There’s a partially completed puzzle on the table. K and I are in our 750 piece stage. 500 pieces aren’t typically challenging enough, and 1000 pieces are overwhelming so 750 seems right. This puzzle is a picture of two horses. The last one was wolves, and the one before that was a dragon. Regardless of the picture, K and I start with the border. We always start with the border. When I was a girl, my Mom (K’s Nana) taught me to separate the straight pieces from the others and complete the border first. When K and I started doing puzzles, I taught her.
Whenever we do a puzzle, we talk about Nana and how much she loved puzzles. I tell K how Nana couldn’t walk past an undone puzzle and how much I loved doing them with her. We talk about how Nana loved to do puzzles with K when she was really little. We talk about how some day K will tell her little girl to start with the straight pieces.
We’ve added our own flourishes – the tap, tap, tap on top of a piece when it goes in, the announcement to each other “I got a piece!”, the pre-selection of which piece should be the last – but it’s always border first. Recently, K was working on a puzzle with her three year old cousin J. He’s a puzzle master but goes straight to the center. K tried to convert him to border first but so far, he remains unconvinced. She’ll keep working on him. It’s how our family does a puzzle and it’s important to her that J knows that.
We’ve seen a lot of family lately. The rooms have been full of people with Nana’s blue eyes. K’s eyes are blue but not light blue like Nana’s or mine. K’s are so bright they are almost purple. When she was a toddler, a stranger once stopped us and proclaimed K had Elizabeth Taylor’s eyes. My family loves to look at old pictures. In the cousins’ baby pictures, it can be hard to tell who’s who. If the photos aren’t labeled, we resort to clothing choices to confirm identities. K is all K. Those shining eyes and smile are hers alone.
I recently found a picture from my own childhood. It included my mom, dad, younger sister and me. I was the gangly, awkward teenager standing next to Mom. However, it wasn’t the teenager that caught my attention. Rather it was seeing my mother’s face from years ago and recognizing that face as the one I see in the mirror now. How could that be? Mom was middle-aged in that picture! Then I ran the numbers. Truth be told, even if 50 is the new 40; I guess I’m middle-aged too.
It occurs to me that K will never look at pictures of me years from now and see her own face looking back at her. I don’t know if that will make her sad or fill her with relief. I hope that she does recognize the face of a woman who loved her. I hope she sees the face of a woman who didn’t pass along the color of her hair or the color of her eyes but did pass along how to do a puzzle, how to love a book, and how to make a cake. I hope she recognizes the face of the woman who was so very proud to be her mother.