Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Our pillows hold more than our head…they hold our secrets, our dreams, our fears and our tears; perhaps they, too, need a breath of fresh air
I start most of my days with a phone call to my mom. I never take for granted that many of my friends have lost their moms, and I am grateful every day when she picks up the phone, singing her “hello.” On this particular day, I knew the answer to my question, “What are you doing today?” Monday was sheets day. Just like the mailman that delivers the mail in rain, snow, sleet, and hail, the sheets get washed on Mondays regardless of illness, season, or mood. But more importantly, it was a beautiful day, so she added, “I’m airing out my pillows.”
For those of you who have never done this, it requires you to take your bed pillows and lay them outside, particularly in the sun, for a few hours. Just the idea of watching her gather the pillows overflowing in her arms and putting them out brings a huge smile to my face.
If you are thinking that you do not have a porch or backyard, do not fret. Apparently, this tradition dates back to when families lived in apartments. I have been told that you just need to remove your screen and hang half of the pillow out of the window, then close the window to hold it in place. “There is a system,” Mom said. The suggestion is to readjust the position every couple of hours until the entire pillow has been warmed. I kinda like the image of pillows hanging on the side of the building of my mother’s home, welcoming us in for nourishment and rest.
With this very descriptive reminder, I was taken back to being a child when I would walk home from school, and upon entering the gated yard, I would see all the pillows in the house spread across the patio on random chairs and tables like guests at an afternoon picnic. I imagined the lumpy pillow as the mid-section of Grandpa and the small one as my petite Grandma sitting ramrod straight. There they sat, soaking up the sun, jiggling in the breeze as if laughing over a good joke. It always gave me a sense of calm, knowing that all was right in my tiny world. The added benefit was that my pillow would smell like sunshine and a cool breeze that night when I went to sleep.
As I have aged, I have begun to recognize that there are reasons other than a crisp, clean scent to throw those pillows outside on a warm day.
First, we want our pillows to protect us as we slip into dreamland. They hold us steady as we traverse the imaginary world of dreams. They are the landing pad when we jump from a plane (we have all had that dream) or when we are running from a scary enemy and wake up disoriented, sweating, and out of breath. Uncomplaining, they let us grab them, scrunch them, hug them, punch them, and fold them all to find the right spot. You never get any kickbacks or complaints.
Many of us are so attached that our pillows travel with us. When leaving for that car trip with the family in tow, how many of us grab the pillow as the last item you throw in the front seat, ostensibly to rest our head as the sleepy passenger, but mainly because we cannot rest without it?
Bedrooms themselves hold a special place in our lives. They are the most overlooked and yet most important part of the room. They are where we kiss our children good night or care for a sick family member. But the pillow holds the place of honor.
They are our secret keepers as we tell our deepest fears and desires during “pillow talk” with a loved one.
Whispering in the darkroom into your pillow is the same as locking these thoughts away in a vault. The pillow also puts your head in the exact position to face a loved one and stare into their eyes. When life gets hard, we can count on our pillow, our stalwart friends, to catch our tears when we quietly express our pain. We know that our trusted pillow, just like a trusted friend, will never betray us.
Sometimes, I wonder if my pillow feels my pain, joy, suffering, and happiness. We require a lot from our nighttime companion, whether synthetic or down, lumpy or soft, but we need to respect that they, too, might need a minute to unwind, let go, and feel free. That is a lot of responsibility.
I think my mom was onto something by taking them out to breathe. They must get heavy with the load they carry. It only makes sense to have them release their secrets into the breeze so they are ready to be filled up again.
So on the first sunshiny day, I grabbed all the pillows in my arms and arranged them on the deck furniture. They were a bit unruly to carry and a little heavier than I expected. I checked on them throughout the afternoon as I would a visiting friend. And each glance outside found them exactly where I left them. But maybe they were different. Perhaps the sunshine and breeze had released the stored secrets, and the pillows were again ready to absorb hopes, dreams, secrets, and tears.
As the sun set, I grabbed my pillows and brought them inside, but not before sticking my nose deep into the folds and inhaling the freshness. They seemed lighter, less burdened now.
That night, as I climbed into my bed, my head hit the pillow. I drifted off the sleep, knowing my aired-out pillow was ready for me to fill it up again. I promised my pillow that I would no longer wait as long between trips outside.
On the next sunny day, if you look on my deck, you will see my family of pillows enjoying the day and being rejuvenated by the fresh air and sunshine, making them more prepared to take their place of honor at the top of my bed.
I grabbed the phone and dialed Mom again to thank her for passing on this wonderful lesson.
You may also enjoy reading Truth or Dare: From Secrets, Lies & Vatican Ties to Transparency…and Freedom, by Tina Alexis Allen.