Puz­zle peo­ple again

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

We did a puz­zle on Mon­day. For six hours.

I can’t tell you the last time I con­cen­trated on any sin­gle thing for one hour, let alone six — un­less you count the hand­ful of times my hus­band and I have es­caped to a movie in the last year. (That would be two, I think.)

Fo­cus is at a pre­mium. Work­ing from home so much lately has def­i­nitely proven that to be true. Be­fore I be­came a par­ent, I could never have pre­dicted that the abil­ity to con­cen­trate would sud­denly be­come a lux­ury — and that I would miss it so much once it was gone.

Spencer, Oliver and I made our way north to visit my in-laws and ex­tended fam­ily for Christ­mas. With more than a foot of snow on the ground in New York, all was hushed and still in my hus­band’s home­town out­side of Buf­falo: a huge de­par­ture from our fast-paced, go-go-go life in Mar yland.

Com­ing to Gerry once meant pack­ing lots of books and mag­a­zines to en­ter- tain our­selves be­tween hol­i­day visi­tors. In the bad weather, we were es­sen­tial- ly house­bound. But since Oliver was born, it’s also meant a chance to un­wind with other eyes on our tod­dler. In their baby-proofed home, my mother- and fa- ther-in-law pro­vide a respite for two tired adults. Vis­it­ing Gerry ac­tu­ally does feel like a va­ca­tion, be­cause it’s the big­gest break we get.

At home, there are dishes to wash and bath­rooms to scrub and laun­dry to put away. There’s a fridge to clean out, socks to match up, soap dis­pensers to re­fill. In short: there is al­ways, al­ways some­thing to do. Some­thing to clean. A project to pol­ish. A task need­ing at­ten­tion. I find it hard to re­lax.

But time slows in New York. I am not home, so I can’t be con­stantly and ir­ri­tat- in­gly caught up in house­keep­ing. It feels fu­tile, any­way — like we spend so much time scrub­bing coun­ters only for more crumbs to ap­pear. Kind of makes you want to give up. (I mean, I won’t — but the thought hasn’t es­caped me.)

We could spend most of Mon­day work­ing a 750-piece panoramic puz­zle of the Las Ve­gas Strip be­cause we had fam­ily to run in­ter­fer­ence with Oliver. My nor­mally short at­ten­tion span was laser-fo­cused on find­ing tiny bits of pink sun­set or dark shad­ows of park­ing lots. It felt good to be con­sumed by a to­tally ran­dom project: to watch one hour, two, three tick by sur­rounded by fam­ily as we all came to­gether with a com­mon goal.

It was just a puz­zle. We weren’t cur­ing cancer or solv­ing in­ter­na­tional dis­putes — but it felt just as good to work with cousin Katie and Aunt Terri on our Ve­gas photo. We talked about ev­ery­thing and noth­ing, catch­ing up on life since we last saw each other six months ago. It was long dark by the time they went home, but Spencer and I stayed hunched over the din­ing room ta­ble, fin­gers ro­tat­ing pieces over and over.

By 9 p.m., we had a dozen of the 750 pieces left . . . which should have made com­ple­tion easy, but it didn’t. The last 12 or so were plagu­ing us. Spencer worked in one cor­ner while I tack­led the other, fre­quently switch­ing back and forth when our eyes be­gan to cross. My mother-in-law popped in to help, too.

It was amaz­ing how, when we’d ro­tate, I’d im­me­di­ately see where one of Spencer’s pieces neatly fit — and he’d eas­ily place a few more of mine. Some­times we’re too close to some­thing, you know? Too close to no­tice the nu­ances, the del­i­cate de­tails.

Ev­ery­one can ben­e­fit from some fresh per­spec­tive.

We drove home Thurs­day, mak­ing the long trek with the lit­tle guy in the back­seat for the third or fourth time since he was born. I felt lighter head­ing back: re­freshed, even. Most of my Christ- mas break ac­com­plish­ments in­volved snack­ing on peanut but­ter blos­som cook­ies, sleep­ing in and chas­ing Oliver around with his new race cars, but it was enough to be away from it all for a lit­tle while — away with ex­tra feet to chase down the baby.

We never fin­ished the puz­zle, ac­tual- ly. With the last six pieces in hand, we spent an hour try­ing to force them into place — but some­thing was off, and we couldn’t fig­ure out what. Other pieces placed in­cor­rectly, throw­ing off the fi­nal re­sult? Who knows. But with Las Ve­gas dom­i­nat­ing half of the din­ing room ta­ble, we fi­nally gave up. I thought it would bother me, but it was ac­tu­ally lib­er­at­ing.

It’ll prob­a­bly be years be­fore we at­tempt an­other puz­zle, but it also felt good to work side-by-side with Spencer on a project that didn’t in­volve coax­ing a tod­dler to try green beans. We’re team­mates who rise at 1 a.m. for di­a­per changes, part­ners who an­tic­i­pate one an­other’s needs be­fore hav­ing to ask, but it was nice to be some­thing other than just . . . par­ents to­gether. We were puz­zlers, too. For a lit­tle while, any­way. And that was enough.

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