Puzzling Times

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Puzzling Times

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To me puzzles were nothing more than the stack of boxes collecting dust in the top shelf of the coat closet. Maybe I took them out once or twice when I was in grade school while I was looking for something to do after using up all of my TV time and refusing to pick up a book. I don’t recall every shopping for my puzzles, receiving them as gifts, and now that I think about it, I don’t recall ever finishing one besides, of course, the twenty-four-piece pink Hello Kitty puzzle, of her walking her dogs in the park. Now I look back upon the entire month of March spent working on multiple thousand-piece puzzles, finishing every puzzle I could find in my household.

I remember sitting in AP Econ first period of some random Wednesday in February asking my teacher “what if this student does test positive? Why are we here? Isn’t this dangerous? Isn’t this putting us at risk of exposure?” He quickly assured me that classes on Tuesday were cancelled solely for the purpose of disinfecting the entire building. I questioned this response as I looked down at my stained covered desk that clearly hasn’t been cleaned in weeks. However, I wasn’t too worried about the situation as this almost comical idea of a virus was ripping its way through China and Italy, and not a single case was discovered in North America. I go home that evening to discover that a case was in fact discovered in North America, and of course it was in Washington. Completely awestruck, I try to convince myself there is no possible way out of all the schools in the nation this virus found its way to Hazen High School. I forget about the whole thing and go back to cramming for my Stats test.
Thursday morning I’m awoken to the news that my school will be closed for the rest of the week. Not understanding the seriousness of the situation, all I’m thinking is “thank God I have more time to study for this Stats test.” That Sunday we receive more news stating school will be closed for the next two weeks and then an addition for that preplanned Spring Break. Still receiving messages from my Stats teacher to keep studying and practicing as we’ll pick up where we left off when we return, I stop studying because at this rate who knows if we’ll be going back. Sure enough, the weekend before our expected return we receive the email stating that all classes will be online for the rest of the term. Around this time my sister and mom were sent home from their work as cases around Washington continued to forcing many places to close and moving everyone online. This was the first time in years that we were all under the same roof again, and this was the first time ever we were forced to spend 24/7 with one another for who knew how long. And this was when the intense puzzling escapades began.

For my parents it was a quite easy transition as they were doing the exact same things just in the comfort of their own home, but for my sister and I we had many weeks of nothing as school and work were figuring out what to do in this unprecedented time. There’s only so much TV to watch, so we landed on this brilliant idea of starting our puzzle collection, starting from the sixteen-piece slowly making our way up to two-thousand pieces. The smaller puzzles were obviously quick and mainly worked on between my sister and I, with the occasional visit from my parents forcing pieces to fit together that my sister and I would later discover and have to move. As the size of the puzzles began to grow, so did the time we spent working on them. From completing one in an hour to working on one for days. What started between my sister and I, soon turned into an entire family affair.
Staying updated with the number of cases and deaths around the world and in Washington, the time spent working on these puzzles became very soothing to me as my mind was completely focused on sorting the different shades of pink that would eventually become a sunset. This little family project of ours created this sense of unity, collaboration, and overall fun in such a sensitive time and atmosphere. I felt that first month really allowed my family and I to bond in a different way, just because we all had the time to sit and work on puzzles together. Then of course the inevitable happened, no not quarantine ending, but we finished all the puzzles. I still remember asking my sister, half-jokingly, if she thought we would be able to finish all the puzzles before quarantine ended, of course at the time I thought there was no way it would las till August. I was clearly wrong, and we did indeed finish all the puzzles. We quickly looked online for more thousand-piece puzzles to buy, which to our surprise were incredibly expensive, but looking back we probably weren’t the only family doing puzzles so it would make sense the price skyrocketed. With the abrupt ending to our puzzling journey, I was disappointed with the little family activities we would do together, but we had months to go so we eventually did find something. Though puzzles are such a simple object, often associated with children or elders, it’s going to be something I remember from my teen years for the rest of my life. Whenever I see a puzzle, I will think about the strong family bond my family created the summer of 2020.

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This item was submitted on December 16, 2020 by Mikela Rivera using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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