The other day, Drew said the B-word. I’m not kidding. He looked right into my eyes as I sat at the computer on a SUNDAY—aargh—transcribing my little heart out—well, transcribing anyway. He ignored the outdoors, the shelves of books, the football guys, cars, dinosaurs, construction paper—all of it—and had the audacity to say the two words that make every mother beg for help from heaven lest she bury her child in a stormy lecture too great for his little head to handle: “I’m bored.”
I glanced for only a moment at the books and writing and straightening I wished I were doing, skipped the lecture, and went to the rainy day shelf. It’s really not as well stocked as it should be, but I keep a few games and things there that they usually forget exist and can therefore rescue all the B-moments. I pulled down this puzzle of the United States. The border hooks together like any puzzle, but the states are cut individually and just have to fit together. I used to put together one like this at my grandma’s after the dolls and outdoors had lost my interest and she had put the elephant collection safely in its home behind the high glass door. I became an expert at that thing. I used to time myself—once I had the border together. I pictured those pieces in my head so thoroughly that I would see them in the shapes my cheese and bologna would make as I bit into it. “Look, Mom, it’s Idaho!”
As you can imagine, I wanted to help Drew. I thought surely he wouldn’t figure out where Alaska and Hawaii fit down at the bottom, and he had no hope in the northeast—all those tiny little states that have to fit just so. But after helping only a little and being—very kindly—shooed away, I realized that although I’m sure Grandma had to show me the Alaska thing at first, my memory of those times with the puzzle are just me and the pieces. Working it out by myself, becoming a geographical whiz on the same humble coffee table where I had earlier created family groups from the elephants. So I let Drew have his moment, and it was everything I could have hoped. He learned the difference between Kansas City and Florida which were previously one in the same—”that place we go on vacation”—and he had the joy of figuring it out all by himself. All I really did – was take the picture. Four of them.