But I was sneaky. I’d set up a jigsaw puzzle on the family room table. Yes, I did the hard part. I turned over all the pieces. I’d separate out the edges, then sort the rest into color groupings. Sometimes I’d sit there for quite a while, silently hunting for an innie with a wiggle on the side and a touch of blue on the corner. But eventually, especially when the puzzle was nearing completion, the irresistible lure of the Last Piece would win out, and I’d have company. And, as everyone concentrated on the puzzle, the conversation would begin to flow.

At first, we’d mutter “where is that piece?” and “has anyone seen a red piece with two white stripes?” But then the small talk would give way to more important matters. I learned about the kids who smoked behind the building during youth group, the boring biology teacher (horrors—how can biology be boring?!), the mean kid on the bus, and the ups and downs of navigating high school fashions on a budget. I could encourage, sympathize, and sometimes even slip in some advice.

I cherished every moment.

Now our girls are grown, with girls of their own. With one living 1,400 miles away, and the other juggling work, childcare, and a social life, we just can’t be together as much as we’d all like. When we do get a chance to be together, such as last month for Thanksgiving, I don’t want to squander a single moment behind a screen.

So out comes a new jigsaw puzzle, one with at least 1,000 pieces. If we set it up downstairs, our granddaughters can play with the toys in the family room while us adults chat around the table—and the pieces are hopefully out of the reach of little fingers.

I’m sure there are lots of ways to ditch the phones and connect face to face. Doing a puzzle is what works for us.

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