4 hours ago
Sunday, January 10, 2010
I decide that I can cope no longer – the woman is driving me completely barmy – me and my shadow, Nonna. There is nothing else for it but to find something constructive for her to do with her time – but what? I’m generally against manual labor for elders and in any case the potato peeling debacle was less than successful – potatoes the size of peas – novel but ultimately mush rather than mash.
It is as I’m listening to the BBC radio 4 on my ipod as I fold laundry that I hit upon a cunning plan. I hear about Margaret Drabble and her fondness of jigsaw puzzles, just like my own mum. I’ve always been dead against jigsaw puzzles, on principal, could there be anything more wasteful in the time department. Fortunately I’m a woman without principals or convictions - easily swayed by any half persuasive argument – a turn coat. After listening a little further I believe all the handicrafts that one might do of an evening, the knitting, the sewing, the embroidery and so forth, all result in a physical item being created. All too often the crafter gives their work away – whether kindly or otherwise – so it’s still just as much of a waste of time. Why waste physical resources when you can just waste time instead? I’m sure Mother Nature would prefer the latter and jigsaws can be done over and over again by different people.
I dash upstairs and dig around the cupboards until I find it – an Escher jigsaw puzzle printed upon card rather than wood, cellophane still in tact so I know that every piece, all 1000 of them, will be there – it is a stunning study in light grey, mid grey and slightly darker grey – fiendish. I’m pretty confident that Nonna will be unable to resist. Margaret Drabble explained the psychologically - we need to complete things, to make order out of chaos – but I have my doubts.
My doubts stem from a little known fact, but I’m not sure how good you are at keeping secrets? Nonna is older now, so she chooses not to tidy nor clean, which suits her just fine. However, even when Nonna was younger than she is now, she also choose not to tidy nor clean, because it suited her. Now me, I come from a formidable lineage of compulsive cleaners and tidiers, my mother did it, as did hers, and hers; it’s genetic, something I can’t fight. That said, Nonna’s attitude – ‘it’s too boring and there are lots of other things that I’d rather be doing with my time and since we’re on the subject who decided that it was my job anyway, do I have to do all that in addition to the mothering thing?’ It’s a compelling argument.
So that’s why I’m a little doubtful. If you don’t have the neat and tidy gene do you also skip the ‘must complete compulsion?’ Are the two related? They seem as if they might be.
I find the biggest board available in the garage, remove cobwebs, dry and place in the middle of the dining room table while the children are at school. I lie in wait to capture my prey. Nonna appears on cue to hover at my shoulder as I pretend to be deeply absorbed with puzzle pieces.
“Wot you got dere den?”
“It’s a jigsaw puzzle.”
“I can see dat. Wot you do?”
“I’m matching the pieces.”
“I can see dat. You are always too busy to be sitting down in dah middle of the day.”
“Indeed I am, I’ll just go and rinse the rice.” I skip into the kitchen secure in the knowledge that before too long Nonna will be entrapped. “Dis is an orrible ting you ave ere!” she calls as she edges herself into a more comfortable puzzle matching position.
“Don’t finish it all at once!” I reply as I whiz to the compost heap, alone. I continue to complete all my many boring household chores for some considerable period of time without any physical interruptions. Communication regarding puzzle progress is easy as I frolic and flit about whilst Nonna remains static, glued to her dining room chair.
“I tink maybe some pieces are missing?”
“No, no, no, rest assured every single piece is there, definitely.”
“You didn’t take one den?”
“No, of course not. Why would I take one piece?”
“To hide it of course.”
“Hide it? Why would I want to hide one piece?”
“The last piece.”
“No. That would be too cruel.”
“Oh good. I just hope I can remember den.”
“Where I hid it.”