Navigating the pandemic bit by bit

February 2 | 2021

As I tell in my recent memoir, The Smallest Objective, I’m the daughter of a gamester—a father who, though not an out-and-out gambler, played golf and cards for modest sums. Only recently, during this pandemic winter, have I discovered a similar urge in myself. My taste isn’t for Blackjack or Gin Rummy but rather jigsaw puzzles. The novelist Margaret Drabble also inclines to jigsaws, so much so that she’s written a book inspired by them, The Pattern in the Carpet. From Drabble I’ve learned that jigsaws originated in the 18th century as “dissected maps,” a tool for teaching children geography. From a recent New York Times story, I found that jigsaws enjoyed huge popularity during the Great Depression—another era of turmoil—and are experiencing a revival right now. As I lock my pieces into place, I’m aware that I’m not merely assembling them. I, too, am part of a pattern.