Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ghosts From Christmas Past

      Since I opened my Etsy shop I have become an avid internet shopper. It's that little shop that has made time my arch enemy.Shopping the internet saves me oodles and oodles of time. But before the internet I was a huge catalog shopper. Do any of you remember back in those days before computers and Amazon when deliveries from most catalogs could take up to 6-8 weeks? Oh yes the good old days.
 This year unexpectedly I received a catalog that sent me back a bit emotionally. I haven't ordered from this particular catalog for a while so seeing it really surprised me. It's called Bits and Pieces and it has some wonderful items but I shopped it mostly for the jigsaw puzzles. My dad was a big fan of puzzles and always had one on the dining room table in progress. So seeing this catalog this year after his death was very hard for me and took me back to a spooky moment we shared with him many years ago.
Not a great photo but back in the corner behind her was the old wagon with Amish dolls.

My dad was a very quiet, patient man who followed in his father's foot steps by going into banking. He served in the USAF as a radio interceptor during the Korean war. He was very neat and tidy and extremely organized! He lived his life by rules and laws, very conservative in his beliefs. Honor and loyalty was everything to him. Right was right and wrong was wrong and there were NO gray areas to him ever! My brothers and I wish we had inherited some of his neat and tidy traits, but sadly we did not. He had several strong, scouting, and more golf! But there was one other passion and that was jigsaw puzzles. So when he had time and wasn't playing golf he could sit for hours and work a puzzle. My mom wasn't interested in his puzzles at all they just weren't her thing.

They did however have a very sweet tradition with dad's puzzles. Whenever he finished one he would come and get her and she would then put in the last piece and they'd share a laugh and say they did the puzzle together! This was something that had gone on as long as I can remember.
Dad,me,Brent,and Barry the first Christmas after mom died having Sunday brunch at the country club.

After Mom became sick with lung cancer he didn't do any more puzzles. I guess taking care of her became a full time job. After she died we encouraged him to find his passions again and we all bombarded him with new puzzles.

A few weeks later when we were talking he asked me if any of us had touched his puzzle he was working on. NO I said absolutely not, none of us would ever go near it. We had been raised to never touch his things.....being a neat freak he would know immediately and throttle us. As a foot note I must also admit that we never walked into their bedroom either... that was just not done in our family. He went on to tell me that the last piece of this new puzzle was missing! He had started working a puzzle my brother Barry had given him. I thought to myself what are the chances that Barry would buy a puzzle with one missing piece, for heavens sake. Now in all the years, and I mean years that my dad had worked puzzles he had NEVER had a puzzle with any missing pieces!
I knew in my heart that no one had touched it but I called my brothers anyway and asked them. Both of them were like me totally puzzled about this (sorry I just had to say it).
I always looked for snowy winter scenes for him to take to Florida.
 So later on he framed the puzzle because he thought it was so strange that a piece was missing....he said "I guess your Mom took it since she couldn't be here to put it in with me". We all agreed but still it just seemed crazy. That started another tradition for our family. Dad occasionally would work a puzzle, glue it down and frame it for one of us.....always with the final piece missing. He never put the last piece in any puzzle after she died.....none of us ever do now, it's just our way of remembering her.

Many years later dad decided to move into a condo and my brother Brent bought the family home. One weekend we drove up there to help him go through things and pack up. My son Will and daughter in law Amy decided to join us to help box up and move some items.

As we were looking around tying to decide what would make the move and what would not we heard Amy shout "oh my gosh you better come in here". She was standing in the dining room with a strange look on her face holding one of mom's beloved Amish dolls. She said look what just fell out of the dolls apron!! We all just stood there staring down at a green puzzle piece, none of us moving to pick it up. We had nearly forgotten all about the missing piece, until then. Finally my Dad walked over picked it up and then proceeded to a spare room closet with the piece in hand. Sure enough it was the missing piece!!
Similar to her Amish dolls

We all laughed and tried to make sense of this discovery. Dad was not someone who tossed things about his house willy-nilly. Shoot he would get crazy if we kids sprinkled salt on the table or our dinner place mat was not straight while eating. There were no logical answers to this except one......did mom return and hide the piece? I don't believe that but we all laughed and said " Well she must have looked down and said if she couldn't put the piece in then NO ONE could".
I guess we'll never know for sure how the puzzle piece came to be inside of the dolls apron. We do know that dad being dad had cleaned around those dolls for years and years and it hadn't shown itself until that day.
I still carry it in my wallet. The green is nearly gone but the meaning still remains.
 I still carry this poor ole puzzle piece around with me and have thought that someday I should get charms made in this shape for each of us. To us it represents my parents and the sweet game they played together all of their married life.