The table that I grew up resting my elbows on was a big round table that had 2 leaves that stretched it into the shape of a hockey rink. Most of the time, it stayed in that configuration because there were 9 of us kids and of course Ma and Pa Kettle. Apart from the need of putting food on that table, it was almost imperative that my dad work 16 hour shifts, we needed the space.
The surface of the table had flour ground into it while Mom made bread, convened many lively discussions and was privy to its its share of arguments. Oh and there was always spilled milk to contend with. The issue was not whether someone would cry over it but whether the milk would seep through the tablecloth and get all over what was underneath.
You see, my mother's main hobby when she was busy trying not to kill one of us was doing jigsaw puzzles. The puzzles were usually bought second hand at rummage sales and were standard depictions of land or seascapes, sometimes a covered bridge or a winter scene. They generally were 500, 750 or 1000 pieces.
Anytime she was doing a puzzle was a good time to approach Mom. If you needed a question answered or just wanted some company, she seemed more at peace then. I guess she had something to concentrate on that didn't involve all the usual troubles of the day.
She had a way of getting you involved in helping her try out at least a handful of pieces in about a hundred different spots while you talked or passed away some time. Now and then, you'd fit a piece in and feel proud. She'd praise you but tell you to keep at it.
As it neared dinner time, the worn tablecloth covered the work in progress and it was time for the real puzzling to begin. It took a keen eye or sometimes a lucky guess to figure out what those charred things were on our plates before Mom had gone to work on them in the kitchen. Apart from her excellent baking and jigsaw skills, Mom was a terrible cook. To this day, she insists on everything being cooked until it's very well done.
A few years ago, I received a puzzle as a gift that pictured Van Gogh's Starry Night and it made me think of walking round and around that big table as a child helping Mom fit the pieces of her puzzles together.
I sat down and started in on mine. Although small, it was tricky with the colours and design and I was rusty. Of course, I started with sorting all the end pieces to make the frame the way Mom had imprinted as the only way to do it.
As I got closer to the end of my puzzle, I laughed to myself remembering on occasion when Mom and I were in the home stretch and trying to fit the last few pieces into our second hand puzzles, we'd find that there was a piece missing. I'd be so disappointed but my mother would just exclaim Well would you look at that!? Oh Dale! and then she'd laugh and break it all up and put it back in the box ready for the next one.
When I got to the end of my puzzle, I was very surprised to find that there were more pieces than spaces. I actually had an extra piece leftover. I burst out laughing and called my mother. She couldn't believe it. She said Oh Dale! just the way she used to and asked Do you remember all the times we needed an extra piece when we'd do those puzzles on the kitchen table?! Oh my Lord!.
We shared a nice laugh over it and I was glad that it was a nice memory for her too.
Click to enlarge. The extra piece is in the upper right and seems to go with the puzzle. Anyone need it?