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.”
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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?”