When I was in college, I bought myself a sewing machine. A good one with all metal components and smooth as silk. It was a big investment at the time, but well worth it. For years I used it to sew all manner of things, from the textile artwork in my thesis show to the long green curtains in my first home. I thought I’d have it forever until my daughter, now near the age I was when I bought it, asked if she could borrow it.
After some deliberating, I decided to give it to her. I hadn’t used it much since Alan and I moved, and I could always get another one. It would serve her well, just as it had served me. We met in late February for a quick visit and I loaded it into her trunk, promising to teach her how to use it during her spring break. We said our au revoir, until we meet again.
That spring break never came.
Instead we got a pandemic and a shutdown. A firm warning to stay away from each other, be careful, wash our hands. As her classes shifted online and her employer closed, she found herself with plenty of time to learn but no one to teach her.
She called me one day from her cell phone, ready to learn right there on the spot. I could talk her through it, she insisted. (She’d had a coffee or two.) She wanted to make herself a face mask – she promised she’d make one for me too.
I talked her through threading the machine, trying to both describe its various hooks and loops and just plain remember them. Did the bobbin wind clockwise or counterclockwise?? I swirled the imaginary case in my hand to remember. When the tension clip fell off as she tried to insert it, I was at a loss. She told me she’d figure it out later and we bid each other good night.
A few weeks later a package of cloth masks arrived, each one a little nicer than the next. Some used hair ties for ear loops (a flashback to the days when I’d find them adorning the tub), and others were made from old flannel shirts, clearly meant for Alan. Mine had a slot for a filter so I could stay extra safe and protected.
Little did she know that what made me feel safest of all was knowing that she was taking it all seriously.
She returned to work shortly thereafter, an essential worker armed with a mask on her face and a bottle of sanitizer in her purse. She dealt with all the things one does in this sort of situation – the heat and humidity, the sweaty, fast-paced work of her food service job, and worst of all, trying to enforce the state guidelines among uncooperative customers.
I was supposed to see her for my birthday next week – a distanced visit, but a visit nonetheless. The first time I’ve seen her in months. But when I came home from a rare trip to the store and slipped off my mask, I saw her message.
One of her coworkers tested positive.
A party. College-age kids. No masks. Disregard for guidelines. And now a coworker is sick, a mom is worried sick, and a business is shutdown. Was it worth it?
I won’t go into the details because they make me mad – they make her mad. But I’m proud of her for this:
She wore a mask.
She stayed vigilant. She didn’t go to a party that all of her coworkers went to because she knew it was risky. If I get the tiniest bit of sleep tonight, tomorrow night, and every night until she gets a negative result, it will be because of this.