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Since my attention span dealing with small pieces of cardboard is somewhat limited, the first puzzle of ten photos took most of January to complete.

COURTESY PHOTO - Jo Ann Parsons completed this puzzle of family photos earlier this year. As I search for yet another elusive puzzle piece, which I'm certain was not included in the "520 Piece Puzzle" box, I'm wondering if there are any statistics on the popularity of jigsaw puzzles this past year. Early into the COVID pandemic I recall reading they were flying off store shelves, but perhaps they've had their heyday — and of course they can be traded or put away for later encores.

It was because of mixed messages in my early childhood regarding jigsaw puzzles that kept me from becoming a huge fan of them. My mother loved doing her one and only puzzle every winter, which was the only time she, as a farm wife, had some extra minutes to indulge in what my father considered a waste of time. He just didn't understand why she would want to spend so much time putting something together only to take it all apart.

I often listened to the disagreements of these two opposite personalities and could usually see both sides of what generally were friendly arguments. I rarely took sides, knowing my mother would let him rant on and then quietly continue with whatever she was doing. However, I tended to lean to her side concerning the puzzle as it meant that next time we made a trip to town I'd get to choose a children's puzzle of my own and could join her during her stolen moments while Iowa's wintry weather kept us snowbound.

When I was a bit older I received a Christmas gift of a world puzzle so large it had to be put together on the floor. While the pieces were big, it was still difficult but became easier each time I assembled it and proved to be a great geography lesson.

Years later, following my mother's tradition, there was usually a puzzle in progress after the holidays in our home ... the exception being that I had married a man who enjoyed jigsaw puzzles. After we'd aged and outgrown raucous New Year's Eve parties, we spent that evening for several years with two long-time friends having dinner and putting together a puzzle while seeing in the New Year.

Moving to Oregon for our retirement years involved doing puzzles with young grandsons along with an occasional adult version. But, with a few exceptions, I had taken a sabbatical for a couple decades from this so-called "time-waster" until recently.

For my 90th birthday last November, my daughter-in-law and granddaughter in Minneapolis sent me two puzzles composed of photos taken during our last all-family get-together at the beach in 2019. So, after Christmas, I once again became my mother and set up the card table by the living room windows and got into a puzzle-assembling mode.

Since my attention span dealing with small pieces of cardboard is somewhat limited, the first puzzle of ten photos took most of January to complete but the time spent was enjoyable. Piecing together all my favorite people brought thoughts of how much I love and appreciate their individual personalities and talents, and memories of this cherished time together floated through my mind.

I am now halfway through the second puzzle with three larger photos, including one of my two grandcats that is extremely challenging. It's looking like I'll be in my puzzle mode a while longer. Then, when I fold up the card table and stash the puzzle boxes for an encore another time, I'll be seeing my mom's smile and my dad shaking his head in puzzlement. I'll also be thanking Carrie and Natalie for sending me these perfect gifts to help me through the "Winter of the Pandemic."

Jo Ann Parsons is a member of the Jottings Group at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.

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