Jean Croker Petke

Bit by Bit

Bit by Bit

As we worked a new jigsaw puzzle over the holidays, my daughter and I reminisced about a puzzle we’d worked nearly three decades ago. We agreed it was the hardest puzzle we’ve ever done: a 2000-piece stained glass window that covered the entire dining table. We worked on it for weeks.

When we finally finished it and reclaimed our table, we folded it into the box, keeping as much of it together as possible. The puzzle has been closeted ever since.

After recalling the experience, I remarked, “I’ve still got that puzzle.” I retrieved the box from the hall closet and set it on the table, next to our current puzzle. We gazed at the box photo, remembering our long ago struggles. Our recollections were clear and felt recent. The box has remained taped through four residential moves. “Shall we look at it?” I suggested. With her nod of assent, I slit the packing tape on each box side and lifted the lid. We peered inside. Large puzzle chunks were still together, though many pieces had jiggled loose. We poked among the pieces without disturbing the chunks. I felt challenged to work this puzzle again, but we lacked sufficient time. I returned the puzzle to the closet.

On Sunday, after my daughter and son-in-law left, after I changed the beds, after I restored some order to the house, and after a post-dinner nap, I retrieved THE PUZZLE from the closet, and gently, ever-so-gently, set it on the dining room table. I lifted chunks of pieces from the box, patiently replacing any pieces that fell off in the process. Using the box lid as a guide, I put the chunks in relative order. The remaining pieces (1000 – 1500) were turned right side up on a large yellow puzzle mat, arranged onto trays, and sorted by color.

I worked way too many hours, stayed up way too late, put other projects aside, as I put in just one more piece or finished one tiny section. I needed to prove to myself that I could conquer the nearly-impossible. In the process, I was sure certain pieces were missing. I discovered later those certain pieces just didn’t look exactly like I expected.

Four days and nights I worked. Not the weeks it took so many years ago. I had a bit of a head start this time with the chunks.

The next day, I carefully folded it into the box, hoping the chunks will stay together — just in case I do this puzzle again.

So here’s the question — the one I always ask when I write a blog: why should you care about this topic? What difference might it make for you?

My answer: Seemingly impossible tasks, whether it’s a puzzle or music or reading a 1000-page book or taking an 8000-mile road trip or getting in shape can only be accomplished by little bit after little bit after little bit after little bit. Tiny bits accumulate and stick together, until the once impossible becomes accomplished.

Until next Tuesday . . .






2 Comments - Leave a Comment
  • DeEtta Eberhardt -

    Reminds me when we put puzzles together. I just finished a puzzle during Christmas and found it to be so rewarding. Didn’t have to be concerned about anything except looking for THE piece. I even brought one to Houston with us so I’ll have one to kill time….Thanks for the remind of past times with Jean!

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