My youngest recently learned (or rather invented) a new game. For Christmas, she received a princess-themed board puzzle. It features a king and queen, prince and princess, castle, coach, horse, and unicorn (because no princess story is complete without the unicorn). She quickly took to taking the pieces out and fitting them back into their places.
To celebrate this feat, I rummaged through my older child’s closet and found her old board puzzles, which included another princess (the pieces of which can be rearranged so as to dress her in different outfits), barn animals (that make life-like noises upon fitting them into the appropriate place), household animals (with two mice in a compromising position), and insects (each of which is fitted with a magnet and is designed to be caught with the accompanying magnetic net). Even with the cutesy twists each puzzle had to offer (with the exception of the too-friendly mice), it was not enough simply to take the pieces out and put them back in again. The new game was to take each piece out and hand deliver it to an unwitting participant, then return to the puzzle for another. This continued until all the pieces from each puzzle was delivered and stacked in a pile. Then, began the reverse process.
Since the discovery of the board puzzles, each day has begun and ended with this game. Everyone in the household has to have his or her turn. During the day, when I am the only one home with her, I get to play the puzzle game over and over. Then, when big sister comes home from school, she gets a turn, and I get to tend to other household concerns (like the crossword puzzle I didn’t get a chance to finish while attempting to have my morning coffee, or more often, the mildewing load of laundry I forgot to put in the dryer the previous night). Then, Daddy comes home from work and is met at the door with one or more puzzle pieces.
This morning was no different. I returned from dropping off my older child at school to find my partner sitting down to a bowl of cereal. I made the coffee and sat down to have a little breakfast myself. By that time, there was already a line of puzzle pieces along the edge of the table, and another one was on its way. I was not the intended recipient, so I asked where my piece was. That was apparently against the rules of her little game. When I reached out for a piece of the puzzle, she turned with an “uh-uh” and gave the piece to her father.
Well, excuse me for wanting a piece of the action!
In my life as a mother, it seems that there rarely is a piece left for me. As I go throughout my day, I am continually handing out pieces of myself to the various members of my household. My older daughter even commented as much at breakfast. After getting both kids up and dressed and seating them at the table with their cereal, I went to the refrigerator to get some milk for the baby. Then, I returned to the table only to go back into the kitchen for the older one’s juice. As I set it down, she said, “You know we’re not going to let you sit down.” (Hmmm…I wonder where she heard that. Not me, I would never make such a complaint…)
The same seems to be true throughout the day. I am constantly on my feet retrieving something for someone. And when I am sitting, it’s to grade an essay or answer a student email. It seems that somehow I have been dragged into the “piece” game. Only I’m the one repeating the same action 56 times. Morning. Noon. Night. Each day. Every day. Wash, rinse, repeat. (If only I had that much time in the shower.)
At the end of the day, I’m left wondering which piece is mine. I know I must have left it somewhere. Maybe it’s wedged between the couch cushions like the missing DVD case someone forgot to put out of the reach of children. I only hope I can someday find it. Until then, I’ll have to settle for cold coffee and unfinished crossword puzzles.