Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays To All.
So, what are you doing on this Christmas Day?
Me? I was getting ready to list an item in my Etsy shop Old Raven. (What can I say, I like keeping busy.)
This is a puzzle from (around) the 1930’s. I was preparing to make my listing when I realized that other listings for similar puzzles all showed them assembled in at least one of the shots. So, I decided what the heck…I’ll just put this thing together then I’ll know if all the pieces are here and I can get an ‘assembled’ shot.
After all, there’s only “over 250 pieces”. Oh don’t groan, this is just a baby puzzle compared to many I’ve assembled in my day. I crack my knuckles and get to work.
The moment I emptied the box onto the table, old memories rushed at me.
When I was just a little girl, in the late 50’s early 60’s, puzzles were a regular form of entertainment in our house. There were five kids in my family, we were poor, certainly by today’s standards, and things like Malls, bike parks, X Box – well – Santa hadn’t come up with those yet and even television was black and white and only had three channels.
Now the first rule of puzzle making is to flip all the pieces right side up and build your edges all the way around.
Then, just start filling in. This puzzle claims it’s “interlocking” but I think that’s stretching the definition of the word. Maybe it’s my abilities, after all it’s been over 50 some odd years.
But I’m reminded that every Christmas there was always a puzzle going. The players would come and go, but when you’re working on a puzzle with well over 1000 pieces, well you’ve got time to take a break now and then.
Usually, it was just my immediate family on Christmas Day – Mom, Dad, Grams (who lived with us) and my four siblings. But occasionally, Aunt Jessie and Uncle Bob would visit from California.
Oh yeah, did you notice – this puzzle does have a picture but it’s very small and in blue and white. This will certainly add to the challenge but that reminds me of another aspect of childhood puzzle making.
My dad, for a short time, belonged to a puzzle club. Sometimes he got puzzles that came in a box with NO picture and to step up your game a bit – there were handfuls of puzzle pieces in there that didn’t belong to the puzzle you were making. We’re talking competitive puzzle making here!
But on those years the aunt and uncle visited I learned about what I considered to be fair sportsmanship. While all the kids in the family worked steadily on the puzzle my Uncle Bob would check in to oversee the progress. And apparently, at the same time, would slip one of the puzzle pieces into his pocket.
So we would work hours on this puzzle, getting to the end only to find – HEY – there’s a piece missing. The floor was examined, the dog was accused and frustration mounted until Uncle Bob would wander back in and, with a flourish, add the last piece to the puzzle with a wink and a smile.
I have to say, being at the bottom of five kids I think that I already had a pretty good handle on ‘life isn’t always fair’. So I grew up knowing that if the Uncle was in town, the reason you couldn’t find that puzzle piece was because it was probably in Uncle Bob’s pocket (schmuck). I also know that I was also realizing my talent for puzzle construction and I was pretty darn good.
And as I built this puzzle I realized just how much ‘skill’ actually goes into building a puzzle. They’re great for hand eye coordination and for developing the small muscles in the hand that allows kids to grasp and move puzzle pieces with precision.
And for adults: “Doing a puzzle reinforces connections between brain cells, improves mental speed and is an especially effective way to improve short-term memory. Jigsaw puzzles improve your visual-spatial reasoning.”
They also taught me right and wrong – absconding with a puzzle piece so you can put the last one in when you didn’t take so much as a moment to place any other piece – wrong.
I never wanted to pull an “Uncle Bob” when building with my siblings, but I loved challenging myself and each time I added a piece it was certainly a small victory for ME.
And the good news is…this old, old puzzle still has all its pieces and it’s actually very pretty. I’m glad I took the time to put it together and even the run down memory lane was interesting.
Though on a weird note, no there wasn’t any pieces missing but as it turned out…there was an extra piece that didn’t belong to this puzzle. I wonder if this company was known for adding a piece just to mess with the puzzle builder or if it was simply a serendipitous event that there’s an extra here. (That wasn’t you Uncle Bob, was it?)
This was a fun and unexpected gift this Christmas, I remembered that I really like building puzzles and that I’m still very good at it.
If you haven’t tried puzzles yet or, like me, it’s been longer than you can remember…give it go. Just don’t be an “Uncle Bob”.
Stay Safe – Kriss