Life is like puzzle; pieces have to fit

Helena Rodriguez: CNJ columnist

My daughter Laura and I recently achieved a great accomplishment. We finished a 500-piece puzzle together. Wow, 500 pieces. Big deal. In today’s world though, that just may be a big deal.

How many people actually sit down and do puzzles anymore? When I bought the puzzle, Laura objected to the idea of spending hours on this tedious task. I somehow talked her into joining me and during the evenings that we spent putting this puzzle together, Laura became addicted like me and we’d work on it for hours. During this time, we also had some really good mother-daughter talks.

I had been itching to do a puzzle since the holidays. Mom and Aunt Patsy used to get each other puzzles for Christmas and do them together. I remember when Grandma Emma was alive and they’d gather around a little card table to do a puzzle. It wasn’t so much about the puzzle as it was socializing. I’d squeeze in and watch.

Sometimes I’d help, or at least I made it look like I was helping. My little scheme was to sit in my corner and when no one was looking, I’d take a few pieces off the puzzle. Then when they were looking, I’d act like I was a whiz and was finding the missing pieces to the puzzle. Of course I don’t do that anymore.

During this puzzling time that Laura and I spent together, we engaged in some silly talk, but we also had some deep discussions about school, boys, family, our lives and our dreams. It’s the time we spent together that we will think about now when we see this puzzle hanging in our kitchen. The puzzle is of a nice, colorful fruit setting.

Thanks to a clever invention called puzzle glue, we were able to seal our masterpiece. That’s pretty cool stuff. This puzzle glue comes in a little jar with a brush to spread all across the puzzle and hold it together. We plan to frame the puzzle and hang it over our refrigerator.

I’d stay awake after Laura had gone to bed, sometimes until the wee hours of the morning, still working on the puzzle. That puzzle became my life, literally. In the process of piecing together this puzzle, I figured out how to arrange, rearrange and fit in some of the pieces of my own life.

Sometimes the puzzle was a cinch and things fell right into place. But sometimes the pieces didn’t fit exactly right, or if they did fit, they fit in the wrong places. This caused us a lot of problems later. I thought to myself, that’s how life is when we try to make things fit in that don’t belong.

And like that puzzle, when things in life don’t go the way they should, you have to do some rearranging to make things fall into their proper places.

This puzzle taught us both a little more patience, but perhaps Laura gained the most benefits. I pointed out to Laura that it’s not good to quit something you start. At times, she wanted to quit. But in the end, it was Laura who showed me to not only finish what you start, but to do it right.

On the night we put the last piece of our puzzle in its place, we were so happy. We had worked on it every night for a week. We admired our work but noticed a piece was obviously out of place. But since we’d found a place for everything, I was ready to call it a night.

Not Laura.

“We might as well do it right,” Laura insisted. I agreed. I was tired but I didn’t want to set a bad example. I sunk back down, ready to take apart the problem area and expecting it to take another half hour, but Laura simply switched two little pieces and our puzzle became picture perfect.

When things get out of whack in life, sometimes you have to tear everything apart and start over. But sometimes it’s just little pieces that need to be adjusted. And what a big difference these little pieces make.

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: