Thursday, December 11, 2003

Truly Puzzling

One of my friends recently e-mailed me to excitedly tell me she was taking a class in pergamano and enjoying every minute of it. I had no clue what pergamano was, but I narrowed it down to either a class in Italian cooking or hand-to-hand combat.

I did some research on the Internet and found out that pergamano actually is the art of painting, perforating, cutting and embossing parchment to make it look like delicate lacework and flowers.

My friend’s enthusiasm made me realize that I haven’t done much in the way of hobbies since I got a computer. But then, I really wasn’t all that great at any of my hobbies when I did have them.

I can remember when I thought jigsaw puzzles might be fun. The problem was, I was terrible at making them. It would take me about a week to assemble just one corner of a puzzle’s border. My husband, on the other hand, could slap one together in about an hour. Whenever I struggled to make a puzzle, he would walk by the table, stop about three feet away and say, “See that green piece on your left over there? It’ll fit into that piece you’re holding.” And usually he was right.

One windy and rainy night, my husband and I began working together on a 10-milion-piece puzzle. He obviously was enjoying himself because he hummed a merry tune as he quickly pieced together an entire section…while I sat there pounding two pieces with my fist to try to force them to fit together. That’s when we suddenly had a power failure.

“Hallelujah!” I silently cheered, figuring I had been spared from a long evening of sitting and staring blankly at puzzle pieces.

“I’ll get the oil lamp,” my husband said.

If I thought trying to make a puzzle in good light was impossible, trying to make it by the light of an old oil-lamp was about as easy as doing it blindfolded. I couldn’t tell the difference between a goat’s head and a rock.

“Find all the pieces with straight edges and put them in this pile over here,” my husband instructed. “Then we’ll make the border.”

I was feeling my way through the puzzle pieces when our neighbor dropped by to see how we were coping with the power failure.

“Whatcha doing?” he asked, leaning over the table to get a closer look at our panoramic view-in-progress of the Swiss Alps. He reached out to point to a puzzle piece he thought might fit somewhere. When he did, his elbow accidentally knocked over the oil lamp.

To this day, I still don’t know why our kitchen didn’t go up in flames. But even though the kitchen was spared from disaster, the puzzle wasn’t quite so lucky. It ended up with oil all over it. The Swiss Alps looked as if the Exxon Valdez had crashed into them.

My husband lost interest in puzzles soon after that, so I decided to try a new hobby I’d read about in a magazine…eggshell mosaics. The instructions said to buy eggs with pure white shells, dye them different solid colors, then break them into small pieces and glue them together on a thin board to form a picture.

But did I begin with a simple project like an eggshell smiley face? Heck no. I decided to make a farmhouse with a pond, trees and mountains surrounding it…all out of tiny eggshell pieces.

So I bought eggs. Lots and lots of eggs. My husband and I ate omelets, scrambled eggs, deviled eggs, egg salad and angel-food cakes so often (because I didn’t want to waste any egg innards), we nearly grew feathers and clucked. But slowly, my mosaic began to take shape.

And two months later, when I finally finished my masterpiece, I was so proud of it, I entered it in the Deerfield Fair and actually won a blue ribbon.

And my cholesterol was over 300.

Now that I think about it, maybe the computer isn’t such a bad hobby after all.