Pillow Talk

English: A pile of pillows.
Image via Wikipedia

“With the landless gull, that at sunset folds her wings and is rocked to sleep between billows;
so at nightfall, the Nantucketer, out of sight of land, furls his sails, and lays him to his rest,
while under his very pillow rush herds of walruses and whales.”

Herman Melville, Moby Dick

 I’m very particular about where I lay my head when it’s time to sleep.  So many pillows have felt uncomfortable, inadequate, or inferior that a untallied number of nights away from home have passed in restless distress, moments of doze fractured by bouts of waking to stare at walls or ceiling shrouded in shadow.

It’s difficult to find a comfortable middle ground.  Preferences in pillows are as diverse as opinions on anything else.  One person chooses goose-down over synthetic foam.  Another likes their pillow tortilla-flat rather than skyscraper high.  Still another prefers concrete hardness above a softness that cradles ones head like an egg in a cup.  Me, I like thick over thin, firm over soft.  I was  raised with feather pillows, whose stuffing I gradually plucked free as the quills worked through the striped covering to prick my cheeks.  A good solid drubbing was the only thing that would lend them some loft before bed, and they were consequently flattened by morning.

It took me years to get used to foam pillows.  The early one felt funny beneath my head and smelled strange when I attempted to nestle into them.  More than once, I cast them aside and slept with my arm beneath my head or substituted a folded towel or blanket.  They’ve improved with time.  Either that, or I’ve grown tolerant.

When it comes to a daytime nap, I’m less picky.  I’m not sure why that is, unless it has something to do with the conscious knowledge that it’s only for an hour or two.  I can easily fall asleep with my head cocked up on the arm of the couch, on my bent elbow, or nestled against one of the cats.  I can drowse without any pillow at all or with just a swatch of blanket folded against my cheek.  Unless I’m sick, of course, and then I want my regular pillow.

Is it the comfort of familiarity, I wonder?  When I’m ill, I seek out favorite foods or pajamas, blankets or movies.  As much as I enjoy travel (for the most part), when I’m  away I crave a comfort that reminds me of home.  It’s gotten so I travel with my pillow, if it can be easily accommodated.  With that beneath my head, I can sleep anywhere, even on a hard floor with a Boxer (the dog, not the person) snoring in my ear.  (Been there.)

Having spoke to friends about this, I know I’m not the only one out there with a pillow preference.  What about you?  What’s yours?


About Melissa Crandall

Longer ago than I care to admit--although I will--I cut my writing teeth on fanzines and media tie-in novels. Since then, I've moved on to narrative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and essays. I write to explore and understand the world around me, the things I see and experience nearby or from a distance. If I shake myself up, cool. If I shake you up, even better. Not gratuitously--what's the point in that?--but to set what I know, or think I know, on end and realize, "Well, doesn't it look different from this side!" My work is neither sexually explicit nor graphically violent. Let's face it - your imaginations will come up with things far worse than anything I could write, no matter how descriptive. Besides, it's just not my thing. I live in Connecticut with my supportive husband Ed, a cat named Ruby who might just think she's a dog, and an epileptic Australian shepherd named Holly who isn't quite certain anymore who she is, except she knows she loves her mommy.
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2 Responses to Pillow Talk

  1. eileeneldred says:

    For me, it isn’t the pillow that matters. I have to have a cover on me – blanket, sheet, even a pillow across and atop my body!

  2. John says:

    Relatively flat, but with enough give that I can feel my head sinking into it.

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