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Jigsaw puzzles, the dog days of summer, & family time

Kay headshot
Two tables covered with a puzzle

2000 pieces….What was I thinking??

Growing up, every summer my family would take a 3 day drive from Maine and visit my grandparents in Saginaw Michigan. Of course, as a child, most of their house was magical but one of the highlights of the visit for me was the jigsaw puzzle table. They had a screened in porch where you could sit, listening to the sound of the cicadas (which were much more silent in Maine) and work on puzzles all day.

What I didn’t realize until much later is apparently, the family jigsaw puzzle has a long history. Prior to the porch in Saginaw, the puzzle table apparently sat in the front porch of their house in Detroit and even the mailman would come by every day and put a piece in along with the family .  My great-grandmother used to be notorious for trying to pound recalcitrant puzzle pieces together with her fist. To me, jigsaw puzzles are all about family.

So, some years ago, when a neighbor was throwing out a six foot long country-style oak table, I pounced on it. Ok, maybe pounced is a bad word. A friend and I loaded it precariously into her hatch back and drove very slowly back to my house with three feet hanging out of the tailgate. The look on my husband’s face was priceless as we wrestled it into the house. “It’s a puzzle table! And it only has one busted leg!” I joyously said. Wisely, he said nothing.

Since then, it’s sat (mostly fixed) in our front room that has become, effectively, our library, dumping ground, treadmill location and dog hangout. Periodically, I put a puzzle out on it. Then it sits there…and sits there…and then suddenly one day I get the “puzzle bug” and sit for hours putting it together.

Nellie giving me a stink eye

Nellie, in her bedding, with the stink-eye and the “go away” ears

Lately, it’s been harder to do this because our 10 pound Pomeranian, Nellie, has taken a violent objection to me being in HER SPACE. Our front room has tons of stuff in it-it was the old living room for the house before it got remodeled-and it’s a big room, but that does not give me any slack with our little fuzzy elderly queen. If I sit there, she gives me a look of reproachful disgust and walks away. Eventually, she’ll come back but then she’ll lie in her bedding staring holes in me and occasionally uttering a disdainful huff to remind me she’s there. If it goes on long enough, she’s even resorted to a) going to Bryan and throwing a fit or b) barking at me.

Which leads me to the 2000 piece puzzle that I’m currently working on. It’s The Neighbors by Jan Van Haasteren. I have to admit I like the puzzles where you can take a puzzle piece and know, eventually, exactly where in the puzzle it should go. However, I’ve never done anything bigger than a 1500 piece puzzle before. The first thing we always did was put together the outside edge so you know what size the puzzle will be. This one, however, I put together…and together…and together…and it filled the six foot table. So, I got out my auxiliary puzzle table and it filled that.  At this point, I’m rolling my eyes and thinking “What have I gotten myself into?” but I’m determined to finish the thing because a) Jan Van Haasteren puzzles amuse me and b) I paid real money for it.

So, it sits there, with some of the parts put together, but to my disgust it has far more “random tree” than I anticipated so it’s taking a lot longer. Also, I’m used to every person being two puzzle pieces. In this puzzle, they’re stretched across five or six.

There’s a neat thing though about this story. Remember that auxiliary puzzle table? It’s the old puzzle table from Saginaw! When my grandfather died, my mom had this small folding table sitting around and I asked for it. Turns out he had made a custom top for it and that was the table that moved from Detroit to Saginaw and thence to Philadelphia. Life is circular.

What does this have to do with the Library? We now have a jigsaw puzzle swap. It’s bring a puzzle, take a puzzle and sits up high on top of the new Non-fiction stacks. If you’re a person who doesn’t know what to do with your old jigsaw puzzles, come in today and trade your puzzles for new to you puzzles!

Now, if you’ll forgive me, I’m off to work on The Neighbors…until my dog barks at me that is.