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A lifetime of puzzle pieces

By Jessica MathewsPublished 2 years ago 3 min read
Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

I run to my ornate, wooden front door looking for the perfect-sized box to arrive in the mail. I am excited to order new puzzles. When I see it, I tear the package open pouring the thousand or so pieces into the lid. Sometimes if the topic is exciting, I will put together a fifteen hundred or two-thousand- piece puzzle. My favorite puzzle is a one-thousand-piece Rainbow Brite puzzle from the Hallmark store. As an 80’s girl, Rainbow Brite was important to me as a child, and I still love her and collect her toys and things from my childhood. This puzzle resurrects the memories of her bringing color and light into my childhood.

I begin with the outside and find the perfect edges among the jagged, nonsensical shapes. Then I search for the prominent shapes and colors of the puzzle. The quiet snap is perfection. Every snap is a little bit of gratification, slowly piecing this art together. Several hundred more times, the SNAP, SNAP, SNAP brings it closer to becoming whole, something that wasn’t here before.

A puzzle is like a person. It is born with only edges. There is a shape to their life, but it isn’t complete. Each snap is a new person or place in their life to make them happier and more complete. Everything they learn is a new piece. Everyone and everything they love is a new piece.

I finally see familiar colors and shapes manifesting into forms. Out of nowhere, they are perfect in one motion of my busy hand. It could be a week. It could be several. But my puzzle will be complete. It will add another piece to me, another piece that made me happy. Perhaps my next puzzle will come from a store, or a garage sale, or the internet. The chase is almost as exciting as the snapping.

I was once a pile of lost pieces. I began collecting snaps in friends and family. I met my husband who became my first real prominent shape after my parents. Next came my son, the most prominent of all. The rest of my self was made of up books, movies, stories I was proud to have written, puzzles, toys, and my favorite places I’ve been. Louisiana is where I grew up. Orlando is where my husband and I honeymooned. New York is one of my favorite cities in the world. Oklahoma is where I found home.

I collected new pieces every year. I found toys that would stay with me forever as a child. As a teenager, whimsical puzzles with fairies and castles became part of me. I found the music that would help me find my identity as an adult, such as Deftones and the Misfits. As an adult, I found my family. I found my voice that I could share with the world on paper. I found places where I could acquire those childhood toys, like Care Bears and My Little Ponies. I found that puzzles meant more to me than a pastime. It gives me joy, and it keeps me together when the world is unforgiving. All these people and things have put me together.

As a mother, my son and I do puzzles together. Some of my childhood people and places are being replaced with memories. New memories of my family and the time we spend laughing and playing seem so much more important. Regardless of what changes, my puzzle is complete. When the world takes a piece from me, I have my family and all my other pieces to put me back together. I am a whole, happy, complete person, like a puzzle that is perfect.

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About the Creator

Jessica Mathews

I am originally from Louisiana. I currently live in Oklahoma with my husband and son. I am a senior at the University of Oklahoma. I love grammar and proofreading, and I'd like to pursue that as well as professional writing.

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