Puzzle Warehouse
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Puzzle Warehouse

Puzzles I Will Never Share with my Mother-in-law

Hello there! Since last time we hung out, Mr. Ambassador’s mom passed away, and a lot of things I thought I would be doing at the time did not get done. For example: having a Mother’s Day that didn’t include sobbing into a bath towel or writing last month’s blog post. But somehow the days around us have moved into early summer and that peculiar zombiefog is blending into the more familiar zombiefog of busy ball schedules and mildly creative side projects.

My mother-in-law enjoyed puzzling. And I lent her almost all of the puzzles that came through our house, even as I was practicing for Nationals a few years ago and then Worlds last year and then Nationals again earlier this year. Come to think of it, she was on quite the puzzle-training regimen for someone who was not a competitor. In fact, the Ravensburger puzzle that is pictured on the table within this Puzzler’s Place puzzle is one of the puzzles I lent to her as I was training.

puzzler's place

Puzzler’s Place

She was very good at choosing great puzzles for me for my birthday or for Christmas. And I, in turn, lent those to her to do as well.

All this puzzle lending led to a situation reminiscent of this Who Let the Cats Out puzzle, which looks like a dramatic recreation of my mother-in-law’s dining room table after the in-laws took on one of our cats as a permanent resident following a dispute and several months of irreconcilable differences between our two cats. 

cat puzzling puzzle

Who Let the Cats Out 

The cat they ended up with is a bit of a chewer and especially loves puzzles (eating them, not putting them together), and my mother-in-law carefully covered her puzzles with a tablecloth when she stepped away. You might be eating supper over there and realize more often than not that there was a puzzle in progress under the tablecloth.

But she was much more to us than a borrower and giver of puzzles. She was also a full-time puzzle supporter and one-time puzzle teammate! 

When I won a puzzle design contest and had my illustration made into a puzzle, she vied with my dad for top purchaser of my puzzle, outfitting each family grouping with their own copy.

And before that she accompanied two of my kids and me to Duluth for the Puzzle Derby. She took the kids to a blustery Canal Park while I competed with friends in the teams contest.

Canal Park puzzle

Canal Park

Then she was a great sport as the four of us competed as pairs (her with one kiddo and me with the other) for her first and only puzzle contest. It was a great day!

But even beyond being a partner in puzzling, she was helpful. After we moved into our current house with three young kids in tow, she knew that I had leftover paint from my previous kitchen – a lovely turquoise, like the wall in The Book Palace

the Book Palace

The Book Palace

She knew that we’d be out of the house for an activity one Saturday and she came over and painted the kitchen herself just to help me turquoise up the new place.

She was also brave. When my son graduated, she offered to help in the kitchen for his chili bar party. 

cats cooking puzzle

Kool Kat Kuisine 

When she showed up on the day of the party, she was wearing white capri pants and new white canvas shoes. Don’t worry, we got chili on both!

She was also generous. In the fall and winter, she would stop at the apple orchard almost weekly. (The orchard she liked was much like this Pick UR Own Apples orchard but with better spelling.) 

Pick UR Own Apples puzzle

Pick UR Own Apples

She would bring us fresh apples along with apple pie, bars, doughnuts, turnovers, or all of the above, depending on what was available that day. She brought so many treats that I had to pack them in the freezer because we couldn’t eat them fast enough. A couple of weeks after she died I realized that we have so many treats in the freezer that we’d better dig into them before they get old. So if you want to see one of the Ambassador family weep into their apple bars (It’s pot luck! Which one will it be?!), stop over after supper some night this week.

Over Memorial Day weekend, we all got together at my father-in-law’s house. As we were cleaning up after the first holiday without my mother-in-law and we took the leaf out of the dining room table to pack it away, I found a Ravensburger puzzle, still in the plastic, jammed into the bottom of the dining room table. It was a lighthouse design, similar to the one in the picture frame in this puzzle, but not exactly this one. My father-in-law was as surprised as anyone.

Marine to Life puzzle

Marine To Life 

Why was it there? Why was I the lucky one to find it? If you figure it out, let me know, cuz we’re stumped!

Was she hiding her gift stash in the table? Was she saving it? Was it placed there by one of the great-grandkids playing underneath? Did it somehow fall in there when the table was open? Was it stabilizing a loose piece in the table? Was it to give the rest of us a moment to laugh after she had moved on?

I guess I’ll have to wait until I’m gone and they bury me with all my puzzles. Then I can ask her, and we can get to the bottom of it. In the meantime, I’ll have to settle for being lucky to know her.


Comments - Add Comment 5.0 Stars 6
5 Stars
Barbie W. - Chincoteague Island, VA

Beautiful tribute to your Mother in law!

5 Stars
JUDITH D. - Waldron, MI

So sorry to hear about the loss of your family member. I know that the first get together s are the hardest. That is so neat that a puzzle fan found that lighthouse puzzle.

5 Stars
Alyssa Z. - Stevenson Ranch, CA

What beautiful memories! I’m sorry for your loss

5 Stars
Lisa J. - Windermere, FL

What a lovely tribute to your mother-in-law! So glad you were able to share your passion for puzzles.

5 Stars
Shannon - Minnesota

Robin, you are as much her daughter as I am. ❤️ This post is beautiful, and is a gift to her memory. I still can’t believe she somehow hid a puzzle in the DR table, and I know you were meant to find it! Thank you for this tribute. I love you, my sister ❤️

5 Stars
Cecily - Penarth, Wales (U.K.)

Once again you charm us with your wit and wisdom. I'm sorry to read of your loss, but glad to know that you had a fan and fellow puzzled for a bit! Keep finding the patterns! Hugs to you!

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