My sewing machine whirs away, making a happy buzzing sound. I don’t think it’s seen this much action…ever. I’m reminded of my costuming days, surrounded by piles of fabric, and learning through trial and error. At least this is nowhere near as complicated as making a stay by hand. The last time I was up at 2am sewing, it was tech week for Oliver in college. But now, instead of sewing flowers onto hats or hemming skirts, I’m cutting rectangles out of donated fabric. It’s easier, to be sure, but I feel the same sort of pressure now as I did then. The stakes are much higher – the deadline is yesterday. No dress rehearsal for this performance; it’s life. We’re improvising. A sign in the costume shop in grad school proclaimed “Done is beautiful,” and I embrace that mantra now, sewing masks. This one is inside out, I didn’t flip it. This tie was sewn on the wrong side. I can tell when I’m getting tired, I make more mistakes. But done is beautiful, and people need them. In Austin at least now they’re mandatory, and what started as a way to protect my sister, who works in healthcare, has become something more. Two bits of cotton to cover nose and mouth, and no one can seem to agree if they help. Some say use flannel, others shop towels. But I have the materials I have, which is also familiar, and I do what I can with them. I know how to sew fast, not pretty. Two layers of cotton – A communal performance, a way to say, “I love you,” with no words. “What will you do with a theatre degree?” They said. “This,” I say, sealing another mask into an envelope, to be taken to the post office. We know how to get things done. We know how to come together. And each mask is a work of art in it’s own way. Now that I have more fabric to choose from, I can match colors and patterns, sew a mask for someone I know based on their personality. In a different time, it could be a fun exercise – choosing the patterns a character might wear. Would Hamlet like this blue fabric covered in golden stars? Maybe costumers will have to sew masks for stage plays in the future. But enough digression – back to my sewing machine, stitching, “I love you,” and “stay safe,” into every seam. Sewing into the night as if tomorrow is dress rehearsal for the pandemic.

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