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Piecing it all together

Even in this year of stress and duress, Christmastime seems to be the favored for families to re-meet, re-greet and, with a little bit of luck, enjoy each other’s company.

The enthusiastic welcomes were . . . well, welcome. The dirty clothes (is that the entire semester’s worth?) unloaded as well as a few gaily wrapped presents. The majority were to be purchased locally – now that there’s time right after connections remade with old friends also home for the vacation.

To quote someone else to speak our unspoken thought, “The next morning they were all gone again. Though Duane had been happy to see them, he was also relieved that they were gone. . . He loved his family, but even the brief time he had spent with them made him long for the simplicity of his solitude.” Thank you Larry McMurthy.

Those pre-Christmas days – yes, days – were indeed hectic (joyful bedlam as it were) – disappeared in a wink. The Eve was properly celebrated at one’s church – or another. I recall one special year we, leaving after midnight, were greeted by a newly laid blanket of white. So it would be a white Christmas after all!

The next morning was dedicated family time in all homes but then the youngsters were off to see what their friends has received plus sharing some of their new surprises.

I’d never call what followed “the doldrums” but one did begin to hear complaints of “There’s nothing to do.”

Hardly! Just time for the annual jigsaw break! What better way to include all comers whether kibitzing for a minute or settling in to ponder for the next hour or so? All are welcome of course – and, as I learned later, the best possible way to “de-stress.”

Readers Digest had an article on jigsaws, “Piece of Mind.” I’m stealing their title for mine. To quote from the April issue “Don’t get me wrong – I love seeing my family. But holiday get-togethers have a way of putting any personal shortcomings at center stage.” And, with a puzzle,“I felt possessed by the soothing, methodical action, almost like I’d been hypnotized or spent hours meditating.”

I hadn’t gotten one of my puzzles out since the kids left and didn’t return during the winter. The wooden ones are favored of course though do have a tendency to break after a few decades of neglect. Still, the dining room was empty . . . and waiting!

I suspect once (IF – am I truly that patient, knowing how much else I should be doing?) completed, I’ll break it up again and stow it away for another holiday visitor with time on her hands.

Want an extra for yourself – or family? I see ads in the papers every so often – selling here for two dollars a piece. That’s a good deal – but does the seller promises all the pieces are there? I’m not positive even mine is “perfect.” Guess I’ll discover in time.

I’m sure jigsaws are readily available at any general puzzle-type store – of course masks required (but not to do the puzzle).

It did surprise me to see, in their latest catalogue, that even the USPS had four for sale ($13.99). Somebody laid various stamps in a quite boring order to create them: “Classics,” “America Smiles,” “Love” or “Presidential,” each with 1000 pieces measuring 24 x 30.”

I also read about a Canadian dance instructor who fell in love with the puzzle’s soothing effect, ultimately using it rather than her prescribed medication to relax.

“If you’re doing a puzzle, you are, by definition, disconnected and engaged in a task that’s immersive, away from the interruptions and stresses of day-to-day life. And that, of course is good for your brain,” quoting Susan Vandermorris, a clinical neuropsychologist in Toronto.

When I was in college one of the experiments I ran used a large 12-piece puzzle. I spray-painted both sides green and was admittedly flabbergasted to see how many of my subjects of various ages were stymied if I simply left one piece turned over. I know there are double-sided jigsaws now but I’ll happily stick with one. That’s challenge enough for me.

It’s “just” a simple 400-piece with no picture included.

Susan Crossett has lived in Arkwright for more than 20 years. A lifetime of writing led to these columns as well as two novels. “Her Reason for Being” was published in 2008 with “Love in Three Acts” following in 2014. Information on all the Musings, her books and the author may be found at Susancrossett.com.

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