Puzzles

Horse puzzles, she loved them. Early on, she worked a twenty-four-piece wooden job by Mellissa & Doug. A country scene, brightly colored—a horse-drawn apple cart, a big red barn, bright green trees and a yellow hay bale. A Clydesdale effortlessly pulls the cart to market. She dumped the puzzle on the carpet and stirred the pieces. Trial and error, she assembled it again.

In a month, she graduated to forty-eight-pieces. Subtle colors, shades of brown and green, A horse family frolics, a mama, a daddy, a yearling and a foal, a tan rail fence and a cloudy sky. This took more effort. She carefully examined the clues.

She’s in college now. If you can believe it, I’m just cleaning this stuff out. The puzzles, picture books with sing-song rhymes, DVDs of cartoons I loved as a kid. Like everyone else, I used the pandemic to reorganize my basement. I emptied the bookshelf to make room for a pantry. Overflow space for the items most likely to disappear from the store shelves—flour, rice, waffle mix. The staples. I moved her stuff to the pool table, and there it sat… in my way.

Finally, I boxed it up. The Friends of the Library takes all this stuff. They sell it at their store. They sell it at the mini garage sale in April and the massive book sale in July.

I wrote this for work. There was more—the operating hours of the store, the dates of the sales, stats about donation revenue. Typical marketing stuff. The facts and figures, the fine print, the fast-talking at the end of the ad—dry and to the point. But not the part above. The opposite of dry… wet? I thought it pretty. Proud of my writing, I sent it to Susan to read.

She emailed back: “You didn’t really give away those puzzles, did you?” She just started a meeting; I couldn’t reach her for hours. I sat at my desk with a knot in my stomach. I acted without consulting her. That’s not like me. I wondered why I did that. When we talked about it later, she said “Those puzzles were such a big part of Sophie’s life. I wish you at least took a picture of them.”

~ ~ ~

A few weeks ago, I wrote about starting therapy. At the end of the post, I wrote “more to follow.”

And here it is: I dropped him. In my second meeting he told me our conversation had no flow. He complained that I communicated badly, and our talk felt awkward to him. As we discussed this, he doubled down on my poor communication skills, leaving me at a loss for words and feeling like crap. I sent him an email the next day. I told him I quit.

On Friday while driving to Burlington to pick up Sophie for her Spring break, I listened to a podcast on Spotify—my first podcast ever. Over the past few weeks, I watched Only Murders in the Building, a comedy series starring Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez (I highly recommend it). It portrays the three of them launching a podcast while trying to solve a murder. Prior to this, I guess I knew what a podcast was, but I never considered listening to one. Only Murders showed me podcasts are cool. And after my first, I’m hooked.

My podcast, titled Let Go Now, is by Jonathan Foust, a teacher with the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, DC — https://imcw.org/. He rambled, he joked, he offered wisdom and guidance. He talked about aging, his dad’s, his dog’s, his own. He talked about letting go of the stress and worry surrounding these topics. The message wasn’t new. “You’re going to age anyway, best to do it without all the negative feelings.” For fifty minutes, my mind shot off in different directions, applying his words to my life. A recurring cycle, I’d focus, hear something brilliant and relatable, get lost in my thoughts, focus, hear something relatable… When I finished the podcast, I felt like I just completed a successful therapy session. I felt enlightened.

I plan to try this again one night this week, probably on a walk. I’ll take some paper with me so I can make notes as I go. Something Jonathan said hit home. He talked about a friend downsizing from a house to an apartment. She grieved over all the things she needed to let go. He suggested she walk around her house and video those items, and record a story about why each was meaning full to her.

I get it now. This is why I felt comfortable giving away Sophie’s puzzles. I ‘recorded’ them already. I took my picture by writing about them. When my story about the puzzles appeared in the library newsletter, my coworker came into my office. “Very nice, Jeff. You know, I wound up buying those puzzles for my grandkids.”

Stunned, I replied, “Do you think maybe you could take a picture of them for me?”

29 thoughts on “Puzzles

  1. Wonderful piece of writing Jeff. We have boxes of childhood stuff from our three boys all getting reused by our grandson eventually. Good decision on the therapist he sounds like a loser.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Neil. Grandchildren seem so far away for me (if ever… looks unlikely). We’ve saved all sorts of books due to the memories of reading them a thousand times at 4:30 AM. I don’t miss having little ones at all, but I sure do have lots of great memories.

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  2. First – the therapist… what an unprofessional jerk! Jiminey Cricket On A Motorscooter 🤬 🤬 🤬

    Second – I love how the Universe brought you pictures of the puzzles to complete the puzzle.

    Awesome story, Jeff!! Twice in one week😲 You’re on a roll! Got a song for Sunday?😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, about the therapist. Unfortunately, in the moment it’s hard to figure out who is off base. When I went home and talked to my family ab out it, they all pointed out how uncool he was acting. Glad you’re liking the stories. 18 hours in the car and a night alone in a hotel room is pretty good fuel for writing. Happy to be home.

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  3. Rae’s room still sports so much old stuff that when she quarantined with us for Covid – Wave 1- she was able to create a nostalgia corner with her work computers, etc.! And while I didn’t take a picture , she did – to post on her Instagram! ( stuff is still here though. Mike can’t let it go.)
    Ex therapist sounds like a horrible fit for you- or for anyone actually!

