Her mom has washed windows at my store for years, but it was just a month ago that 3 year-old Addison started coming in to visit while she waits for the task to be done. She’s too young to help much, so she sits at the little wooden kid’s table in the front of the store. For the first ten minutes, she bangs on a drum we have there, alternating between that and fussing at her mom about having to wait so long. The banging drum doesn’t bother me at all. It’s the first step for most kids into music, so I love the sound.
What I can’t take for long is the whining at Mom, so I ask her if she wants to work a puzzle. She seems to be excited and dumps the pieces onto the table, but that’s as far as she gets before she’s stymied. The puzzle is only 20 or so large pieces, so I’m not sure what’s going on, but it’s not long before I realize that this girl doesn’t work puzzles. To be absolutely honest, neither do I.
I know how to work puzzles. I’ve worked puzzles in the past. The thing is, I just don’t like them much. Like all hoarders with OCD (self-diagnosed, you understand), I don’t comprehend the concept of working hard at building something piece by piece, only to tear it up and put the pieces away in a box. Stuff is made to be seen, to be left out for years and to be admired. “Well,” you may say. “Glue the pieces together and mount the puzzle.” That assumes that I would want something like that on my wall or coffee table. Part of my problem with OCD is that I can’t put anything on the wall that isn’t an original work of art, so mounted puzzles are out. Then again, I can’t have them stacked all over the tables, when there are more puzzles waiting to be put together, and I just don’t want to work that hard on something and tear it apart. So I don’t work puzzles.
But the girl is whining. I can’t stand whining and something has to be done. So piece by piece, starting with the edges (a large percentage of the pieces in kids puzzles, you know), we put together the puzzle. “Does that straight edge match with this one?” “Do you see Winnie The Pooh’s shirt?” “Try it under Winnie’s face.” And as we work, Mom now having finished her job and waiting to get on to the next set of windows down the street somewhere, the picture comes together. There’s Winnie and Piglet, and of course my favorite, Eeyore. (My favorite because at times, I know just how he feels, the world going by him, with all the beautiful people entertaining and being entertained. And, once in awhile, just once in awhile, they include him in their activities. “Thanks for noticing me,” he says sarcastically. I never can tell if it’s his choice to stay on the fringes or if they just don’t include him until they want to feel better about themselves, inviting him to join in for purely selfish reasons. Regardless, it’s nice for everyone to be acknowledged once in awhile.) But, back to Addison…As the picture comes together, her excitement grows. She’s making a picture of her friends! She’s doing it! No more waiting and whining, no more being just a little girl who has to be tolerated. She has done something worthwhile! For a few moments, she understands accomplishment and the reward of hard work.
Then Mom, check in one hand, squeegee and bucket in the other, calls out, “Addison, take apart the puzzle and put it away.” The tot is devastated. “No, Mom! I want to leave it together.” Now I’m no Dr. Spock, but just this once my brain is working. I suggest that there’s no need to tear it apart. We can leave it just like that for other people to enjoy. I know it will be taken apart long before she returns, destroyed by the ravaging hordes of kids, long since hardened to the fate of such endeavors. But today, this young lady gets to walk out the door with her pride intact, secure in the knowledge that she has left her mark on civilization as she knows it. And even though she won’t say goodbye to me (“She hates to say goodbye,” her mom apologizes. And, again I understand perfectly…Goodbyes can lead to never seeing someone again), I realize that finally, I’ve met a child with whom I’m in agreement. Her, I understand! I’ll never get these puzzle workers who toil at their task so industriously, not to get to the finished product and enjoy it, but to tear it up and start on another. It’s as if the purpose is not to have a thing of beauty, but just to be busy. Well, give me a comfortable chair, a glass of lemonade, and a beautiful painting on the wall and leave me to my leisure. You do your busy work, I’m going to enjoy the finished product and won’t be disturbed.
“A thing of beauty is a joy forever” from Mary Poppins (Okay, really from a poem by John Keats, but I think he stole it from Mary).
“Suffer the little ones to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Jesus in Mark 10:14)