Jigsaw Puzzles · 9 January 2010

Jigsaw puzzles are a part of our family Christmas and New Year tradition. My wife, the Mindboggling Mrs. Miyoshi, always gets a puzzle and we all put it together in January. It is a nice way for us all to work together on something even if we are not always working on it at the same time.

I remember putting together jigsaw puzzles since I was a kid. My mom would set up a card table and we would have a great time putting that puzzle together. We would start out getting all the edge pieces and putting the border together. It was a great feeling getting the edges done and knowing how big the puzzle was. Then we would sort the pieces according to their different colors and start putting the picture together.

Of course, it was not always quite such a linear process. Somebody might find two pieces that fit together and put them close to where they might go even before the edges were finished. And on a hard puzzle, we might pick up a piece, compare it to the picture on the box, and set the piece where we thought it should go. Even if that place was in the middle of nowhere – a place in the puzzle where no pieces had yet been fitted.

It is a good thing our mom was patient. We put pieces together that did not fit. We knocked pieces on the floor. We probably even kept her from getting the puzzle done quickly. Still, regardless of how long it took or what the picture was, we had a great time together.

I am not sure whether we did those jigsaw puzzles together during Christmas break, but it makes sense that it was in the winter. Kids can not really spend a couple weeks away from school in the winter building snowmen every day without having something warm to do when they are done. We did not have video games back then and there were only four channels on the TV, so we entertained ourselves with games and jigsaw puzzles.

Today, even though our kids have video games, movies, and lots of channels on the TV, they still like to join in and help my wife and I put together the jigsaw puzzle each year. This year, one of the boys, Thing 2, said something that made my wife a little miffed at how I like to do jigsaw puzzles.

The reason she was miffed started even before I first started teaching which was also before I met The Mindboggling Mrs. Miyoshi. I had to take a leadership class for my Career and Technical Education (CTE) certification. At that class, we were given a task to write down the steps to put together a jigsaw puzzle. Our groups diligently wrote those steps down. When we were given our puzzles to piece together, we found, to our dismay, that the puzzles were not in boxes as they normally would be. There was no picture to refer to either. So we had to correct our instructions to reflect the situation.

In most of my classes, I do this same jigsaw activity each year. The puzzles are small and simple. My experience in my CTE certification class and my yearly activity for my students has led to me doing jigsaw puzzles without looking at the picture. Regardless of how many pieces there are or how difficult it might be, I do not look at the box. Well, I might take a quick look every once in a while, but in my mind, looking at the picture before the puzzle is finished is cheating. Which brings me back to the present time.

Thing 2 picked out this year’s puzzle as a Christmas gift to his mom. It is a very difficult puzzle because the picture is actually a mosaic of pictures that create a larger picture. Doing the puzzle is like doing puzzles inside puzzles. So when the Mindboggling Mrs. Miyoshi was looking at the picture on the box to help her place some pieces, she was doing what most people do when piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. But Thing 2 stated most emphatically, “You’re cheating!” After all, he had only been around us when doing jigsaw puzzles, and for the most part, we do not look at the picture.

Even though my wife was miffed at me and my jigsaw puzzle idiosyncrasy, I still laughed inside. My kids think that looking at the picture of the jigsaw puzzle is cheating. I had struck again without even knowing it.

I love our tradition of putting together a jigsaw puzzle each year around Christmas. It is a fun time together and it reminds me of my own childhood. It also lets me know that for good and bad, I put my indelible mark on my own children. And while I hate to give away the “secret” of one of my classroom activities, I love to tell stories of family. I hope you enjoyed this one. And I hope to regale you with many more stories of love, legacy, lunacy, and laughter.

© 2010 Michael T. Miyoshi

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