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December 30, 2020

We’ve taken over the dining room table its white plastic protector perfect for sliding silhouetted pieces into place 1000 image fragments dumped out between us in a jumble of curlicued edges

I balance the box lid on edge to be our guide: a photographed row of colourful townhouses lining a canal that reminds me of San Francisco’s Painted Ladies

You chose this puzzle with infinite blue claiming you see subtle differences in the shades of sky; my aging eyes see only sameness

(You’ve always loved to puzzle – or is it puzzler or puzzlist? – a new box appearing each Christmas under the tree; later, warmed by a cackling fire, we crowd around the table with my mother taking the lead)

We start by finding edges to corral the pieces and prevent them sneaking back into the box or falling lost forever beneath a cupboard burrowed in dust

Next we divide and conquer: I build the row of townhouses while you tackle that infinite blue sky each piece connected triggering a dose of pleasure fueling the search for another hit

For every piece I place, you place ten, and I marvel at your skill mapping the image in your mind while effortlessly untangling the jumbled stacks of colour

At some point you’ll remark “What’s the point of puzzles anyway? Why chop up an image just to put it back together again?” We’ll leave the question hanging like we do every year

We’ll inevitably have visitors stop by, “Oh wow, look how much you’ve done!” Some will offer a helping hand connecting a piece or two before quietly slipping away

Searching for pieces I imagine strolling along the canal, memorizing each detail as I go, pausing by the shuttered windows and for a time transported

(Perhaps couples should complete a puzzle of their partner’s image to re-discover subtle details forgotten years ago)

As we cross midnight our eyes watering I wonder who lives inside these colourful townhouses? Who sails the boats anchored in the canal outside?

Were they sleeping when the photo was taken? Or just waking awaiting breakfast? Or perhaps trapped behind the shutters suspended in time?

In the silence of early morning, after hours of “just one more piece”, only one piece remains; without fanfare you complete the puzzle and calmly announce “Dad, let’s start the next one.”

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