There was a meme making the rounds advising introverts to check on their extroverted friends during this time of social isolation because we are not okay. And for quite a while this was a true statement for me. I’m a rare breed. I’m an extroverted writer who writes on crowded buses and trains. I love writing in bars, the louder the better, but buses and trains were no longer crowded. Bars closed, and I got stuck. I couldn’t write.
I attended cocktail parties on Zoom and had dinner with friends on FaceTime. I went to church on Facebook Live and jammed to my favorite DJ on Twitch. I wrote terribly intelligent Facebook statuses and interacted with my friends and family online.
This was all great, considering the circumstances, and I’m so glad I have these options. But it’s all like eating a meal of low-fat pizza and diet soda. I was full but unsatisfied. I was so hungry for human interaction I was getting ready to trade our entire supply of toilet paper for some small talk with a random stranger I would never see again. And I still couldn’t write.
Then an email arrived from an organization caring for intellectually disabled adults, including my brother-in-law. They needed people to make masks. I sew, mostly toys for young relatives. I had the skills and the fabric stash.
And since I couldn’t write, I had the time.
I started making masks, and I started talking about my efforts online, primarily to encourage others to join me in my efforts.
These interactions have filled my hunger. They have saved me.
When I posted on Facebook about challenges getting the elastic I needed (one of several shortages in the time of COVID-19), a neighbor dropped off five feet of the much needed stretchy stuff from her stash to get me started. A friend of mine who had his grandmother’s sewing machine but had only ever used it to hem pants, made a couple dozen masks, but didn’t have the elastic to complete them. He gave the masks to me, and I completed them with the elastic — a giant 144 yard spool I view as a challenge — that I had managed after some effort to source from Etsy.
The original email from the organization caring for my brother-in-law was forwarded to his church who in turn forwarded it to parishioners. A 90-year-old church member, a longtime quilter, responded, and we got connected. She had fabric but no elastic or way to get the masks to where they needed to be. I now stop by once a week. Our interactions are like a hostage exchange. She opens her garage door. I put the bag of elastic and other supplies on the ground and back away. She takes the bag and replaces it with a bag of beautifully completed masks. We chat from a distance for ten to fifteen minutes.
She has thanked me for this “opportunity to do something important.”
I’m grateful for that, too.
By making these masks, I am contributing in a significant way to reducing the spread of COVID-19. By talking about it, I am increasing the spread of mask making and other activities that will help the world heal. A cousin made some masks out of old cloth dinner napkins. Other friends have started making masks, and I have expanded my mask distribution. In addition to giving masks to the organization caring for my brother-in-law, I’ve started sending them to friends upon request. Many offer to pay me. I’ve asked them to pay it forward, and they have. They are wearing the masks I’ve made which means they are reducing the spread of this infection, and they have donated blood. They have donated to local food banks and so much more.
Mask making is uniting the world, no matter how briefly, and people are doing what they can.
And I can finally write.
Elizabeth Andre writes lesbian romance, science fiction, and paranormal adventure. She is a lesbian in an interracial same-sex marriage living in the Midwest. She hopes you enjoy her stories. She certainly loves writing them. If you would like to support her work, become a member of her Patreon or subscribe to her email newsletter.