One pin at a time


Today was a long day, and I’m tired.  My hands hurt, my feet hurt, and I’m worn out after a long weekend of yard work, watching kids, and generally getting things done.   The kids are now in bed and quiet reigns over my house.

Instead of sitting down and resting like my body desperately needs, I sit down in front of my sewing machine instead.  It’s perched precariously on a desk, sharing space with my nearly defunct computer.  The desk is surrounded by boxes of craft supplies from our move, waiting until the day we are able to get bookcases and storage to hold them.  It’s a mess.

As much as I want to kick back and relax, I can’t.


A few days ago, our local community put out a plea, begging for everyone to donate any possible masks, Clorox wipes, gowns – anything – to the police, firefighters, and EMTs.  None of these first responders have the protective gear they need, and even the EMTs are running out of vital gear.

So tonight, after finishing up my mom duties, I sit down in front of my machine.  I take off my wrist brace (it gets in the way) and I pull one piece from the top of the pile sitting beside my machine.  There’s a finished pile on the other side, waiting for me to drop them off for the local sewing group to donate wherever they’re most needed.   The finished pile is small.  The to-do pile is much larger.


As I sew, desperately hoping my last needle won’t break, my mind drifts to the latest stories from New York.  I want to rush and finish quickly, but I know this mask I’m sewing might be the only one a firefighter gets during this crisis.  So I take my time and do it right: crisp corners, straight seams, a filter pocket, and a metal noseband.  This mask needs to hold up through many washes and last the duration of the crisis.


I’m not good at this.  Sewing is my least favorite skill, and it’s not one I practice often.  There are plenty of experienced crafters whipping out huge batches of masks while I labor through my pile.  I find myself wondering if my paltry few masks are even worth bothering over.  No! I tell myself.  The 25 masks in this pile are 25 more than they had to donate before.  Every effort counts.  My masks might not block 100% of the virus particles, but they’re better than nothing.   And nothing is what many people have right now.


This crisis our country faces is nothing like we’ve ever experienced before.  It rages, destroying our sense of normal, deepening fears, and leaving many lost in a maelstrom of uncertainty and worry.  My masks seem like a useless, crafty, pointless waste of time put up against the enormity of what we face.


Tomorrow is a school day.  I’m trying to give the kids a sense of normal, of routine that will help ground them in this uncertain time.  They are antsy and bored, starved for interactions with other kids.  They are anxious too – my 6yo dissolved in tears, distraught after watching the movie Wonder Park.  “Mommy, will you have to go to the hospital too?”  They know I’m high risk, and we’ve been honest with them about what that can mean.


Tomorrow we will go have a picnic and watch the turtles at the pond near us.  We’ll do math and language arts, and maybe painting if we have time.  I will stand at the counter while they work, cutting and pinning in an attempt to grow the to-do pile a little more.  Every mask I make helps push back the anxiety threatening to overwhelm me.


I don’t recognize this world we’re in right now.  I don’t know if I’ll survive it.  All I can do is reach for another pin, smile at my kids, and do the next thing.


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