“Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer; those days of soda and pretzels and beer.” So sang Nat King Cole back in 1963. I’m a geek, so I’m more likely to indulge in low-fat milk, granola bars, and protein drinks than soda and pretzels and beer. I openly admit, though, to spending many a long, boring day lounging in my pajamas and feeding an embarrassing addiction. I’m a jigsaw junkie. My husband and I have an agreement that if the number of puzzles I own reaches 100, I’ll have to get psychiatric help. I don’t want him to know how close I am to that number, so I’ve started smuggling them in and stashing them around the house as if they were illicit drugs.
I’m such a puzzle addict that I have a favorite puzzle-designing artist: Jan Van Haasteren of The Netherlands. Almost all my puzzles are his creations. They’re a riot of color and comedy, with busy scenes of cartoon-like characters.
Because of my addiction, we haven’t been able to eat at the kitchen table for decades, since there’s almost always a Van Haasteren on the table. One of his puzzles in progress I mean, not Mr. Van Haasteren himself, although I wouldn’t object to that. I once wrote a fan letter to him (yes, I’m that much of a nerd) and received a brief, but charming, note from him which said, “I read your email which made me both laugh and content.” I nearly swooned. I framed it and hung it on the wall.
During the early days of Covid confinement, when families were stuck at home with nothing to do, jigsaw puzzles became a hot commodity. The store shelves were emptied of puzzles. If you were lucky enough to find any, they were ridiculously expensive. My friends, who are aware of my addiction, began to call and ask if I might be willing to part with any. I gave away or lent out dozens of them. I’d meet the reciever in a remote, darkened parking lot and reluctantly pass over the box as of it held stolen jewels or counterfeit money. If it was a genuine Van Haasteren design, they’d have to pry my rigid fingers from the box. I’d growl in my most menacing voice, “If any harm comes to it while in your possession, I will hunt you down and haunt you in your dreams.”
If I weren’t such a nervous flyer, I’d go to The Netherlands and join the throngs of fans who probably stalk him, lurking in the shrubs outside his studio or interupting his lunch of genever and bitterballen (Dutch gin and fried balls of stewed meat with mustard), harrassing him for selfies and autographs. Surely I’m not the only one. The man’s an artistic and comedic genius.
After Covid shutdowns began to loosen up and puzzles began to reappear on store shelves, it didn’t take long for me to replace the ones I’d given away. I’ve once again started smuggling them into the house under cover of darkness so my husband won’t find out. Just in case I get “busted,” I’ve also started a psychiatric fund savings account. Maybe Mr. Van Haasteren will lend me the money. Does anybody know the exchange rate for Euros to American dollars?
I just may add to my will that I want my Van Hasteren puzzles buried with me, but that would require a coffin the size of a piano crate.