Saturday, April 21, 2007

Old Dog, New Trick

I'm not that old, really, but I feel like an old dog who's learned a new trick.
When I was young, a traditional part of Christmas was the puzzle. It was placed on a card table, near the piano, and anyone who came in was invited to sit down and put in a piece. Some years there would even be two puzzles, one at our house and one at my aunt's. I liked the idea of it. I liked the thought of gathering around the table, chatting, sifting through pieces, working together to create order from chaos. However, no matter how long I sat and stared, I never, well, almost never, found a piece that fit. I just didn't have the knack for it. Eventually, I gave up even trying, but I still liked the idea of it.
I guess it was that idea that spurred me into buying a puzzle for our family this Christmas. It was a "mystery" puzzle, one that had a story with it, and putting together the puzzle was supposed to help solve the mystery. I figured that since this would be the kids' first experience of putting together a 1000 piece puzzle, the mystery part of it would entice them to stick with it.
The mystery part of that puzzle turned out to be a bust. It was so badly written that putting the puzzle together didn't help one bit. However, the bigger mystery turned out to be how puzzle-challenged me had turned into someone who could actually put together multiple pieces. And, even more amazing, it was fun. So much fun that I got another puzzle for Easter.
This puzzle was also a mystery, "Da Vinci Code Quest," it was called and when I bought it I had the feeling it was of better quality than the last. When we opened it, we found out that not only was it better written, it really was a mystery. There was no picture to show us what the puzzle should look like when completed. Just a few hints in the story. EEEK!. Was I ready for that?
I guess I was, because we completed the puzzle. We solved the mystery. And I'm looking for an excuse to go out and buy a new one. Not only has this old dog learned a new trick, she's hooked.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

One Thing I Don't Regret

I sat down to write today and ended up spending an hour reading reports on the Virginia Tech shooting. The headline that struck me the most was, "He was a loner." That was exactly how the gunman who killed 5 people at the Trolley Square mall was described. And that got me thinking about loners I have known.
In High School I knew a few, but there was one in particular who comes to mind. He drove a truck with a shot gun in the back window. And looking back it scares me to think how easy it would have been for him to bring that shot gun into the school and take out a few people. In his mind, he probably would have had reason to. He was unpopular in his class, teased and ridiculed by many.
However, I wouldn't have called him friendless. I was his friend. And so was my cousin. 
A couple of weeks ago I went to a forum at UVSC. There was an author there who writes about troubled youth, and he talked about a novel he wrote, one about a school shooting. He had been inspired to write it, he said, after a school shooting near his home in Washington. In the aftermath, people were trying to make some sense out of it and one man told his story. He said he understood how the gunman felt, because he'd felt that way himself. One day he reached the point where he was ready to go home and come back the next day with a gun. But on his way out of the school, one of the popular jocks put a hand on his shoulder and said something as simple as, "Hey, how ya doin'." And that did it. Just being achknowledged diffused his anger. He didn't do the terrible thing he had been contemplating.
I thought about that story today. And I thought about my friend in high school. I'm not sure where he is or what his life is like, but I do know we all made it through High School without suffering from his wrath. I don't credit my friendship for that. But I do know that of all the things I regret in High School, and there are a few of them, I don't regret being friends with a loner.