Saturday, December 26, 2020

A love story. In small pieces

Dear Anne Bentley:

never know where the 
 important lessons are

Anne, I live in Toronto, Ontario, with my wife Helena and our 14-old-cat Iris. 

I'm writing you this Boxing Day morning not only to wish you and yours a Happy Christmas and all the best for 2021 but also because on the coffee table in front of me sits a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle titled Love Lives Here that you designed the original art for. (I got your website info off the box.)

Anne, Helena and I are not jigsaw puzzle doers. 

Love Lives Here arrived as an out-of-the-blue gift from our good friend Bernadette Gillen a few weeks ago (no-occasion presents are the best) and when we initially unwrapped the parcel, my response--I think it's safe to report--was "Really? A jigsaw puzzle? I wonder who we know would like a jigsaw puzzle."


LIKE SNOWFLAKES: No two puzzle pieces are 
identical, but when they're piled high and deep...
Maybe the thing that's going around is getting to us or perhaps we're just ageing plus we really don't have much else to do, but we cleared all the other stuff off the living room coffee table and dumped out the contents of the box. (I, to Iris, and channeling the late American comic Mitch Hedberg: "There are one thousand items sitting on our coffee table. Literally. One thousand and one if you count the box they came in.")

To me, they all looked exactly alike. 

Well now.

Where to begin. 

Helena, who not coincidentally has a masters of science from the University of Toronto, suggested  starting with the edges. We separated every piece that had one straight side. (There's 126 of them! I counted after we were done.)

I'm not kidding when I tell you that when I first found two pieces that interlocked fluidly and perfectly, it felt destined by God. 

An adrenaline hit. (I know. I need a life.)   

entire household was 
Seriously. Three years ago, a man named Tim who I shared office space with was marketing a nicotine inhaler. Shaped like an asthma puffer, Tim's dispensing device let you blast the unadulterated drug right into your lungs without that tar and smoke that cigarettes also deliver. 

He gave me a crack at it. 

Believe me, Anne, one hit on that puffer and you know why folks get hooked on butts. Total body relaxation. War could have broken out at that moment and I would have been completely calm. Even though I asked for another hit, Tim warned me off. It was the right call.

In a sort of baby-steps way, that's how it felt when two pieces of Love Lives Here came together. 

That's why, for 10 days, Love Lives Here took over our lives. 

Before work in the morning, at lunch, after quitting time....we used up entire weekday evenings. 

Any given morning, you could find me in my old blue housecoat with a cup of black coffee in my left hand and a completely beige angel-shaped puzzle piece in my right, poring over a pile of four or five almost identical completely beige angel-shaped puzzle pieces, but suddenly notice another, green and black puzzle piece over in another corner and reaching over to try it and I'd find it slips in seamlessly.  And then two of the beige jobbies would meld. 

I'd stare at the puzzle for 14 long minutes, thinking I'd never find another perfectly shaped piece with a tiny strip of black along the green poking out part and just before giving up--presto. So I'd start in again.

Better'n nicotine.

I wasted a considerable amount of my co-workers' time with Love Lives Here updates. 

"Sometimes," I told Yvette who I work with, "the pieces are so close I'm like, 'if I only had a small hammer..."

We ate supper around Love Lives Here, we laughed a lot around Love Lives Here, we told each other  little stories and we ignored small problems and avoided meaningless chores because of Love Lives Here. 

FEET UP, RELAXED: Love Lives Here, for now.

This might sound weird Anne, but that silly Love Lives Here puzzle helped bring pure joy and serenity into our home this Christmas season. 

In fact, when that last piece fell into place Christmas Eve (honest!), as pleased as I was to finish the thing, it felt like the end of a good friend's visit.

And speaking of...

Our plan now? 

Break Love Lives Here up into the original tiny little pieces and send them home in a box. 

To Bernadette. Now it's her turn.

Except, if you look really closely at the picture, you'll see that somewhere between us dumping the 1,000 pieces of Love Lives Here on our coffee table and Boxing Day, four pieces--one white, one green and pink, and two others that are blends of black, green and another shade of green--have gone missing.  

Let's not tell Bernadette. It'll drive her nuts. 

Isn't that what good friends are for? 

Besides. She started it.

Merry Christmas.




  1. Delightful but so glad you were the gave me the opportunity to read an enjoyable account of a positive story, a reminder of similar puzzle challenges, a smart cat watching the going
    ons and knowing the saga continues...thanks for sharing this.

  2. Hahahahaha. If you look closely at the pic of Iris sitting in the puzzle box, you'll see why I said to Helena. "I think I might know where those missing pieces might have ended up." Thanks for reading and the kind comments.

  3. A lovely tale. Your good friend Bernadette is a good friend to have.
    Glad you mentioned it first. Iris does look very, very suspect. The term 'cat burglar' didn't just drop out of the sky.
    Just sayin'

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