Elbows and Puzzles

I learned in my family that jigsaw puzzles were worked by turning all the pieces right side up, sorting out the border pieces and putting the border together first. Then you start on the most obvious parts and put those together, putting them into the frame as they seem to fit. Then you work the hard, all-one-color or random pattern areas last — if at all.

Living in a diverse community, however, reveals more complex patterns, or personalities. At Takoma Village, we have a jigsaw puzzle set up all the time in one corner of the common house sun room. I have learned that not every family starts with the border, some people prefer the freedom from interference they find in working the less obvious plain shapes first, some consider looking at the end-state picture too easy, some quit as soon as it is clear that even one piece is missing, and some won’t put any pieces together until all the pieces are sorted into little baggies of similar color and texture. Some want a hard puzzle that that will last forever, and others love a puzzle that can be finished in one sitting.

At first there was shock over this, then arguing, sometimes logical. Then there were elbows and  midnight reconfigurations. Over time, we have informally worked out a pattern. We alternate hard (complex subtle colors with 1000+ pieces) and easy (bright multi-colored images of 500) puzzles. The sorters no longer insist on sealed baggies filled first but the border constructers respect their piles and bowls. When the first one there starts with images the border people stand aside for a few days until they can’t take it anymore. Those who do well with the one-blue sky don’t waste their energy on the faces, leaving the simpler parts to those who enjoy less challenge. Those who like birds don’t complain about the buildings again until it’s been three in a row.

A person who wants to pick the next puzzle puts it on the table when the current puzzle is almost finished. If someone doesn’t like it, they complain to someone else. The telephone tree goes into operation and the puzzles get switched.

It works until a new person moves in who learned to work puzzles another way or who totally misses the importance of the puzzle sitting on the corner of the table or the  pile of cherry-red pieces next to the pile of tomato-red.

With all this, we finally finished the 9000+ Tower of Babel we started years ago. It’s been done for a few weeks but with the holidays, we wanted to wait to celebrate until it could be the center of attention. More later.