    Liked by 1 person

    • 1) I’m so honored that you still read my blog. 2) Mike’s an old softy. 3) Yeah, the therapist was appalling. It’s slim pickings around here, so I’m not sure how I’ll proceed. Maybe the podcasts can give me what I need.

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  4. Wow, what an absolutely terrible therapist. That’s so bad he shouldn’t even be working. Will you be looking for another one? That sounds like a great podcast though. And great approach for letting go of stuff. It is hard to do sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Okay, glad you have found something useful still. In case you ever still want to try another one though, I imagine there will be some who aren’t in the area who would do video calls. The last two therapists I talked to were over a video call amd it worked just fine (one was located in Portugal!) Not sure how that would work with insurance or how comfortable you’d be but thought I’d mention.

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  5. I love the arc of this story, Jeff. It’s beautiful writing. There is a lot to process as we age. Those photos and remembering Sophie solving her puzzles will comfort you and Susan for many years to come. Too bad about the therapist, but you’re finding ways to help yourself. That’s commendable.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. we also enjoyed Only Murders. I am not much into podcasts, but the one you mentioned sounds good. I’ll give it a listen. and how lucky that you knew who bought those puzzles so that you could get a picture to go with your wonderful words…

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  7. i smiled when i read that you are just now discovering podcasts … and i frowned when i read that your therapist turned out to be an ass! glad you found a podcast that brings you hope … so many good ones out there to discover!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, I just got on spotify a couple of weeks ago so now I have a platform where I can find them. My problem is I don’t know when I would listen. I think I’d need to be doing something else (like driving) and I don’t drive anywhere.

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  8. I loved this for so many reasons. The reflections on a child who has outgrown childish playthings touched me, even as my son turned 18 today and requested nothing but Troll Dolls from Trolls World Tour. (Pictures will be taken to commemorate the new additions to his hoard.)

    I recently was ‘let go’ by a therapist. It was sort of abrupt, but I assume whatever funding my insurance covered, I had used it up. Isn’t it good to know that our mental health has a limit? As if, you should be well by now, you’ve seen someone for half-a-year! I’m not a huge fan of podcasts, unless my hands are busy doing something, like a puzzle or cooking. Though, with the latter, I fear chopping something off by accident while cutting up vegetables with a tendency to roll. In my future life, I hope all vegetables are grown with edges and corners to prevent such problems in multi-tasking.

    Now, I need to get to work, but it was nice to stop by and read up on your domestic crisis resolved in a quick snapshot from a fortuitous friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. Health insurance companies are evil. It sucks that they would just kick you out of therapy. They wouldn’t do that to someone with a physical medical problem. Both of my kids have started sleeping with a stuffed animal over the past year.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Wonderful story, Jeff, knitting seamlessly nostalgia and present and future (new kids enjoying Sophie’s puzzles) in an engaging whole.

    Yeah, I agree with everyone else: your former therapist sucks. Glad you dumped him. Sorry you had to endure him. Consider a heads up to whatever entity licenses therapists in your state. I bet you’re not the only patient he has abused.

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    • Thank you Rebecca. Well, I’ve passed on the info to a local therapist group and pretty much the only psychiatrist practice in town. They might stop referring patients. I’m really not sure what was up. It was a really weird vibe.

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  10. What an awful therapist! That being said, I have had terrible experiences with medical doctors which has inhibited me to go seek help when I may have benefited. I didn’t care for Catelyn’s therapist either and knew the same thing could happen to me. You see who your insurance covers (or I would) and that doesn’t always equate to good therapy. I’m bummed for you. What a jerk!
    In regards to the items – I feel you. My parents and Bob’s parents kept similar things and then gave them to us as adults. I have my pink panther doll and bugs bunny, some of my Easter dresses when I was five or six. Bob got a TON of his old baseball cards. I have no idea what to do with the stuff. I think our parents kept the items because of the joy they brought them. I have the same mentality of “just take a picture – it will spark the same memory.” There are a few things I haven’t been able to donate. An entire bin of Bobby’s Thomas the Tank Engine toys. Declan’s raggedy old spiderman costume(s). I think their obsessions became my own. I don’t think they are ever going to want this stuff but there is a handful of items I just can’t let go of.

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    • Susan and I each have a couple of bins in the basement with things like stuffed animals. It was fun when the kids were little because they wanted to go through and see the ‘antiques’. Now I could throw it all away without a thought. *Somewhere* is a single from Henry Rollins first band State of Alert that sells on the internet for $700. I keep thinking it’s in one of those bins, but the times I’ve poked around I haven’t found it.

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      • I have a ton of photo albums on our bookshelves up until Declan was about 2ish which we all love to go through and see what we were up to. After our last viewing, I thought about kicking out some more since we enjoyed it so much (everything just went digital or online) but just haven’t gotten around to it. That Henry Rollins would be a nice find!

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  11. Puzzles and podcasts are a big part of my life. I often listen to podcasts while working on a puzzle.

    I don’t have kids, but twenty years ago I worked in a toy store that sold the Melissa & Doug line of wooden toys. (I loved the Fold’n’Go Dollhouse). So this brought up many memories for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • After 2 kids, those puzzles were still in great shape. Those are quality toys. I can’t remember if we had more M&D toys, but I guess we must have. I’ve listened to a couple more of these podcasts and they are great. I’ll need to branch out and see what other topics interest me.

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