Fifteen ~ A Lesson in Life

If everyone would just do things the way I think they should be done in the order they should done, the way I would do them and exactly the time I think it should all happen – how beautiful this world would be.

I jest – sort of.  But the truth is, even I can’t make my own ways work perfectly all the time.  I could if I were the only person in the universe, but the fact that there are others I live with, love, work with, socialize among and co-exist with, well, that changes the whole ballgame.

The Fifteen-Puzzle at Grandma Baker’s house

I actually never heard it called a Fifteen-Puzzle, but that’s what Restoration Hardware calls it (above). They were just little red-plastic squares with white movable numbered tiles and I probably had at least a dozen of these over the years.  And I most associate this puzzle with being at my Grandma’s house on York Street in Des Moines in the mid-1960s.

She had a few of these around and the cousins and I would play with them until we solved them.  Or not.  I recall so wanting to finish it every time – always starting with great-great hope, but being aggravated  by it, too.  The numbers would be mixed up and you had to move, one space at a time, to try to get them all back in order.  I always hated the times I would have the whole thing almost right, but would have to undo other things I had done (that were already in the perfect spot!) to put a stray number in and it would end up messing up 3 or 4 tiles and take me an extra 16 moves – for just that one numbered-tile.  Grrrrrr….

I had one like this, which I found on ebay.  The tiles were glow-in-the-dark for playing after lights out! {source unknown}

The sliding tile puzzle as a metaphor for life.

The pieces have restraints, connections, they must stay on the board.  They “rub elbows” with other pieces.  And even when you know you want to get the number {two} from the bottom row second from the last block to the top row in the number {two} position, you can only slide it up or over one square at a time.  Maybe you slid it up, but then you have to move the one beside it to the right and down to make space for the one above that to go to the right and down  so you can keep moving the {2} tile up.  Every movement you want to make {the most sensible and obvious move} will inevitably involve lots of other moves to get it there, some that even seem counter-productive.  And, {gasp}, there are even times you have to move backwards, actually undo progress, to make the path ready.

But eventually, you keep at it and it works and it is {whew!} finished.

In life, in love, in relationships – you decide a plan and you can see exactly how it should go, but there are conversations to have, misunderstandings to overcome, celebrations to dance at, roses to stop to smell, there is give and take, and many times concessions to make for the sake of peace.  Some days it’s two steps forward and one step back.  But other days it may ever be harder.  Eye on the prize, though, we just keep going.  We rub each other wrong, we bump elbows and move a little spastically by accident.

In the end, we get there.  Everything lines up, everything is where it should be.  Deep breath of satisfaction – we did it.  We solved it together.  A good moment in time.

Then some crazy kid picks it up and scrambles the numbers again.  *sigh.

Note to self: Gotta get some of these for the grand-boys and maybe Guini.  It is time they experience this puzzle.

3 thoughts on “Fifteen ~ A Lesson in Life

  1. I remember them too! We also had some that made a picture. Talk about frustrating!
    I guess you never liked the Rubik’s cube?

    1. If by “liked” you mean “you were never able to solve” then no. I did not like the Rubik’s Cube. Haha. Totally twisted my mind! These slide puzzles were surely the precursor!!?

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