Sew What?

I was recently trying to replace that little plastic thingy that helps me adjust the ear straps on my favorite black cloth mask  to make it comfortable–secure, but not too tight. In the process of trying to shove a tiny safety pin through an even tinier hole, I found myself following a string of loosely connected thoughts.

At the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic I made my daughter come home to Hawaiʻi from N. California to stay with us in Kapolei. We had no idea what was happening and I couldn’t imagine her being stuck in San Jose and getting sick and us not being able to help her. And… I imagined everything shutting down and she and her roommates would be stuck in their house, not able to buy food or water or even a candybar. Yes, I went there. Who can blame me? March 2020 was the most surreal experience I have had in my lifetime, and I’ve had quite a few. 

I was living with a boyfriend in Israel in 1990, right before the first Gulf War. Sadaam Hussein had threatened to blast the Holy Land with Scud missiles which also included threats of chemical warfare. We had been issued gas masks and protective clothing. All US nationals were advised to return to America. My mother was frantic for me to come home ASAP. I told her to relax. We had plane tickets. We would get home. We had gas masks just in case. We left on January 16, 1991. The Scud missile attacks came the next day. It turns out that our Tel Aviv apartment was actually hit, not hard, but there was some damage. 

Fast forward to March 2020 and I became my mother. I conjured up every post apocalyptic movie I’d seen and I wanted my daughter home. So she came, somewhat reluctantly, but she came. Sound familiar? Just like my mother was frantic about me  in 1990, thirty years later, I was frantic for my daughter to be safe at home with us. To placate her young and cavalier attitude, I agreed that it would only be for a week. She could plan to go back to San Jose in time to work and play and enjoy her semester off before starting grad school.

While I had no idea what was to come and how long it was going to last, I was pretty sure that she wouldn’t be going back the next week. In fact, she stayed for a month. Each week we delayed her return flight for another week. 

While she was in captivity at home, during the first shutdown, she decided to make masks. We went to Walmart just in time to grab the last scraps of material that might make a decent face covering. I had some elastic left over from an old project and some extra shoe strings that might do in a pinch. We were definitely in a pinch. She set up shop in the corner of our living room and cut and sewed for days. 

Her first objective was to make a mask for each of the four of us and one for her local grandmother. Then she set to work making masks for our extended family that lives far away. As she completed each set, I put them in the mail to make their way across the Pacific and onto the faces of Gershuns, Weisbergs, a Goldman and a Gass. Eventually, we were able to purchase cloth masks that were not made by hand in our living room, including the previously mentioned one that I was repairing last week.

Finally, I was able to let her go. Food delivery options were abundant and she had masks and some precious hand sanitizer. She was ready to hunker down with her roommates and ride the continued COVID19 shutdown wave with them, instead of her Jewish mother. Can you blame her? 

So, this is where I am going to attempt to wrap this up in a tidy-ish little  package of prose, with a somewhat thin thread that connects all of these seemingly random reflections. 

I have changed out those little plastic thingies before, with little trouble. But, for some reason, the tiny safety pin that had previously done the trick was not making it happen this time. So, I went upstairs and got the tin and wire needle threader thing from the sewing kit to give that a try. It did not work, but those details are not important. 

What is important is that, when I went upstairs to find the sewing kit, I was reminded that it had been a present to my daughter for her 7th or 8th birthday from Melody, her Girl Scouts leader. And then I remembered that I used to have one that I got for my birthday in grade school from Heidi Blank that I kept all through college and my adult life until my daughter got this one. At that point, I decided that we didn’t need two, so I reluctantly consolidated both of them and said good-bye to a small part of my childhood. Then came a connection that never occurred to me over the past 50 years. Heidi Blank’s mom was our Girl Scouts leader. Could she have possibly chosen that sewing kit for the same reason that Melody chose the one for my daughter? So we could earn the Girl Scout Sewing Badge? 

Unfortunately, I think that the sewing gene must be one of those generation skipping things, or something that my daughter got from her fatherʻs side of the family, because I’m pretty sure I never earned that particular badge. Nor did I ever learn how to use a sewing machine. Quite the opposite. My mom somehow managed to arrange for me to skip the required sewing semester of the Home Economics class at McComber Jr. High so that I could take an additional Reading for Fun class. My guess is that, if you know me, you are not surprised. My daughter, on the other hand, has loved sewing since childhood and even chose to take a sewing elective class in middle school.

So…. it seems that in this case, the connecting thread might be a bit of a needle in a haystack. But, the simple act of repairing a mask inspired some pandemic pondering, and provided a perspective from past to present and back that weaves an amazing tapestry where I become my mother, my daughter kind of becomes like me and our shared Girls Scouts experiences tie us all together–even if I never learned how to sew.