A ‘nonessential’ person stuck at home

Afriend suggested that I write about being stuck at home with the governor’s stay-in-place order. I told her I could describe my current activities in a short sentence, and with a 600-word column to turn in, it would be a real challenge.

But OK, Charmaine, here goes.


Many are making cloth face masks for hospitals, but with my rusty sewing skills, I decided to limit mine to family and friends.

Getting started was a chore, first dusting off the old sewing machine, then looking for thread and fabric remnants. I had to find patterns, but amid my vintage ones of bell bottoms and children’s pajamas, there was not one mask, unless I count the Halloween Batman costume I made for one of the boys in 1976. That one has stuffed pointy ears, but, nope, don’t think it would work today (would it?).

So I went on the internet and Googled “cloth face masks,” asking myself, what did we do before the World Wide Web? A million masks turned up, and as I scrolled through pages and pages, I answered my own question: before the internet, we didn’t spend so much time searching on a small screen for something like cloth masks. We just asked Aunty.

I finally settled on one and copied the pattern, but assembling it was surprisingly daunting. I had neither read nor printed the instructions, which seemed unnecessary since it appeared so simple. But when the first seam didn’t look right, I had to retrace my virtual steps.

Forgetting to bookmark it, but with time on my hands, I was able to waste another hour looking for the exact mask, which then turned out to be a bust since instructions were in Arabic. I know a few languages but, sorry to say, not Arabic.

One of the kids came to the rescue by forwarding me a pattern from the New York Times. Located at the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic, the Times wanted to make sure everyone wore a mask, but because of shortages, implored us to not take from much-needed medical supplies and, as a public service, published a pattern so we could make our own.

Mahalo, NYT, because now I am ready to fill my days by cutting and sewing masks from scraps of leftover Hawaiian print. Cute, purposeful and one way to pass the time.

If you’re thinking this is too boring, me too. I took a nap after paragraph four. But contemplating the hours stretching ahead for us “nonessentials” is how our days now unfold. We thrash around for ways to be useful or risk going pupule.

This account of my uneventful days has a satisfying ending, because I have made and distributed more than 60 face masks to family and friends. They, in turn, send me jokes, cartoons, funny stories and, even though I will probably hear again from unhappy readers objecting to humor at trying times like these, this is a reminder that we laugh a lot here. It keeps us sane.

So in closing: Knowing I was sewing like a maniac, a friend forwarded pictures of sew-free masks made from underwear, a man’s head swathed in a BVD brief, and a woman re-positioning a lacy thong over her face. It made me giggle.

Another copied me a news item about policemen coming upon two nudists sunbathing on a river bank. Threatening fines and citations, the cops ordered the butt-naked sun-lovers to put on their face masks.

This one made me laugh out loud.


I’ll keep sewing, and let’s keep laughing. It helps.

Rochelle delaCruz was born in Hilo, graduated from Hilo High School, then left to go to college. After teaching for 30 years in Seattle, Wash., she retired and returned home to Hawaii. She welcomes your comments at rainysideview@gmail.com. Her column appears every other Monday.

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