Only my pillow will do.
After more than half a century of sleeping on my side, I pinched a nerve in my neck. I had to buy a pillow to help correct it. This was a few years ago and I have to say, I have come to love this pillow.
It’s not too puffy and not too flat. It’s cool on my face. I shimmy my arm under it, tuck the pillow under my neck, then I take a deep breath and well – there’s no better place on earth. My bed. My pillow. Ahh.
The COVID quarantine sucked, but one upside was that I had fourteen uninterrupted, beautiful, months with my glorious pillow.
A few weeks after we got our vaccines, friends invited Mr. Hockey and me to their house in the Berkshires. No worries. This would not be the end of my perfect pillow streak. I threw it in the car. We had a lovely weekend and I slept well enough. Not my bed. But still my pillow.
A month later, Mr. Hockey and I went to see a Rangers hockey game. Since we were on the road already, we decided to visit two of our hockey pucks we hadn’t seen in a few months. It was two nights in two hotels, and although we drove, I didn’t bring my pillow. I did not sleep well.
Not my bed. Not my pillow. Ugh.
Am I becoming one of those people who has to bring her own pillow everywhere? That’s a bulky addition to my packing list.
Driving is okay – I can just throw it in the car. Although I did arrive in the Berkshires with a lot of bags. One for the pillow, another for hiking boots, one for clothes, and a shopping bag with the housewarming gift. The trunk looked like a clown car of luggage.
That’s the thing, we need so much stuff when we travel. If I fly, I’ll have to check my bag and be forever relegated to baggage claim.
A pillow is another thing to keep track of. What if I leave it in the hotel? I have left so many things in hotels. When I was a kid, I left my night-brace at a Hilton in Washington, DC. Forty years later, I left my Kindle at the same Hilton. I wonder if they remembered me.
On our recent Rangers/hockey puck visit, I thought I left my watch at the hotel. After panicking and a pessimistic call to the Fairfield Suites’ housekeeping department (I’ve called many housekeeping departments), I found the watch in my tote bag. I had absentmindedly put it there before we left.
Someone who is absentminded has no business bringing her precious pillow anywhere.
I have a friend (I’ll call her Janelle to protect her anonymity) who has traveled with her standard-sized pillow for years. I’ve been on several trips with Janelle and her suitcase wasn’t abnormally large, nor did she overtly exhibit any pillow-losing anxiety.
Janelle let me in on her pillow-packing secrets: packing cubes and colored pillowcases. A packing cube reduces the pillow’s volume. A colored pillowcase prevents the pillow from getting mixed in with the hotel’s white bedding.
I was relieved to know I can make pillow packing work. But I was also wondering what the hell is wrong with me? I don’t even have any trips planned! Why am I researching how to travel with a pillow?
Fourteen months of lockdown has made me soft. And not in the good, pillowy way. I’m finding that as the pandemic rules are lifted, I feel a little apprehensive about going places. I want to at least be comfortable when I do.
We recently went to dinner with a couple, and I was thrilled it was still chilly. I could wear my cozy cashmere! As I was getting dressed, I didn’t feel ready to wear any make-up, even though my face was in its pasty, pale, puffy, winter phase.
After more than a year of making no effort whatsoever to look my best, the most I could manage for these people was earrings. Everything else – lipstick, mascara, blush, a necklace, bracelets – was too hard for me to muster.
At least I had showered.
I was sort of like this before the pandemic. As a kid, I couldn’t deal with the itchiness of wool tights and the stiffness of patent-leather Mary Janes and wouldn’t wear them unless forced. As an adult, I gave up wearing high heels years before the lockdown. Except for weddings, and at those, I take off my heels to dance.
In fact, I’m going to a wedding in September and I’m considering a long dress because no one will see my feet. I might wear sneakers.
Wearing Chuck Taylors to a wedding is one thing, bringing a standard-sized pillow everywhere I travel is another. I’m like a toddler who won’t leave home without her pacifier. Will I need my security blanket forever?
I think the answer is probably no, but so many things feel uncertain right now. I’m going to have to get used to being out and about. I plan to dip my toes slowly into the outside-my-house waters.
Meanwhile a friend just invited me out for drinks. Should I go? Do I have to dress up? Should we sit outside? When I see her, should I hug her?
Most importantly, can I bring my pillow?
Published in The East Hampton Press, June 3, 2021
Photo by Liz Vo on Unsplash