In the years before television ruled, my mother found a solution to what the different generations could do after a big Christmas dinner and the thrill of new toys had passed.
With the table in our farm kitchen cleared and the middle leaf removed, she would bring out a plywood board about three-foot square and place it in the middle of the table. Then she’d open a big jigsaw puzzle, dump the hundreds of pieces on the table, and start the unification process by putting a corner piece on the plywood. Sometimes she’d work alone for a little while before anyone joined her.
During the afternoon everyone would come to help. Usually at least three of us stared at the deceptive little pieces at once. Our strategy was for each person or pair to concentrate on one section—a corner, the center, one edge. The youngest would attach themselves to an adult for a little while and then skip away. Every few minutes someone would describe what color and shape of piece was needed to complete a specific item shown in the picture on the box, and everyone would look.
While our eyes and hands stayed busy, we didn’t need them to talk and to listen. We cheered each other on rather than competing as we did in games. After the frenzy of the holiday, we relaxed and enjoyed the challenge, and each other.