On the day before I was supposed to fly home to Arkansas with my husband, Frank, to spend Christmas with my family, I tested positive for Covid-19. Consequently, we had to cancel that trip as well as another one scheduled for the following week. The plan was to fly from Arkansas to Puerto Rico, where we’d meet Frank’s mom and sister to celebrate New Year’s Eve and the 60th birthday of Frank’s mom.
Instead, Frank and I quarantined ourselves in our one-bedroom apartment and pored over a 3,000-piece, Peanuts-themed jigsaw puzzle. It was all very spring of 2020, minus any sourdough starters or alcohol abuse.
Because I am fully vaxxed and boosted, I got through the virus without any symptoms more severe than nasal congestion and a cough. I also felt sorry for myself during the ordeal, but I didn’t see self-pity on the CDC’s list of common Covid symptoms, so I’m not sure we can infer a cause-and-effect connection.
And okay, fine, there was a little alcohol abuse.
The puzzle was Frank’s idea. In ordinary circumstances, I don’t have the patience for such a project. After about 10 minutes of hunching over a pile of tiny, innumerable, irregularly cut pieces, my instinct is to overturn the table and run screaming into the night.
But I wasn’t supposed to leave home for 10 days, so I thought I’d stick around and give the puzzle a shot.
The finished image, according to the picture on the box, would depict a large collection of Peanuts characters overlaid on a background of several old Sunday Peanuts strips. Because the puzzle was ludicrously large in order to accommodate the 3,000-piece count, the makers had to include not just Charles Schulz’s main and supporting cast—Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus, Sally, Peppermint Patty, Marcie, Schroeder, Pigpen, et al.—but minor characters such as Shermy, Franklin, Rerun, Snoopy’s extended family, and a bunch of background randos so insignificant I bet they got through the entire 50-year run of the strip without getting a single chance to call Charlie Brown a blockhead.
When Frank and I finally got all the puzzle’s border pieces laid out, we realized that we don’t own a table big enough to assemble the thing in one place. I was like, What is this, the Bayeux Tapestry of Peanuts-themed jigsaw puzzles?
Though I quickly grew to despise the puzzle, I still consider myself a Peanuts fan. I like that the strip is adorable and melancholy at the same time, which I guess is what you get when you center things on a clinically depressed 8-year-old.
I also like A Charlie Brown Christmas, the 1965 animated TV special. For some reason, the part where Linus recites the Nativity story from the Gospel of Luke makes me cry my eyes out.
In fact, I was fond of the Peanuts gang’s TV outings—the ones where all the unseen adults speak in muted trombone wah-wahs—long before I started reading the comic strip. Having seen one such animated special featuring Peppermint Patty while I was around 4 years old or so, I reportedly strolled past the bassinet of my new baby sister and called out, “Hiya, Chuck!”
I do not actually recall this incident, but it’s a famous one in Thompson family lore.
But while Charles Schulz’s work will remain for me a source of warm nostalgia, the 3,000-piece Peanuts puzzle provokes the sorts of feelings more commonly associated with, say, The Family Circus: rage, despair, suicidal ideation.
Frank and I soon abandoned the puzzle and I’m pretty sure my Covid symptoms cleared up on the spot. I have since tested negative, which is a relief because being negative is my preferred way to be.