A Chat about a Cathedral

I’m plenty busy now with writing-related projects, including my own which are back-burnered for a chance to make some real money—not to disparage the importance of my own work, just sayin’. But I keep thinking about jigsaw puzzles. And relearning how to play chess. The attempt to teach cribbage to the husband got very bad reviews (from him) because I had to look up the rules all over again. I used to play this game with my grandmother and I marvel how that, as a 9-year-old, I understood them then.

She was a whiz at card games and Scrabble. Canasta, Casino, solitaire—my sisters and I played a sort of solitaire race game—Klondike—to see who could get all their cards onto the aces first, and you could use anyone’s ace pile.

The husband and I do tackle Scrabble, which I like because I can usually beat him—most members of my family beat me.

Yes, it’s winter, but also spring—that crossover time when trees shed their pollen and narcissus and forsythia are blooming. So when one of my sisters asked me what I was up to, I kind of laughed. Writing, I answered, walking, reading and streaming TV shows and movies. Too cold for gardening.

That’s it. So, this is retirement in the age of COVID.

I don’t think my sister—the Scrabble family champ—would mind me posting these photos regarding Notre Dame, because my reason for doing so is two-fold.

First this one is a puzzle—yes, a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. A birthday present from her husband, they assembled it in over a little less than a week from the day of its unwrapping. In her email she described it as tedious and frustrating, but they tag-teamed it. When one got sick of it, the other took over.

Two of my three sisters are jigsaw puzzle enthusiasts. One will always bring hers to a family gathering, folded into an ingenious jigsaw-puzzle carrying portfolio thing. This sister buys the puzzles and when she’s done, brings (or ships) them to the other sister. At our gatherings, or when I visit them, I stare at the puzzle for seemingly endless hours before I am able to match even one piece. I can pretty well rock the New York Times Crossword, but it took me years before I could conquer the Saturday. Maybe jigsaw puzzle skill develops in a similar way. I realize now I went in awe of my grandmother’s Scrabble and Crossword and Jumble skills because she had been doing them all her life.

This photo—of the sister who completed the Notre Dame jigsaw—was taken at—you guessed it—Notre Dame before the fire. On my bucket list, this, to visit Notre Dame. When I watched it go up in flames on the newsfeed, I felt broken hearted, thinking, I’ll never get to see it now. Now that vaccines are flying out, maybe when we get ours, we’ll be able to fly, too. A friend is on her way to Bisbee, Arizona. The jigsaw queen and her husband are planning a trip to Hawaii. Everyone one I know, pretty much, is getting vaccinated. We’re still waiting to be eligible for shots.

Living through this last year, one gets used to the way of quarantine. In the planning of that trip to Palm Springs, and to have the sisters and plus-ones come to visit us—there’s a glimmer of change at last. Just as spring is sitting up and rubbing her eyes.

So, I’m wondering about getting a jigsaw puzzle, and digging out the Mexico travel book, and seriously inspecting the little 3-drawer bedside cabinet of my grandmother’s, liberally crusted with peeling white paint (probably leaded, it’s so old) and begging to be stripped of it. Spring is a time of beginnings, some old saw says.

But first, to move the freezer. That’ll be one really great change.

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About Jill Zeller

Author of numerous novels and short stories, Jill Zeller is a Left Coast writer, 2nd generation Californian, retired registered nurse, and obsessed gardener. She lives in Oregon with her patient husband, 2 silly English mastiffs and 2 rescue cats—the silliest of all. Her works explore the boundaries of reality. Some may call it fantasy, but there are rarely swords and never elves. More to the point, she prefers to write as if myth, imagination and hallucination are as real as the chair she is sitting on as she writes this. Jill Zeller also writes under the pseudonym Hunter Morrison

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