By Nanci Dixon
Like so many others in lockdown, quarantine or under stay-at-home orders, I have been making face masks. I have learned so much in the simple process of making dozens of them.
My history, my family history: My father offered me my stepmother’s 1970’s boat-anchor-weight Kenmore sewing machine to use. As I rummaged through her sewing box, learned to thread her machine and placed my hands where her hands had gone, I got a sense of connection and appreciation that I had not had when she was alive.
She was an avid, accomplished seamstress – my mother was not. I was an avid sewer, too, with two sewing machines and a sewing room when we had a house. Selling my antique Necchi (also a boat anchor) and Brother machines was a hard choice when we decided to full-time. Yes, I bought a three-pound plastic “toy” machine for simple repairs but it is not the same.
Now I have a real sewing machine, and every surface is covered with fabric, filters and my mini ironing board setup. I have a sewing room again! Actually, now the whole motorhome is a sewing room.
Patience, patience, patience. There are hundreds of directions on the internet, written and on YouTube with a variety of styles and vagary of instructions. I ended up mixing and matching styles to create one of the most complicated face masks possible, complete with N-95-like filtration.
Ripping out a completed face mask four times in one day because one of the wrong sides kept showing until I figured it out required more patience than I have ever, ever had.
Giving. At first the masks were just to be for my husband and me, then my sister and her husband, then my 97-year-old dad, then the other park hosts, then the park staff, then our out-of-town children and close friends.
Yup, people wanted the masks and offered to pay, at least some did, but we gave them away. We gave them away because, well, it was the right thing to do. We wanted to help keep people safe and ourselves safe, too. I am rather ashamed to admit it, but I am not naturally giving, not naturally a volunteer. I was learning the gift of giving.
Stamina. Getting up early every morning, sewing all day and only getting two or three masks done with more orders coming, the machine jamming and needles breaking was frustrating with no end in sight. But I kept going and eventually I could get more than a half-dozen or so done in a day.
Solitude. Yes, I know that solitude does not sound that desirable during a stay-at-home pandemic, but the solitude of just cutting, ironing, sewing provided a bit of zen-like peace. I found I could listen to music but not pay attention to the TV. The news of the coronavirus could play on with dire warnings, death counts and alerts of imminent threat – but I couldn’t give that much attention. I was evidently in my sewing zone.
Gratitude. We have not been sick and all in our immediate family are still healthy and alive. I have been forced to actually look at the possibility of a very inconvenient death. I have rolled it around in my hand like a stone. Worrying it, exploring it, examining it, crawling under it, setting it down and picking it up again.
Picking it up until I actually had to accept that being in the vulnerable group made my husband and me actually vulnerable. And what followed that slow acceptance was the need to get my house in order. I needed to appreciate this day, this moment, and not just anticipate a future when the pandemic would be over. Acceptance helped foster a deep sense of gratitude for a varied life well lived, a loving family and an amazing retirement filled with camping, travel, new friends and new places. No matter what the future may hold. Gratitude.