Puzzle Me This

Since the holiday break, LG has been getting home much earlier than usual (anywhere between 4-5pm, where he’d usually be home between 7-8pm). On the regular nights during the week, I’d have dinner prepared, we’d clean up together and maybe sit down for some TV. His workdays are so long that he’s starting to look sleepy by 8:30/9:00 – so really we only have quality time together on the weekends. But now that we have so much more time for activity in the evenings, there’s so much more to do! We take our time making dinner together, we can actually sit down and watch some TV without him falling asleep on the couch, we’ve run errands and gone grocery shopping, and we’ve even been able to go out a couple times for an easy dinner just the two of us.

But tonight I had dinner ready in the crockpot by the time he got home, and after we finished eating we kind of just looked at each other: what now? We thought to go to a movie, but they didn’t start until 7ish so we nixed that. I didn’t feel for a board game and two-player card games can get old really fast. So we finally cracked open the puzzle he’d bought me two Christmases ago when I’d suggested he get gifts that we can enjoy together.

What a mistake!

This puzzle that we’ve decided to challenge ourselves with is a 1000 piece puzzle. Mind you, the majority of puzzles I’ve done in the last 20 years are usually found in preschool classrooms – having spent my workdays as an ECE. We pour out all the pieces and find out that he had bought the most difficult puzzle to do everAll the colours are so similar. There are no defined lines. It is just so hard.

I sat there, staring at the pile of mess and realized that I had no idea how to do a puzzle like this. Meanwhile, LG was right beside me nose-deep into a little section he’d already started. I gawked at him and asked how he knew how to puzzle. Teach me,  I cried. He told me to find all the edge pieces first and then find some colours that would go together (in our case, blue for the sky).

Unamused, I picked out a handful of blue pieces and got bored. I asked him to switch with me so that I could start putting the border together, but I still had no idea where to start. I basically sat there and meticulously made it so that each piece was right side up while he put together the border.

“How do you know how to do this? Who taught you?” I asked him as a closeted puzzle doer slowly appeared before my eyes.

“We used to do puzzles together all the time after school with my mum,” he didn’t even look up.

I kind of pride myself in knowing that our relationship and our marriage is transparent and honest and real all the time. I am so blessed that God has given us such an authentic relationship. So this little tidbit of his history had me completely taken aback.

I had no idea.

I was under the impression that I had a pretty good picture of what his childhood looked like – playing (outside, inside, video games) with his siblings, auditions and shoots, Sunday night dinners. How did ridiculously difficult multi-piece puzzles never come into conversation? Now suddenly, I have this brand new image of my husband and his mum and brothers sitting around the dining table, putting together a puzzle. They did so many and so often that his dad even brought in something to make their lives easier to get around the puzzles. Like it was an actual need to find a tool that would help them be able to do puzzles and have dinner at the same table.

Tonight was more than me getting frustrated over a puzzle (I did end up finishing the sky, by the way – yay!), but I couldn’t figure out why it was more than just the puzzle. Until I got a chance to talk to my husband.

I ranted to him incredulously, and he didn’t know why it was such a big deal. As I painted him the picture of them all getting home from school and rushing over to the table to work on the puzzle, and as I described the boxes and boxes of puzzles in the basement that they all put together as a family; I realized that he hadn’t told me about something that was a big part of his daily life while he was growing up, and that one little piece of information changed the whole picture for me. Drastically so. So much that for a brief freak-out moment, I felt like I didn’t even know who he was anymore.

He kept insisting that I do know him, that I know everything. Really, I get why he was so confused because I thought I did too. But it just seems like such a big deal. Even though I’ve calmed myself about it a little, just writing about it still boggles me a bit.

I grew up following my mom from job to job after school, eating dinner together, going to bed, and then starting it all over again the next day. We didn’t have time to sit together and work on puzzles every day. When I found out that his daily life wasn’t just playing with his siblings and watching shows all together as a family, when I found out that they all came together almost every day to sit around a table to work on one project after the other, it floored me.

His family dynamic is so much different than mine – more than our cultural differences; but his parents’ relationship, how many siblings he has and their age differences, the proximity of his relatives. It was just me and my mom and my sister for the most part with family sprinkled everywhere around us. Yes, we’re different; but I thought I knew him.

I know I’m over-reacting (a tiny bit maybe); but I just feel like that image of them and the puzzles is like a missing piece that changed the entire picture that I had tried to figure out without it.

P.S. He came over to me mid-rant and shook my hand, “Hi, I’m Frank, and I do puzzles.” Good one.

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