Eri’s California Diary: Future Whereabouts of Facemask

By Eri Williams, June 16, 2021

(Uploaded June 26, 2021 at 12:52 am)

After a 15-month of COVID-mandated life and numerous controversial debates over requirements of wearing facemask, we no longer need to wear a facemask if we are fully vaccinated.

Going back to normalcy without wearing a facemask had obviously been everyone’s desire during the last 15 months. Facemask, that had probably never been a popular or regular sales item prior to COVID, all of a sudden became scarce or sold out everywhere in March of 2020. Some had never worn one before.

Right after facemask became mandated last year in March, people with conventional white-and-blue facemask were seen everywhere. As the facemask became scarce or sold out, some started making their own washable facemask using sleeves from old Tees or fabric. People were getting creative and I remember seeing someone on TV make one out of the concave-shaped shoulder pads that came attached to ladies’ blouse and jacket.

I have read that those sales of sewing machine increased during COVID to align with people’s desire to make their own facemask. Even someone like me, who had hardly sewn anything in the past, purchased one via Amazon. I searched and watched the YouTube tutorials numerous times, found the easiest tutorial and sewed 30-plus facemasks of various colors through numerous trials and errors. I was so excited at my first attempt that I even took a selfie of myself wearing one and shared it to my friends. Choosing fabric of many colors and designs also became part of the excitement.

I shoved (perhaps forcefully!) some of the rejects and marginally-acceptable facemasks into my husband’s hands. I also stuffed a few of them in an envelope and sent it off to my sister and her husband who reside in Michigan.  From the pile of ‘good or acceptable’ facemasks, I sent two with floral design to a friend in Texas whose husband passed away during COVID, and who had come to enjoy pulling weeds in her little garden as therapeutic to fight loneliness. To a dog lover friend in Illinois who had just completed her chemo, I sent a facemask with several dogs printed on fabric. A friend living near San Francisco became a new owner of my two colorful handmade masks given as her retirement gift. I also gave a few masks to my friends living in LA.

If looked closely, one can see a few flaws on my homemade facemasks, such as tiny warped or uneven stitches in rather invisible areas.  If my late Mom, who enjoyed sewing and would often sew clothes for us, had seen my homemade ‘flawed’ facemasks, she would’ve smiled wryly.  I wished though that she had been here during my facemask making process to help me troubleshoot the difficult tasks, and be proud of me and my attempt. To my friends who wear or use reading glasses, I intentionally selected facemasks that are deep in color and added a handmade warning label that said: “Do not inspect it closely. Keep it in your car or purse as an emergency use.” Luckily they all liked what I gave them. One of them who has known me for a very long time said to me in astonishment: “Wow, who would’ve thought that you could actually sew!”

Even though I’m fully vaccinated, I intend to carry one in my car or in my purse as part of my emergency kit that also contains band aids and a bottle of water. I will make it as a habit to wear one to my dental and doctor’s appointment, or when I’m under the weather because this will also protect others. In California where brushfires are prone to occur, wearing a facemask will also prevent us from inhaling smoke and polluted air.

I still have, in my inventory, a few masks of bright colors that I’m certain my mom would’ve liked and received from me if she had been alive.  While the whereabouts of these facemasks are unknown, they have come to symbolize my sewing achievement, celebrate friendship and togetherness with others, and honor my mom.

About the author: Born in Japan, Eri Williams spent her childhood and youth in 3 different countries. After working in a corporate environment for many years, the native Japanese speaker now utilizes her language skills to contribute back to the society.  She resides in LA area with her husband and a cat, Taiko, named after her hobby, Japanese Taiko drum.