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Been There, Done That

Published: January 5, 2013 4:00 AM

My family went ahead and did it and got me a new jigsaw puzzle for Christmas. I love working puzzles. I could have one set up on a permanent basis. When I finish one, just move on to the next one.

I don't know if I love them because my Mom and Dad kept buying them for me when I was growing up, or if they kept buying them because they knew I loved them.

Of course, I started out like every other little kid with the wooden four-piece kind. I graduated up to the ones my great-grandma sent away for -- pictures of my Mom and her sister made into 20-piece puzzles.

After that, I remember a 50-piece map of the United States. It was on a cardboard back -- the kind where you could cheat by matching up the pieces to the shape of the indentations in the cardboard.

That's when I made the big jump to a 100-piece, no-cardboard-cheater puzzle. From there, my parents decided to go in leaps and bounds, buying me ever more challenging puzzles. I cruised through 250-piece, 500-piece and 750-piece puzzles.

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I took over the dining room table when they got me one with 1,000 pieces. We had to put both leaves in the table when they got me a 5,000-piece puzzle.

After Dave and I got married, we spent a lot of time at home because we were broke-broke. He worked on his plastic car models and I busied myself with whatever new puzzle my parents got me. We never ate at the kitchen table anyway, so I had plenty of room to spread out in our apartment.

He said he didn't have the patience to do a puzzle. I'll tell you what I didn't have the patience for, sticking a toothpick dipped in paint through the window of a 6-inch-long car to paint the gauges on the dashboard or using it to paint the white letters on tires that were no bigger around than a quarter.

We used his finished models to decorate around the apartment and we glued my puzzles to cardboard and used them for artwork on the walls. Like I said, we weren't just broke, we were broke-broke.

In the meantime, my parents continued to challenge me. I couldn't do a puzzle bigger than 5,000 pieces unless I spread it out on the kitchen floor, so they aimed for harder instead of bigger.

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Lots of people work a puzzle by checking the picture on the box. I just go by the colors. Technically, it could be a big surprise of what the picture is when I get done because I don't build it by "oh, there's a fish here or lion there." That's a legacy from Mom and Dad. In their quest for harder and harder puzzles, they began drifting away from nature scenes that have distinct differences in colors and went more for things like stars in a night sky, stuff that was very nearly all one color.

One of the toughest ones I did was nothing but cats drawn in black outlines on a white background. No color whatsoever. In fact that was part of the point of the puzzle. You were supposed to color it with pencils or markers after you put it together.

After that, they gave me one that was about 4-foot-tall that when finished was a working grandfather clock. Dave put together the clock stuff and oh yeah, that one went on the wall.

Then the baby came and once he got mobile, no more puzzles for me. Sticky little fingers are no good for puzzle pieces.

That puzzle dry spell lasted way too long for me -- and then my family gave me one for Christmas this year. I've learned that puppy paws attached to a way too inquisitive 11-month-old half-Rottweiller, half-Beagle are no good for puzzle pieces either.

So far as we know, he only mangled one piece of this 500-piece puzzle. We won't know for sure if he destroyed more until we get closer to getting it done.

I do know that I've been spending way too much of my time working on the puzzle. I have a kink in my right shoulder that refuses to go away. I've tried using my left hand to place the pieces, but my broken finger still doesn't bend very well and it's about half numb. Not so good for picking up puzzle pieces.

And now the kids want me to hurry up and be done with it so the card table can be used for other games. Sorry, but puzzles are back in my blood now. I think we need to invest in another table.

Copyright 2013 Laura Nethken

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