The Missing Jigsaw Piece

My three-year-old is immensely fond of solving jigsaw puzzles. No matter how intricate or lengthy, he will try to solve it to the best of his ability. And when he has almost completed it, he takes the last piece of the puzzle, looks at me with a tremendous sense of achievement, and gloriously places it in it’s rightful place, beaming with joy!  

However, like most toddlers he also messes up the house with his toys all over the floor, and rarely puts them back in place. And hence it so happened one day, that he could not find one piece of the jigsaw puzzle he was making. He came to me and said, “I want puzzle”. At first I too was puzzled, and then I realized he was asking for a missing piece. I took a superficial glance around the room and told him, “I don’t know where it is!”. This response was apparently unwelcome, as it was followed by a a huge cry and then squeals and bellows with unintelligible gibberish screams like “awanapuzzallhaaaannnnaaahhh” (or something like that). I looked at him desperately, pleading him to understand that he wasn’t able to find it only because he kept throwing things around and not keeping them in their right places.

But I soon learnt that this was not the right time to remind him about his habits, as his crying only grew louder. So, I tried to distract him with other stuff. I brought his favorite chocolate, but he threw my hand away with a raging temper. “Ok,” I said to myself, " I definitely have this under control. He is only a kid, and I can think of a hundred ways to get him all happy and chirpy again!" I open one of the new jigsaw puzzles he had received on his birthday, and it was so lovely, he would have to forget about the missing piece. But how wrong was I! As soon as I gave him the new puzzle, he got so furious, like I had insulted his intelligence by trying to bribe him with a replacement. Like I didn’t understand that he would not get his closure unless he completed his existing jigsaw! And then I realized that there was no escape. There was no reason, no alternative, no backing down. This little man had made himself crystal clear; that I had to find this missing piece indeed. This was a non-negotiable affair. 

So, I took upon myself the task of finding this puzzle piece, even if I had to turn the house upside down. I had started to develop a mild headache now, and I could take his screaming no longer. I pushed away the TV cabinet and turned out the sofas. I stood on the dining table to get a better view of my crime scene. No sign of the missing piece. I pulled out the drawers and nudged all the nooks and crannies with a broom. I emptied the flower pots and dusted the showpieces. Still nothing. I overturned all the jeans pockets and even checked his underwear. It was nowhere to be found, but after over an hour into it, my house was undergoing a surgical spring cleaning, and I had nearly lost a kilo of weight due to this vigorous work out. So i did not find this effort in complete futility, and was motivated to continue when I saw my toddler witnessing this spectacle with hopeful eyes. I was following a similar protocol for all the rooms in my house.  

Meanwhile, a friendly neighbour a came to inquire about all crying and screaming, with a genuine concern. I told her what was happening and she couldn’t believe her ears! She suggested me going to the doctor, as she didn’t think it was possible to cry so much over just a toy! She thought it could be a stomach ache or a headache etc. I received her suggestion politely, and promised her to consider it. “There’s a lot of infection in the air,” said she. “Loads of kids falling sick! I’m sure the poor dear is suffering due to this pollution and dirt everywhere.”   

And then I had a brainwave. I ran to the kitchen, and checked my waste paper bin. I rummaged through, and ‘lo! There, amidst all the dust and dirt, along with other trash things, was the very valuable and indispensable (though easily dispensed by my housemaid, clearly!) - the missing jigsaw piece!  

I heaved a huge sigh of relief. This piece and my peace of mind were restored. After sanitizing it, I gave it to my toddler with a smile that said, “I told you, I had it all under control,” and my little guy, with the toothiest grin I had ever seen, took the piece and carefully placed it in the jigsaw. At last it was complete. And as I watched, I thought, ‘so was my life!’.