This morning, I spent an hour and a large cup of coffee finishing up the jigsaw puzzle that my daughters-in-law had begun on Christmas Day. It was a doozy. A New Yorker magazine cover from 1942, a woman riding a bicycle carrying a Christmas tree. The pieces were small, in unusual shapes. I’ve worked away at it since Christmas evening.
This morning I got down to one last piece and groaned because my last puzzle (of VanGogh’s “Sunflowers”) will never be finished. One last piece had disappeared (I blame the vacuum) in the months’ long process. Today,I looked for the piece, the last one in the Christmas tree carried on the bike. I got on my hands and knees to look under the sofa, stared down at the Oriental rug. The third time I checked under the coffee table, I saw the piece. Upside down, it was hiding in plain sight on the carpet design. I snapped the piece into place and beat a tattoo on the wooden table. “It’s finished,” I told my cat, who promptly settled herself on this new cardboard mattress I'd provided. And that is when realization dawned on me.
A puzzle can be finished. It takes time, what my husband used to call perseverance, and sometimes the help of other people, But with or without missing pieces, there is a time to declare a jigsaw finished. So much of life is never done. When a news story is published there’s often a reaction to write, or another fact turns up that shifts the writer’s understanding. When the laundry’s done, I shed the clothes I wore all day and pull out clean ones. I unload the dishwasher and immediately begin to refill it. So little of my life is ever finished. Maybe that’s the longing that a jigsaw puzzle can fulfill.