The Jigsaw Puzzle

She was too exhausted to untie the bundle.  He stood next to her and excitedly pulled at the bow that was wrapped tightly around the four corners of the blanket.  His hands were shaking.  He fumbled a bit, but the blanket fell open to reveal the most precious gift.  He gently placed the baby in her arms.  They didn’t notice the green organza bag that fell out of the blanket to the floor.

They cooed at the baby while the nurse placed the green bag inside an overnight bag.

__________

A couple days later a tired, happy, new mom unpacked the overnight bag.  Inside she found the shiny green bag.  Was it a gift from the hospital?  In her exhaustion, had she forgotten who’d brought her this unusual gift?  She opened the bag to find seven brightly colored pieces from a jigsaw puzzle.  Surely there was a puzzle somewhere that was missing important pieces.  Who could this belong to?

She was too tired to sort out the mystery, so she placed the green bag on the shelf above the changing table.

Eighteen months later, the cries in the night are a sign of teething.  In her sleepy stupor she reaches above the changing table for something the baby might chew on.  She feels around in the dark and her hand lands on the silky bag full of puzzle pieces.  She pulls the bag down and reminds herself to ask her husband if he might know about the bag.  She puts the bag back up on the shelf.

__________

Another year passes and another baby arrives.  This one comes with an organza bag of puzzle pieces, too.  On the day of this baby’s birth, a single puzzle piece arrives in the mail for the first child.

If a home isn’t busy enough with one baby, it’s crazy with two.  The piece that arrived in the mail is placed in the bag that still sits on the shelf above the changing table.

The second child’s puzzle bag is placed in a drawer next to freshly laundered onsies and tiny socks that are already too small.

There will be time to solve this mystery, but not today.

__________

It’s the first day of kindergarten for the first child.  The teacher hands a puzzle piece to each new student with specific instructions to add this new piece to their puzzle.  He brings the piece home in his lunch box.

It’s time to take down the shiny green bag from the shelf above the changing table, dust it off and sort into flat-edged pieces and inside pieces.  Some of the pieces fit, some are waiting for more pieces before they can be placed.

They work on the puzzle as a family.  They comment on the bright colors and wonder what the finished puzzle will look like.  They try to remember where they ever got the pieces to begin with.  Because they need more pieces, they put the puzzle aside.

__________

The years go by filled with football games, ski races, school dances and family dinners.  Puzzle pieces show up at the oddest times.  One came wrapped as a Christmas gift from grandma.  One is found at the bottom of a smelly locker under a biology book.  A piece was under the stool where he took his first crush for a coke.  One was found in the glove compartment in dad’s car on the last day of driver’s training.  Another came with a college acceptance letter.  Another was found under the banana split mom had made him to ease his first broken heart.

More pieces were put into place and now the border was finished.  Still some pieces needed other pieces before they would fit.

__________

College graduation, the first big job, marriage, the first home, the second and third jobs and babies of his own – each momentous occasion brings a new piece.

Divorce brings a pile of pieces.  Some fit and some don’t.  Those pieces are the hardest to put in place, but without them the puzzle wouldn’t be complete.

He wonders how many more pieces before the puzzle is finished.  How many more experiences before he is done?  Each new relationship brings a piece, and the failure of a relationship brings a special piece that gets him that much closer to finishing his puzzle.

He learns that he gathers more pieces when he is more involved with his children.  Sometimes, on the weeks he has the kids, they work on the puzzle together.  They have puzzles of their own, too.

The more he works at life, the harder he tries, the more he puts himself out there, the more pieces he gathers.

Should he try to find a partner?  He wonders if the risk of a broken heart is worth it.  Maybe it’s easier to go it alone.  Maybe he’s too set in his ways to make a relationship work.   He wonders if he needs to be in a relationship in order to discover more puzzle pieces.

He opens the desk drawer to look for a pen.  He digs around in the back of the drawer and his hand brushes against smooth fabric.  He pulls out a green organza bag.  The only thing inside the bag is a small note that reads:  Additional pieces are only awarded to those who keep trying.

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15 comments

  1. Another great metaphor. You are one heckuva writer!

  2. It’s hard to keep trying when you want to protect your heart! It’s a really good question is it really worth it to risk your heart after having it ripped out.

  3. Pat,

    Thanks for stopping by. ;)

  4. Kath,

    It is hard. And it makes you strong. And sometimes you wonder, “Just how strong do I have to be?”

    And then you try again. It’s in our DNA to pair up.

  5. I agree with Pat! She is smart and recognizes good talent. :)

    The question I keep asking myself is:

    How will you know it can be good if you keep dwelling on the bad?

  6. Z,

    Excellent question.

    I keep asking myself: WHY do you keep dwelling on the negative?

    Good is out there. I see it. I know it’s there. When will I begin to see that I am worthy of good?

  7. When you get it unconditionally…

  8. That makes a lot of sense.

  9. I also think there needs to be some level of detachment from the old self. If we were still those people, we would be in the same old situations. We have made drastic changes, bravely faced the new, and refused to accept we were the problem. Now, if we could just quit being so hard on ourselves and see that the new person in the mirror is our true reflection. xx

  10. Z,

    Agreed. Maybe that’s the value of the puzzle. As we put in another piece we look at the whole puzzle and say things like, “Whoa, that was tough. Lesson learned. Not goin’ there again.” Or… “Hey, that was good. I like being around those kinds of people and the way I felt then. Might wanna go there again.” Or… “Why did I ever think my hair looked good like that?”

    All those pieces created the whole.

  11. Hey! Loved this piece. Great writing! Do not stop, I say. Do not stop!

  12. Toni,

    Thank you! And thanks for stopping by.

  13. Lovely. Really lovely.

  14. Toni,

    You are too kind. When are you coming for a visit?

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