LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Given that we’re geographically scattered all over the place, my family doesn’t have a lot of traditions. But the one thing we can rely on year after year is our Christmas jigsaw puzzle.
For the past three years, I’ve been the one to choose it since my family has come to Kentucky, and I admit to having quite a good time browsing through the options on Amazon. One year, we did a scene from Old Montreal. Last year involved a horse-drawn carriage. And this year was a wintery scene at twilight involving a church, a Christmas tree, a few bridges and lots of sky and snow.
But when we opened it up and started turning the pieces over, we realized all of these mini scenes were actually made up of slightly varying shades of purple: lilac, lavender, amethyst, plum, the works. Not only that, we quickly realized the puzzle pieces themselves were shockingly unique, making it very difficult to anticipate what piece would go where. Often, we’d find two pieces would fit into a space where we’d only expected one, and some of the pieces had flat sides, almost as though they belonged on the puzzle edge.
But we got to work, the kitchen table soon taken over by seven bowed heads.
When we “puzz,” as my little brother Matthew calls it, each of us has a job. My puzzle nickname, which I get strange satisfaction from, is The Masher. I generally take over the hardest part — the sky or snow — gather all of the like-colored pieces and start piecing them together. It’s slow work, but for some reason it relaxes me and I like that I’m doing a part no one else is interested in so I’m left on my own.