Covering up COVID-19 fear with productivity

Ana Costanzo, Staff Writer

By Ana Costanzo
While my grandmother remained isolated in a retirement home enjoying the luxury of pre-baked meals and friendly liaisons with the communal buildings less than a mile from her condominium, I became keen as to how much time I had to waste in a day to keep myself occupied at the beginning of COVID-19 self-lockdown.

Granny in the home anticipated this reaction, sending a package to my front door. Upon the discovery of this mail priority box, my mother snatched the bundle and marched to the garage, ferociously cleaning the outer layers with self-made Clorox (extinct in U.S. market stores) like windshield wipers briskly swiping back and forth against a car in a rainstorm. After this exhibit of physical energy, she left the package in the garage to bathe in the semi-fluorescent heat to smother whatever bacteria clung to the cardboard.
It remained untouched for two days.

Meanwhile, news reports highlighted the shortages of medical equipment in hospitals, Facebook popping up with nurses taking selfies in homemade masks. Soon, a licensed medical mask would appear obsolete in a flood of Mickey Mouse cotton filters with Christmas ribbon.
My sister was the first one to remember the Golden Fleece. Inside the box were instructions for making masks. In our possession was the equivalent of healing superpowers. We already had the resources: sewing machine, endless fabric, pins, pins, and more pins.

We both knew this would provide an opportunity to escape school assignments and creeping boredom. Here was an outlet to spend our time doing something for unselfish reasons. In other words, my sister became the sweatshop keeper, and I the assembly line worker.
My sister sat at the sewing machine, untouched by the likes of children for years, but in those seamstress days, she mastered the automatic needle and thread. Sitting on the floor, hunched over and pricking myself every 10 seconds with a pin, I assembled, cut, and pinned the fabric on repeat.

The praise belongs to my sister for metamorphosizing into Jason. It was she who found the Fleece, but not only that, she knew what to do with it. It was she who rallied the crowd to circle around the sewing machine and begin to work. Without her, I would have further idled in the question of how to spend my time (in no productive manner).

It was tireless work. Not the sewing part, though that too tested patience and levels of perseverance on my sister’s part, but the cutting. Cotton fabric is naturally thin and scissors are easy utensils to maneuver, so while this would prove a kindergarten task for any right-handed person, I am no such person. I am a sensible left-handed thinker who for 17 years has never quite succeeded in mastering the art of paper cutting (or any cutting for that matter). So while my sister sewed and sweated and grew red from frustration, I sat rotating between three types of scissors just to snip at the corner of the fabric. But just like we conquered the sewing machine (a team effort), I conquered Scissory. (A certificate proving my mastery of the class is soon in order.)

After a week of persistence and daily chunks of five hours devoted to the masks, we created 17 masks to deliver to a neighbor (minus one which our mother swiped as a token of our hard work).

Off we went to deliver the masks to our neighbor in a time before the mask requisite. It was the eve of COVID-19 self-isolation, two girls arriving at the doorsteps of a friendly stranger practically bare naked in shorts and t-shirts. We were devoid of masks, gloves, plastic goggles, disposable jackets to blanket us from the germs residing in the air waiting to shut down our immune systems.
The woman worked at a nearby hospital, grateful for the masks that while amateur-looking with one or two accidental pins sewn into the lining appeared a godsend.

After that, more people requested masks, my sister hopping behind the sewing machine, myself hunched over on the floor, miraculously cutting for hours.

It wasn’t that I needed a productive way to waste time—though school work and TV binge-watching did not sound appealing. Rather, it was that I needed to know that in this time of uncertainty and anxiety I was accomplishing something outside of myself.
Once traces of normalcy trickle into existence, I can proudly say I helped fight this virus which forced the world to surrender to its boundless intensity—pin marks to prove it.