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With all schools in New Jersey in distance learning mode, the dedicated staff of Columbia High School’s award-winning student newspaper, The Columbianproudly present their first on-line edition at thecolumbianchs.com. The following guest column “Mona Lisa in Quarantine,” by Livvy Krakower, Class of 2021, was originally published by The Columbian on April 28, 2020. With permission from CHS administration and staff at the newspaper, Village Green will be posting more content from the current issue of The Columbian in the coming weeks.

Livvy Krakower, 21

Before quarantine shut the libraries down, my dad checked out a biography on Leonardo da Vinci. I cannot tell you why my dad—a middle-aged Jew from upstate N.Y.—had such a fascination with da Vinci, but he did to the point where he ordered a 500-piece Mona Lisa puzzle for a family activity during quarantine.

The Mona Lisa puzzle sat unopened on our dining room table for a while. There was no time to start it. At that time, I was still going to school every day, my brother was away at college, my dad was at work and my mom, who is a nurse, continued to go to the hospital without much of a second thought. The household was busy; there was no time for puzzling.

As quarantine was extended further and further, my family’s “normal” changed.

The weekend school shut down was the weekend I opened the Mona Lisa puzzle. It was fun to connect some corner pieces with my dad as my mom came home from work. She would shower once she got home but could still make dinner and kiss me goodnight. Sometimes she would drift to where the puzzle was and connect some more pieces. When my brother returned home from college, the Mona Lisa puzzle became a family activity for everyone.

Mona Lisa Puzzle,
Photo credit: L. Krakower

As quarantine was extended further and further, my family’s “normal” changed. My mom would come home already changed out of her scrubs. She would dump her work shoes in the bucket by the backdoor and shower instantly. We stopped asking my mom how her day was. We stopped asking her about work.

As my mom went to the hospital every day, the rest of my family began to puzzle intensely. Every day we sat around the table and stared at the Mona Lisa. While a 500-piece puzzle may not seem like it should take a long time, the Mona Lisa is very difficult, and honestly, my family is not known for our puzzling skills.

There was a rush to the puzzling, one that consumed my family, so we didn’t need to think about the pandemic. My mom stopped working on the puzzle two weeks into the quarantine. It wasn’t that she was too tired to do it, she simply didn’t want to touch the pieces that the rest of the family were touching. There was a constant distance between her and us.

The Mona Lisa puzzle was an activity just for quarantine and I believed that we would be done with it when quarantine ended. I would work on it between homework, while talking with friends and even during meals. The sooner the puzzle was over, I thought, the sooner quarantine would end.

A couple days ago, my brother, my dad and I were nearing the end of the Mona Lisa puzzle. We were placing puzzle pieces in like never before, one after the other, until there were none left. We stepped back to take in the masterpiece, to celebrate the quarantine puzzle in the hopes that it would bring us to the end of this madness.

But there were three puzzle pieces missing.

We checked in the box, looked for them under the rug and sought out for them under adjacent stacks of paper. They were gone. The puzzle wasn’t complete. My mom went to work the next day. The quarantine continued.


The Columbian staffCo-Editors-in-Chief: Martina Zacker ’20 and Nicholas Shires ’20. DesignEditors: Dana Hugel ’20 and Matt McBride ’21. Photo Editor: Arielle Loubier ’21. Art Editor: Avery Soupios ’20. News Editor: Jon Cutler ’20. Arts & Entertainment Editor: Emily Wilner ’20. In-Depth Co-Editors: Noori Zubieta ’20 and Ruari McEwan ’20. Opinions Co-Editors: Jordan Young ’20 and Ari Mehlman ’20. Sports Co-Editors: Sydney Rednik ’20 and Zoe Slavin ’20. Designers: Derek Gutierrez ’20, Jack Griffith ’22, Ethan Walden ’20, Isaac Weber ’21, Charlie Hummel ’21, Sydney Mannion ’22. Advisers for The Columbian are Joshua Enyeart (English Dept.) and Cindy Malhotra (Fine Arts).


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