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Michela You, 11
Lexington, MA

Mama's Mask

Michela You, 11

I was only five years old when the coronavirus started. I am now 18 and thinking back about it, thinking about Mama and the day I had tested positive. I look at my bulletin board to see the mask she made for me. Piece by piece my story unfolds.

13 years ago––

I woke up coughing so hard that it woke my parents up to come to check on me. Mama rushed to my room, touched my forehead, and suddenly, her friendly face was full of fear and grief. She rushed to Papa and they start talking in a rush. The only words I caught were fever, mask, urgently. My mind was in a blur. If I have a fever, does that mean I have the coronavirus? Mama walks into the room. “Ruby, honey, you need a doctor urgently. You have a fever, but don’t worry. We’ll try to calm it down. We will try to get a mask for you and some medicine.” I started to tear up.

"Mama, will I die?"

Mama shook her head. "All you need to worry about right now is getting some sleep so that you will recover faster. I will make some oatmeal for your breakfast. Stay in bed and try to relax, honey." She walked out of the room, obviously bothered by something, and closed the door behind her. I tried to breathe. Was my breath getting slower and shallower, or was I imagining it? I tried not to panic, but I did, so I called for Papa. He rushed into the room at the sound of my voice and sat on my bed. Well, I should say 6 feet away from me on the bed. Is he afraid that I have the coronavirus? I told him to get Mama, and he bolted out of the room.

Mama came in again and set my breakfast and medicine on my bed. She fed me without a word. Is she afraid of me too? She's sitting right next to me though. Even touching my hand. I tried to push the evil thoughts out of my head, and I said to Mama,

"Is Papa afraid of me?" Mama looked at me if I were insane. When I told her what happened, she vowed to me that she would speak to Papa about this. Mama asked me if I wanted some cookies or a snack, and most certainly, I said yes. She smiled at me.

“That hungry brain of my little girl is still the same!”

I laughed. “Thanks, Mama. I want some fruit snacks and potato chips please!”

She nodded and walked out the door. I breathed a sigh of relief. She still cares about me!

Before long, my mom took me to the only doctor: the doctor at the fair. There were thousands of people at the fair. In fact, there were so many that I could barely run!! People were buying things, drinking tea, and kids were playing happily. My eyes caught so many friends! Charlotte, Rebecca. Mama had told me not to go near anyone for some strange reason. How am I supposed to go near the doctor if I’m not supposed to go near anyone? I thought.

When we came to Dr. Stone’s cabin, he was in a strange uniform and in his lab were thousands of . . . masks? I looked at Mama. She was calm. She had no intention of grabbing one and running away with me. Dr. Stone was checking the inside of my slick mouth. Then he suddenly stopped. His eyes were wide with fear. He ran to the sink, washed his hands, and handed Mama a mask. He whispered something to her, and Mama started to break down in tears. Seeing her cry brought tears to my eyes. I reached towards Mama, but the doctor stepped between us. I then realized that the small hut was filled with nurses and doctors trying to help.

“The ambulance will be here soon, hold on. In the meantime, don’t touch anyone.” He whispered to me.

I cried and cried. Mama was fighting her way through the nurses to get to me. Ten nurses were trying to grab her, telling her that I was going to be okay, but she screamed and pushed and yelled that I was her little girl. Then, the wailing of sirens began to grow, and I howled and tried to escape, but a nurse was strapping me on some bed with wheels. People in green-blue uniforms came and rolled the wheeled bed up to the ambulance. “NO!” I screamed. “MAMA! HELP ME! MAMA!” I thrashed around wildly, but the nurses and doctors were like lions, not stopping until they had what they wanted.

Mama cried and screamed. “HONEY! NO! STOP!” I could only see her terrified eyes when the ambulance’s doors closed. I was choking on tears when one of the nurses put an oxygen mask on my face. “Just try to breathe,” she said serenely. Her kind eyes were so like Mama I had to choke back some sobs. I suddenly felt more sleepy than ever, so I closed my eyes and darkness rushed upon me.

When I woke up, I was in a white room labeled, CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL. I looked around. Nobody was with me. I looked to my left and saw a button that said: When the patient wakes up, press this button. I obediently pushed the button. Five seconds later, six nurses and four doctors ran into the room. One of the nurses ran towards me and I realized that she wasn’t a nurse. She was only wearing a protective suit and a mask, but with no belts like all the other nurses have. It was Mama! I screamed in joy. Mama ran to my bed and hugged me. One of the nurses spoke up. “She can hug you now because she has a mask and a protective suit. We wanted to let you know that you have tested positive with a tiny case of the coronavirus. We are doing our best, and you should be good enough to go home in a week.”

Behind Mama, I saw nine of my friends also in protective suits and masks. They ran to me, with presents in their hands. They set the wrapped boxes beside me, and Mama took out a tiny package and set it in my hands. I squealed in joy. I loved opening surprise presents! I tore open the one Rebecca gave me. It was a book! It was called, The Giving Tree. I loved it! I told Rebecca that it was first on my reading list once I got home! Next, I ripped Charlotte’s gift open. It was a pink teddy bear! I hugged it tight and said, “I have someone to sleep with!” I opened all my friend’s presents and got books, board games, cards, balloons, and a little fish that would keep me company! At last, I came to Mama’s present. She looked at me hard in the eyes. I could see her tears burning even when she was inside her uniform. I gently ripped the paper along the edges. When I opened it, my mouth dropped open. A cotton mask with a message sewn into it. I guarantee that Mama made the mask herself. I read the message aloud: “Dear Ruby, I love you. Forever and ever. Never forget that you will always have me by your side. Love you more than anything, Mama 😻 .”

I giggled at the cat she drew. I knew that I was with my family again and that everything would be back to normal.

Back to the present––

I’ve just finished packing my bags for a little trip to Mama. I made a handcrafted mask for her. We could wear our handmade masks together. . . Just like the old times.


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