Click. Clack. Click.
In Missy’s enunciation, that usually means “Help.” And in Missy’s room, with those sound effects, it usually means her favorite puzzle is once again underway.
In more than 12 years as Missy’s guardians, Heather and I have watched her work a lot of children’s puzzles – ones with planets, dinosaurs, pirates and more. But nothing has equaled the popularity of the Llama Llama puzzle, where the pieces have been handled so many times that the colors are becoming more of a suggestion.
It’s not that Missy’s a fan of the show. To my knowledge, she’s never watched a single episode. But the Llama Llama puzzle may be unique in the realm of board puzzles. Even by the forgiving standards of that field, its pieces are …. shall we say, highly adaptable? In fact, a given piece may have four or five different spots where it could easily fit without bringing the process to a halt.
And so, it’s quite possible for Missy to work the puzzle for an hour or more without creating the same picture twice. Mind you, only one of those combinations creates an “actual” picture. The rest of them are a bit more surrealistic, with Llama Llama’s head oddly disconnected from the rest of his body, or a toy train beginning in one corner of the puzzle and continuing in another as though connected by some bizarre hyperspace tunnel.
But in a way, it doesn’t really matter. One way or another, with or without help, Missy finds her way through. And the answers she finds are indisputably hers.
That’s truly satisfying. To her. To me and Heather. And maybe to anyone who’s had to assemble a life experience from inconsistent parts.
Plenty of people have advice on how your picture should look, of course. After all, they know the “right way” to do it. It worked for them, so it’ll work for you, right?
Now, there’s nothing wrong with learning from the experience of others. That’s how we pick up a lot of things from parents, teachers, employers and even the occasional Muppet. (“Why, yes, Cookie *does* start with C!”) But there comes a point where someone else’s lessons can only go so far.
And sooner or later, we all have to wrestle with the puzzle pieces for ourselves.
The result may look odd to someone else. Chaotic. Out of order. Certainly unconventional. But they’re not you. We all start in different places, work through different perceptions, feel the call of different songs. Our lives don’t neatly fit the same box.
If the picture you build isn’t hurting someone else, chances are you’re doing it right. If it’s removing pain and adding to the world’s beauty, you’re doing it very right indeed.
And if it’s a little weird in the process – well, I’m certainly not in a position to argue.
Llama Llama has now been reassembled for the 1,237th time. (Source: U.S. Department of Imaginary Figures.) His toy box is upside down. His hooves are far enough apart to require a map. But it’s still a scene of celebration.
An answer has been found. Tomorrow’s may be different. But with patience, creativity and a memory of where “edge pieces” go, it will be one that eventually works.
All is well.
No need for Llama drama.