The Least Puzzling Family Pastime Is Puzzling

First of all, can we just take a moment to enjoy that word? Puzzle. Puzzle. Puzzlepuzzlepuzzle.


A friend in Oregon gave me the best gift idea last week: find a favorite family photo and have it turned into a jigsaw puzzle, then send it to said family. I did just that, using this image from (I think) 1966:

Didn’t have time to ask my sisters for permission to use their images, so… 🙂

Now, in a week when many families are gathering and giving gifts I’m grooving on exactly why that gift felt so satisfying. Here’s what I came up with:

Safe activity. Puzzles are an inherent “safe space” for groups–rather like going for a walk, where you’re all facing the same direction with the whole natural world at your disposal to discuss or simply enjoy in silence. Except, unlike walks, puzzles can be done in any weather, and by folks in almost any physical condition. (Yes, of course there are physical challenges to puzzling too, like eyesight and manual coordination.)

Family walks: Wonderful, but not always possible.
  • Memories. Piecing together a photograph of a shared past will naturally elicit memories, and from there everything flows. (Is “everything” always good? Of course not. But I think if any family is able to sit down and puzzle together, they’re probably also ready to discuss memories.) To my mind, over a puzzle, the chances of growing closer outweigh the chances of greater family rupture.
“Do you remember when Firefly was born?”
  • The metaphor. I’m not saying my family will explicitly discuss the way we three girls “fit” (or didn’t) as we were growing up; of the way our Oma left a hole when she died suddenly in 1977; of the fact that this photo of “we five” plus the three grandparents represents the ONLY capturing of this particular group of eight within any rectangle…but I’ll bet a million dollars thoughts like those flit through the minds of anyone who works that puzzle, whether this year or into the future.

(Not pictured: Metaphors)

So here’s a fun holiday-time question for you: if you were to pick a family photo for any of your family members to puzzle over together, what would you choose, and why?

Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas, much joy and warmth and hope to all!