This wooden manger puzzle holds many Christmas memories for me. The distinctive pieces fit only a certain way into the wooden box made to resemble a shed.
My husband and I bought it and two more just like it at a Christmas Craft Show in our home town, Greenville, SC well over thirty years ago. Each puzzle was created from two pieces of wood.
One piece was cut into the shape of the shed. The center part was cut with a jig saw into manger animals and people of the manger story. Then they were sanded to a smooth finish, and given a dark sheen.
The second part was made into the back or base for the pieces to fit onto within the frame of the shed.
We bought these puzzles because they made such intriguing and delightful Christmas presents especially for families with children or grandchildren. One puzzle was for our family; one for my husband’s family and one as a gift for a couple, BK and PK, whom we love like family while my husband went to school in New Orleans many years ago.
Some Friday nights we drove 30 minutes across New Orleans to a distant suburb to visit with them, play bridge and other games and just get away from the grind of my husband’s studies and of my work schedule.
After my husband graduated we eventually moved to North Carolina and fell out of touch with BK and PK. After nine years apart when our son was 6 years old, we went on a trip to New Orleans and renewed our friendship with them in 1989.
In August of 2005 after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, we found and called their old phone number, hoping it still worked. We were relieved to know they had fled the storm and only had some damage to their garage. It was so good to talk with them again.
Time passed. In 2009 I called BK and PK after my husband’s death to tell them of his passing. I was amazed to hear how their three daughters had grown up, married and had children.
From then on each Christmas I received pictures of their girls and their growing families. The three daughters had not seen us in over 30 years. Yet they knew us as the family who gave their parents the manger puzzle. They had cherished that puzzle while growing up.
In about 2011 I was enjoying lunch with my sister in law near Greenville, South Carolina when I looked up and saw one of the daughters who I recognized from the photographs her mother had shared. Imagine my surprise! She shared with me that her parents were coming to town to visit.
On their visit with their daughter and her family I enjoyed a visit with BK and PK. I was so excited when BK and PK told me they were moving to the same town as my brother! At last I would be able to see them more often.
BK and PK moved to SC over two years ago. When I visited my brother and his family, I was able to share a wonderful afternoon, catching up with these dear friends.
The manger is still a treasure to their children and now their grandchildren. Each sister wanted to have their own copy of it because it meant so much to them as children. Last year their parents bought each of the three daughters their own manger puzzle for their families.
Now at Christmas the manger puzzle brings back memories for them as they see their children enjoying playing with Grandma’s and Grandpa’s puzzle.
The manger puzzle also holds memories for me. When I unpack my Christmas decorations my manger puzzle is like a treasured old friend with memories from years ago, when our son was small, as he eagerly accepted the challenge of putting the manger pieces back into the manger frame.
I still enjoy putting my puzzle together, just to be sure I haven’t forgotten where each wooden piece goes.
Two years ago my then 9 month old grandson enjoyed this puzzle by feeling of it, tasting it and moving loose pieces around. New memories for me from this beloved Manger Puzzle.
Now this grandson in four plus years old. He loves the puzzle and already loves to put some of the pieces together in their proper places. Here is a photo of him last year. Someday his younger brother may want to play with it too.
So every December in my home and my friends’ homes a manger puzzle is brought out and placed in a prominent place where everyone can lay out the pieces and figure out how the pieces fit in the frame/box. The wooden manger was a wonderful present to give so many happy memories to so many people, young and old.